Posted on | February 8, 2010 | No Comments
Want to redesign your website? Fabulous. technology changes so fast, it’s amazing we don’t see web developers walking around in neck braces.
Before you start sourcing web designers and developers, let’s talk nuts and bolts. And yes, I’d recommend hiring BOTH a designer and a developer. They are experts in different, yet overlapping fields. It takes almost genius-level intelligence to do both as one person. The design process is rich and content-driven. And web development technology changes at light speed, is multi-faceted and extremely precise. (We’ll talk more about hiring vendors in another post.)
So where do you start?
First, think about why you came to this decision to redesign. Did your developer leave you high and dry with no access to update files? Is the design outdated? Have you switched markets or audiences? Keep these answers in the back of your brain throughout the whole process. They help to keep your scope in check.
Step ONE: Do some user testing to establish a baseline
Conduct user testing to find out what is and isn’t working on your current site. What you think is obvious might not be so obvious to your users. Use the results to guide the redesign process: new content, new structure, new design elements, new workflows, new wireframes.
User testing entails: figuring out what you want to learn; determining your own organizational goals; writing tasks, scenarios and questions for specific segments of your audience; letting them attempt the tasks; asking questions; gathering and interpreting that data. Hopefully someone can take that data and interpret it visually. That’s a big talent.
You don’t have to test hundreds of people. Six people per task is just fine.
What you get back from user tests:
- video, which is golden because it not only shows you what people are doing, but their body language and physical actions. Sometimes what users say the do is not what they actually do.
- a data about what they did, didn’t or couldn’t do
- and answers to your written questions.
Why should you hire a professional to do this?
Firstly, an outside professional is going to be a monumentally more objective listener than anyone in your organization could be. Your website is your baby. To us, your website is someone else’s baby who we want to clean up and return.
Secondly, professional user testers not only know the best questions to ask, but they know how to extract and interpret data. And as a super bonus, The Web Farm offers visual reports, like revised wireframes and page designs.
Thirdly, professional user testers have years of experience and have most likely dappled in all kinds of websites. They know what’s best. They can make recommendations. It’s their job to know what works.
But if you are going to try to do it yourself, here’s where to start:
After you’ve figured out what your goals are and what you want to measure, create a persona your testers need to assume. So: you are a journalist looking for information about our group/organization/business. Then, write some good questions. Make sure you not only have a few easy yes/no questions, but also some good open-ended questions that aren’t leading. Then you can start asking away.
5 Quick Questions to Ask Users:
1. At first glance, what is this site about?
2. Can you find where you need to go?
3. Can you quickly find where to contact a human being?
4. Are there too many links or buttons? Too few?
5. What can you tell about the people behind the site?
Write as many as you’d like, but don’t overwhelm your users. Questions should be tailored to what you want to learn but open-ended question will reveal surprising insights.
Doing more user testing after you have a few home page designs hammered out is also a good idea. No sense designing a whole site around something that isn’t quite reaching your goals and audience, right?
PART TWO: Use and interpret your analytics