After building websites for a couple of years, I was heavily reliant on the look and ‘fancy business card’ style of web development. So busy making things look nice, I hadn’t fully considered the users of the sites I was building. A bit of an oversight perhaps…
Understanding the needs of the user and what that user wants from a website requires an extensive depth of research and analysis. The process begins with a holistic usability review to highlight action points – these are based on client objectives and user expectations and available assets. To create effective evaluation criteria you have to truly know the user. Gathering data from multiple services including Google Analytics and Double Click Ad Planner is just part of the user profiling process. Enhancing that information with ethnographic research data to create detailed personas and scenarios based on real users is the art of truly understanding the user, and so the potential customer.
Modelling and analysing the research leads the UX designer into establishing a clear classification of data based on user logic. This can be achieved using techniques such as card sorting and keyword research. By understanding how a user will look for a product, you begin to understand how you can help them find it. This process is an iterative one in which the proposed structure starts to evolve into a sitemap and navigation structure, from which an interactive wireframe is built.
Confirmation of the successful implementation of this is achieved by testing the design on the user, tweaking based on the evaluative response and testing again!
This spectral figure of the ‘user’ is not anonymous, he is a version of you or me. So next time you are scanning through search results on ASOS for ‘party dresses flamingo’, say a tiny quiet thank you to the UX designers who made it a simple and pleasant journey.
I defy any web designer to say that they would be comfortable with a beautiful site that never received a single hit. The web is not just a multimedia experience, but neither is it just a database. What we as UX designers need to pursue is great design offering a great user experience informed by user data.