Deciding on the structure of a new website can prove a daunting process. Many businesses first look at their business hierarchy, processes and goals and decide to plan their website along the same lines. Alternatively they see their website as a mass of keywords to hit high Google rankings.
But who is more important? The end user is. They probably don’t give a fig about your business and how it’s organised. All they want to know is what’s in it for them. Why are they on your site? What are they looking for? And can they find it easily? You’ve also got to get them beyond the homepage, so being number one on Google isn’t going to solve that problem.
So now we stop thinking about what we want on the site but rather put ourselves in the user’s shoes and figure out what they want. They are probably web savvy and know how to source the information they want. In fact there’s a good chance that they know as much, or even more, about your product than your sales people. A good idea is to actually think of your ideal clients, maybe two or three, even give them names, and then think about it from their point of view. Bigger organisations can use market research and focus groups to find out this sort of information. The important thing is to think from outside in, instead of the traditional inside out.
When you discover what your users want then you plan how to give it to them. This part of development is referred to as Information Architecture ‚ a way of establishing the best way for your user to interact with the site. Usability is of prime concern too. I recently read a good book on usability Called ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ by Steve Krug. I reckon this phrase sums up the purpose of good usability.
Improving user experience isn’t of course the only consideration. Websites can have a vast array of different goals and visitor groups. The user needs to be persuaded to move from one page to another. The user wants to do something, maybe learn something, maybe be entertained, maybe hear a story. Getting the user to return to your site may also be a necessity, whether by fresh content or effective eMarketing.
The website also has to look good of course. As Don Norman said ‘Aesthetics matter. Attractive things work better.’