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    Web Design: All About Experience

When designing a website, it's all about experience. And when I say experience, I don't mean years on the job (although that's important, too), but rather the experience that users have when navigating your site. One of the most significant components of any brand is the experience that consumers have when interacting with it. This is especially true of websites.

All too often, companies create websites that directly reflect what they would like to see. Comments like, "I want the site to look really clean," or "our site needs to have tons of content," are focused on subjective goals. Instead, companies should focus on objective goals. For example, "We need to provide users with meaningful content to increase average page views from three to eight." Not only is this goal measurable, it is also meaningful to user experience.

One of the most important (and often overlooked) steps in the web design process is research. Take some time to look at your competitors' sites, as well as those of other businesses that offer similar products or services. What types of content are they providing users? What can you add, take away or enhance to differentiate your site and make it more useful to users? These are the types of questions you should ask yourself when considering a new or updated website.

Also, ask some of your friends or colleagues from outside your industry to navigate the sites you found and report back to you with their thoughts. They are more likely to give you objective feedback based on their experience in navigating the site than subjective feedback based on its design and contents.

In addition to research, you also need to determine exactly what your site needs to deliver. Make a list of the top three to five deliverables that users must walk away from your site with. For example:

  • Users need to be able to purchase merchandise

  • Users should be able to book appointments online

  • A receipt will need to be provided via email upon purchase completion

  • Users should be able to download important forms

  • Users should be able to join our email list

These are just a few of the many questions that need to be answered to determine how your site is designed, structured and developed. The key is to focus on what users need from you, not the other way around.

Once you have developed a user experience strategy and determined site deliverables, you can then decide the best way to package everything together. When it comes to site design, it's imperative that you continue to keep your end user in mind. Again, take a look at different sites on the web. You never want to copy other sites, but there is nothing wrong with gleaning inspiration from them. The individual or agency that designs your site should be able to look through these examples and create a custom solution that encompasses all of the things you like.

From there, the last step involves coding, development and testing. You may want to call on your friends again to go through your site and provide feedback on their user experience. This will ensure that the product is an effective, user-oriented tool for marketing your business. That said, just because you have launched a great site doesn't mean you can just forget about it. The best websites are constantly being updated, revised and tweaked to keep users coming back for more (as well as for SEO purposes).

Having read this article, I encourage you to take a look at your website and ask yourself several tough, user-oriented questions. Does it provide users with the best possible experience? Has it been updated recently? Is your original strategy still valid? Is it still delivering what it needs to? If you answer "no" to any of these questions, perhaps it's time to think about staging an experience intervention.

Until next time,
Ryan Cormier
Interactive Specialist
@ryanjcormier
cormier@ratiodigital.com