Are you embarking on developing a new website? Follow our 7 step guide to ensure the finished product is loved by all your users.
Step 1: Decide if the website is really necessary.
Not every website needs to be built. Most microsites and any website that supports an internal vanity project are just two such examples. Before embarking on a website build, make sure you have a clear website strategy and consider:
- What is the purpose of this website?
- Is it serving a genuine user need?
- If so, is a website the best channel for this?
- What will success from this website look like for the organisation?
If you can clearly answer all these questions and are confident your website services a genuine user need then it is time to crack on.
Step 2: Understand user needs.
A good website is one that will effortlessly meet the needs of its users while also delivering on organisational objectives.
To create this seamless experience we need to understand what the user needs are. And that means speaking to some users! This is the part of your development process we call discovery research.
During this phase, it is important to speak to a wide range of users to understand their background and circumstances, what motivates them, the frustrations they experience, what information they need and how they want to get it. This can all be used to paint a picture of what your users want and how you can best deliver it.
Step 3: Identify top tasks.
Once step 2 has been completed you will be left with a long list of user goals. A website can never support 100% of the goals for 100% of your users so we now need to prioritise them.
To do this, we need to go out to a much larger sample of users and get them to vote on the top 5 activities they would hope to achieve on your website, we need to identify ‘Top Tasks’.
Step 4: Build a solid information architecture.
Like any good house, a website needs to sit on a solid foundation: its information architecture or IA.
The best IAs are based on user evidence (gathered in steps 2 and 3 of our process). By using card sorting techniques you can chunk information into categories that work for your users. Initially this might give you a few variations.
To narrow it down to the best option test these new IAs with users until you have one option that performs well across the board.
Step 5: Create and test prototypes
It’s never too early to test concepts with users. Once you have your IA in place, it’s time to start creating some structure around it. How will your homepage, navigation pages and content pages look? These can start as wireframes or low-fidelity prototypes before evolving to be more high-fidelity prototypes but make sure to get regular user feedback along the way to help shape your design thinking.
Don’t feel you need have a fully formed idea before speaking to some customers, prototype testing can happen at any stage, from the most basic line drawings through to a fully functional design.
Rather than just starting with one design, the very early prototypes could consist of two or three highly contrasting versions to see which approach best reflects the brand values and which elements work most effectively.
Step 6: Iteratively test during the build
Once you begin to emerge from the prototype stage, development of the website will start in earnest. During this time, it is very easy to get carried away with the design and how great your new website is looking.
However, it is important not to forget who this website is for and usability testing with users throughout the development process will ensure the final product not only looks great but also best achieves the site objectives and is a delight to use.
Don’t forget to include users with access needs and low digital skills in this testing to ensure the new site is usable by all your customers.
Step 7: Don’t launch and leave
Congratulations on launching your shiny new website! While this is definitely a time for celebration it is not the end of the road.
Websites and the user needs they support are not static, and competitor sites will be changing and improving. As the needs evolve so must the website: establishing a customer feedback loop is crucial for maintaining a great user experience. This is likely to involve a combination of website analytics, surveys and more in-depth user research at intervals throughout the year.
Whatever method you use, incorporating user feedback into ongoing developments will ensure your website continues to effortlessly meets the needs of your users while also delivering on business objectives.