Designing for what your user needs - not what you think your user wants
It’s that age old story when it comes to the early stages of a web project. The client team already thinks they have all of the information needed to produce a site that will work for their audience… but our question is always the same. “Where did that knowledge come from?” The response we often receive? We just know that’s what our users want. That’s why we’re here to dispel the myths when it comes to making assumptions about what the user wants and actually do our homework to see what they need.
Design for the user? Really?
One of the biggest tasks we undertake at Abstrakt is taking the client through a phase of discovery. Granted not all budgets can stretch to a planning and iteration sprint, but where possible we aim to support clients in the early stages of new web project. More often than not, it's the first time a client has been through the process so we’re always happy to help guide them through planning.
Many clients arrive armed with historical reasons and thoughts as to why the website needs to work a specific way or suit a certain user group. When we ask them what data they have to back it up, many can’t find rhyme or reason to their thoughts, it's simply just because that's what they think the user needs.
In many cases those assumptions can only confuse a user journey further. That’s why it’s so important to do your research for a user group, what matters to them and how they’re currently using your website.
Enter the light bulb moment.
Designing for the user and not the brand or any preconceived idea is the first step into creating a website that works hard for you. It’s going to simplify the steps from when your user first lands on the website to driving them towards a call to action.
We still need to consider different techniques to support the journey of discovery when planning and researching that’ll help the final product work for the client, as well as considering the overarching business goals. However, first and foremost it should be your user as priority. The audience is key to sales afterall.
Throw the kitchen sink at it
Or not… Many approach a web project feeling that the user needs to be aware of ALL the services or products on offer. This commonly isn’t the case, as giving the user too many options and not focusing their attentions can become disorientating and lead to the user becoming frustrated, almost drowning in options.
This may seem obvious and doesn't need further explanation but most sites and applications still manage to get it wrong. The key to a clean approach is to cut down the tasks a user is required to perform to a minimum. It’s important to remove the clutter that isn’t adding value or worse is distracting and confusing them instead.
Let’s give the user more credit
A saying we love at Abstrakt is ‘your audience isn’t stupid’. The key is planning an effective path for your users to take and simply guiding them through the entire process with strong links, relationships and calls to action that do the trick. If you let users discover content at their own pace they’re intuitive enough to follow the guided path we give them, whilst sticking to our cleverly laid out plan for marketing. Always remember users want things to be as simple and fast as possible. If they can see what's coming next before even clicking on something, they'll be happy.
Remembering the businesses Goals
When on the discovery train it’s important we keep in mind the KPIs of the business, but also the journey we want the user to take to achieve an end goal that is important to both parties. It's simple. Plan out the businesses goals and then structure the site around them, but always remember your user. Don’t pen them in or lead them down the wrong path, otherwise they’ll become frustrated and leave the site. Goodbye good bounce rate.
Test the shi* out of it
Test, review and refine - Businesses change, products develop and so should the way you communicate digitally. Once your site is live that shouldn't be the end. Take the time to review how the site is performing. Where are users spending more time? Or more importantly where are they not spending time? Reviewing the journey of your users when the site is live is the best insight you can get. Refining pages, features and calls to action over time can help focus user attention, so it goes without saying… ask for feedback!
Ask the audience
Don’t worry we've not hopped back to the 90’s in a time machine and are now 15 questions away from a million. The tried and tested method for the web, applications and software is to actually very simple. Listen to your user.
For website design and structure, we advocate putting users infront of early prototypes to get them clicking around and set them tests and goals to achieve. Observe their interaction with the interface and content - are they following the prompts put in place?
Your users may well offer some insight into their frustrations and together you could achieve a product that works well for all.
Many large companies are taking time to listen to user feedback. Take Amazon’s AWS for example - just last week at AWS Summit London, AWS CTO Dr Werner Vogels noted that
“90% of the features and services launched last year, which was well over 1,400 - 90% of those are driven by direct customer request.”
In the end…
When you create a website with the user in mind, you’ve created something that matters to them and their journey around your website is easy. It’s simple. It leaves them feeling comfortable about your brand and trusting in what you have to offer. The more complicated, the more uneasy and frustrated a user becomes. In the end, we’re creating websites for users to find content that is relevant and resonates with them and to direct them to getting in touch with your business. Find out what matters to an audience and you’ve already succeeded.