Redesigning a website usually starts with key company stakeholders getting together for a planning session with each talking about how they think the new site should function. But if that’s how you’ve approached a site redesign or new site design, or how you’re planning to, stop right now. You’ve left out the most important stakeholders of all – your users.
How your customers use your site, and what they want from it, can often be completely different from what you’re thinking they want. In almost all cases, you are not your site user. Even when you are, a site might serve internal and external audiences, so you are not your only user.
Talking to users early, and often, in the design process can save you time, effort, and most importantly money and site functionality. It’s easier to design a site correctly the first time rather than trying to go back later and make tweaks, add-ons, what-have-you.
Here’s an example from a project Duo Consulting has worked on, the redesign of the site for Cook County, IL.
Working with our friends at Clarity Partners, it became apparent that county personnel wanted to be sure the site made it clear that the county was different from the city of Chicago, which lies within the county. They also felt people coming to the site would have a purpose in mind, say paying a tax bill, and so the idea of grouping all bill paying functions together seemed to make sense.
County employees are users of the site too, as our residents, business owners, so there were multiple audiences to consider.
So early user testing presented potential users with two site approaches, one that grouped things by the type of person coming to the site, such as residents or business owners, and a second that was organized by the functions someone wanted to do on the site, such as pay a bill or look up tax information on their property.
The testing found the first approach was what most users wanted. It worked for country residents and business owners and could also work for county employees using the site.
The new site has pull-down menus across the top for “Resident Services,” “Doing Business,” and “Your Government.” There’s also one for “I want to” for those who do come to the site with a specific purpose in mind.
Another client, packaging firm Nosco Inc., was creating a new site using Hubspot and they were curious about the usefulness of all the tools, such as live chat and price calculators, which it could add to its site. But user testing found all those tools weren’t wanted. Too many tools, in fact, can cloud a user’s experience with a site and ultimately hurt your brand image rather than helping it.
Sometimes less is more when it comes to site design. Sometimes, more may be more, it all depends on what your users/customers want. So ask them.
- A site that goes untested can cost you more money in the long run when it needs fixing.
- When new requirements are uncovered after design, a site is never as effective as one designed right to begin with.
- Site design matters is communicating what your brand is all about. A hard-to-use site doesn’t say much for what you’ll be like to work with, does it?
- Test the visual appeal of your site? Does it convey what your brand is all about? This will be the topic of another post here too since there’s a lot more to say about it.
- Forget the old rule about people wanting information one click away. That’s so 2003. Think more about meaningful clicks, clicks that get them what they want, and meaningful interaction on your site.