Ahh, the nineties. Who can forget the Rachael haircut, the demands of owning a Tamagotchi and the must-see viewing off Beverly Hills 90210?
Well from a web designer’s perspective, a trip down memory lane to the nineties is nothing but an example of just how far web design has progressed in leaps and bounds – and if you have trouble remembering the website fashion of the nineties, then take a look at Retrosite.ninja to remind you of just how bad the designs of the time were!
This site displays a random site from the 90s every time you visit it. Besides just being good for a laugh, this website is a great way of seeing just how far the internet has come since the early days of table-based, flashing icons, neon text and dancing hippos.
Website design, just like fashion, goes through fads, and while aiming to keep up with the latest trends may result in a good looking website, it is of major importance for a website designer to focus one important feature – User Experience. After all, a website is constructed for it’s users be they your future or existing clients, and therefore the design should be “all about them” and their needs, and not necessarily addressing the whim of it’s owner.
So how should your website designer approach the design of your website so that the final result is suited to your client needs? Well, according to Brisbane based user experienced specialists, Peak Usability, it’s as easy as baking a cake.
Principle One: Know Your Users (identify your ingredients)
The users of your website are your key ingredients. Understanding who they are and why they are using your site, as well as when and how, is paramount in designing a website to suit their needs. Your designer needs to consider these issues…
- Is your audience IT literate or IT challenged?
- Do they have clear objectives when they arrive at your site, or are they happy to spend time browsing?
- Are they viewing your site on their way to work on a phone or tablet, or while sipping coffee at their PC?
These are just a few important points that need to be examined. To truly understand who is using your website, what is their context, environment, behaviour and motivations, it is necessary that research is carried out and analysed. Without implementing at least basic user experience elements in website design, businesses may end up with a lovely looking website; but zero conversions, high bounce rates, and dissatisfied visitors who will quickly move to a competitors website.
Principle Two: Involve Users through the Process (the recipe)
Identifying and understanding your users (ingredients) is one thing, but knowing how to use them effectively in the development of a website as just as important. There are three main steps which should be undertaken while putting together your website
- Research user needs
- Design & Implementation testing
- Final Application Testing
Getting to know your clients and their needs helps in identifying the needs of your website. Understanding the user experience will aide the website designer in creating a pleasant user experience. Should you include an FAQ page? What about a live chat option? Do your clients want to see ‘before & after’ images of your services? All these issues and more can be gleaned from sharing your site with a few people who are not familiar with your brand and listening to their feedback. And this leads to the third principle …
Principle Three – Taste Early and Often
Adequate usability testing before letting your site go live – or letting the kids taste the batter before placing your cake in the oven – ensures that the design of your website is heading in the right direction – it also makes sure the batter isn’t too sweet or salty while you still able to do something about it. In the words of American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright “Fix it on the drafting board with an eraser or on the construction site with a sledgehammer”.
So your cake is baked and frosted and it’s out on show for the world to taste – congratulations… your website has gone live. As all good chefs know however, the task does not end there. Regularly seeking feedback from your users in regards to your website will allow you to improve it, refine it and ensure that you continue giving a good user experience.
Good website design is ever changing – it involves much more than creating a static item. It incorporates regular software updates, fresh content and, possibly most importantly, keeping up with changing user needs and behaviors.
This article is based on an article by Miranda Wee, Milena Jovanovich and David Humphreys titled “The Joy of UXing: The beginner’s guide to UX design“. For a more indepth discussion on User Experience (UX) head on over to Peak Usability