Want a better website?

Your customers can tell you how

This is the story of a website redesign project.

  • The project plan has been written.
  • The desired features have been determined (more than likely through email).
  • The budget has been allocated.
  • A timeline has been set.
  • Resources have been identified to get the work done.

Unfortunately, the website redesign team has been compromised from the very start. Why? Because nowhere in any of the discussions on this website has anyone engaged the most important decision-makers—primary users of the website. This website story will most likely have a disappointing ending. Kind of like the last episode of Seinfeld.

The website team will do the best they can with what they are given. They’ll establish feature priorities based on the strongest opinions and loudest voices in your organization. The timeline has been set ahead of time without real consideration for the end user. Guess what? This website will launch to a flat reception. The internal circular discussions will begin and you start the process again about three years later. Unless you talk to your website users, and bake it in to your publication process, this same storyline will repeat and disappoint much like bad movie sequels… Rocky IIIJaws II and any sequel to The Matrix.

How can you manage your way around repeating this cycle?

  • Talk to your users.
  • Listen to your users.
  • Plan around your users.
  • Optimize site content based on user input.

At the end of the day, remember the reason your website exists: customers need to accomplish a task on your site. They want to find it in less than 2:00. How will you prioritize the content that meets that 2:00 mark?

Find the value

In general, about 5% of your website produces 25% of its value. Think about that—a thin sliver of your website delivers the largest portion of its value. When we look at analytics data for ourselves and our clients, we see trends over time that confirm this to be true time and time again. There are pages on your site that get the most consistent number of hits over time. Content on those pages is getting the job done. Shift your focus to why your users find the most value on these pages. Then, you can expand on that type of content in a web redesign or put analytics goals in place to better understand the user’s path to that content.

Unearth hidden costs

Don’t get too enamored with front-end design baubles. Sometimes those fancy design techniques are getting in the way of a user’s experience on your site. User research can help uncover the hidden cost of mediocre user experience. We recently conducted on-site user research with primary users of the Minn Kota Motors trolling motors website. Admittedly, the current website is beautiful in its interface design. But, once we began visiting with the passionate fisherman that make up the core of their customers, it quickly became apparent some of the features on the site were not getting used, being ignored or creating barriers to these valuable customers when shopping for trolling motors. You will not hear feedback such as this from internal team members.

Prioritize features

Current user interface trends and content management systems have some really cool features. But, just because you have the latest design geegaws doesn’t mean you have to use them for your next website redesign. A large portion of software features go unused while other features are needed but do not get the attention they deserve. Direct communications with your users will help you cut right to the chase on your current features. Do your customers find these features helpful? Or do they find them cumbersome? Ask them. They’ll tell you. That’s the funny thing about talking to customers, they’ll tell you what they think.

End of story.