Let Users Drive Your Website Design: 4 Tips

Posted on by Meg Fowler Tripp

A cartoon image of a man sitting at a desk with a computerKnowing exactly what your website users want from your site is the starting point for any successful redesign.

Here four ideas everyone should keep in mind when revamping their site to create an intuitive online destination:

  1. Putting the focus on your user is the best way to keep your users focused on you.

When asked about their goals for a site redesign, marketers typically mention things like repeat traffic, increased time on site, gathering user information and affirmative responses to calls to action. There’s nothing wrong with any of these goals at face value, except for the fact that they’re focusing on results that serve them—not their users.

Try these questions to shift your perspective:

  • What do we want our website offer our users, in terms of information, functions, services or support? What are they looking for, specifically?
  • How can we make it simple and easy for our users to access our information and perform those functions?
  • How do we ensure that users who come for one function know about the other functions they can perform there?
  • How do we make it straightforward and secure for our users to provide us with their personal data—and how do we make it clear how we plan to use that information?

The answers will change from site to site and take some different twists and turns—much depends on the type of organization or company, and your overall business goals.

  1. If you don’t know what your users want, just ask.

Take the opportunity to speak to some of your existing customers or supporters, and ask what they’d like to be able to accomplish when they come to your website. What actions do they expect to be able to take? What functionality is at the top of their list? What information do they expect to find? How do they want to interact with you?

Now, you might not be able to provide all the functions and features they want right off the bat, but the more you know, the better you’ll be able to set priorities, assess your resources, and make decisions about what you can provide. You can even ask your interviewees to rank their lists, and get as much detail as you can about the why behind each item.

Then you’ll be able to work through all you’ve learned, and balance:

  • what your users want, with…
  • what your business goals and needs are, and…
  • the resources and time you can put into making it happen.
  1. It doesn’t matter how beautiful it is if it doesn’t work.

The most beautiful website in the universe will lose its luster pretty quickly if it doesn’t do what its users need it to do. Big, beautiful images can take a lot of time to load with a slower internet connection. Bells and whistles that take particular browser plug-ins can leave your users out in the cold if they don’t know how to find or install them. A lack of responsive design will frustrate your mobile users into abandoning you, however lovely you might be on a full screen. And any audio-visual media that plays to greet them could become more of a hassle than a delight, depending on when they’re stopping by.

Here’s what really makes a website beautiful for your users:

  • It loads quickly;
  • It loads as completely as possible, regardless of the browser they use;
  • It maintains functionality across any device they might use;
  • It features type styles that are easy to read;
  • It features a color palette that allows type to stand out appropriately;
  • It’s organized in an intuitive way, so they can find what they need;
  • It’s easy for them to use, regardless of any differing abilities; and
  • It continues to function smoothly through any tasks they need to complete—because there’s nothing quite so frustrating as almost finishing what you came to do.

While there will always be hiccups in your planning and development process—and some things might not turn out exactly as you envisioned them—if you’ve created a site that’s easy to use for visitors of all kinds, you’re already a standout on the web.

4. Your website isn’t a stone monument

We tend to take an all-or-nothing approach to developing a website: either we’re starting from square one, or it’s not worth doing! And that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your website is less like a monument—carved into stone for all time, until it crumbles—and more like a house.

When you own a house, you do any number of things to keep it in tip-top shape: regular maintenance to keep all the different moving parts running smoothly; repairs when something gets broken, or replacement if need be; updates to your furnishings to keep up with your style and comfort needs; and new objects and art when a fresh touch is needed.

Through it all, the bones of your home stay largely the same, unless you decide to renovate a particular part, and that becomes an improvement to the existing structure—but you don’t need to start from scratch to make a difference. Your website can evolve and grow the same way—small improvement to small improvement, as needed.

Of course, you don’t want to iterate your way to a “Franken-site”, because every choice should be a thoughtful one that better serves your users, better meets your organizational requirements, or builds on your brand verbally or visually.

And if you do opt to do a complete makeover after a series of small changes, make sure you use the opportunity to the fullest: talk to those who use your site most often, and get a refresher course on what they need and want.

If you let the needs of your visitors shape your site, in tandem with thoughtful attention to your business requirements, your brand, and the budget you have to work with, you’ll create something that makes everyone happy to be there: you and your users.

Meg Fowler Tripp is director of editorial strategy at Sametz Blackstone Associates.

Related Articles:

5 Lessons Learned Rebuilding a Website

Website Performance Anxiety: How Does Your User Experience Stack Up?

A New Website Won’t Fix Your Brand: 3 Common Mistakes

10 SEO Tips for Site Redesigns

 

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