To build a good website, and enjoy yourself while doing it, you have to ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Why are we doing this? What is our goal?
- Who are we trying to help?
- The new website: how should it work, what should it look like, what should it say?
Note, that ‘designy’ sounding stuff is the third question you have to concern yourself with. The first two questions you have to answer yourself are about your goals and your customer.
I. “What is our goal? Why are we doing this?” The first questions to ask in a website redesign project
- You need to know what you are aiming for before you start designing. Most design problems are born out of ill-defined, unclear goals. Have you ever had your team members contesting the key visual on the home page? Or couldn’t quite decide on the copy? Or felt like the site is overloaded with information? In our experience, 80% of such problems stem from unclear goal definition at the outset of the project.
- Goals for website redesign should be stated as: actions you want the visitors to take on your website (buy, book, reserve, give you their data, consume content, share content etc.). This way of describing goals lets you make design decisions later on.
- Website redesign is not about making the website different. It is about making it work better for your audience. Don’t let the old website be the only benchmark for you. If you have an existing website, you probably have KPI you want to improve (and those KPIs are nothing else but signifiers of users’ behaviour on your website). You want to look beyond the existing KPI – take a broader look.
- A good design agency will help you define your goals this way.
II. “What are we helping people with?” The second question to ask in a website redesign process
- Visitors only visit your website because they want help getting to their goals.
- If they believe they are getting closer to their goals by paying you, sharing your content, or just consuming your stuff, you have a good website. So your website has to help them overcome the obstacles between them and their goal.
- The website is about overcoming the obstacles between them and their goal. That’s why you want to know the goal and the obstacles. And those two constitute a “user’s situation”. An example of such a situation would be: “I’m a graphic designer, and my laptop broke, I need a new one; here’s what I need to know before I decide what laptop to buy now”.
- We make an outline of the situation:
- What happened (e.g. “my laptop broke”)
- What outcome does the user want now (“get a new laptop that has the best price-to-quality ratio on the market”)
- What actions, and decisions the user has to make to get the outcome they want (e.g. decide what features are important in a laptop, decide what laptops cover those features, decide what ones are reasonably priced, decide when to buy, where to buy, and then decide if they are happy with their purchase)
- What difficulties, problems or questions stand in their way
- Current solutions they apply to those difficulties (example: how well does the current website help with those problems but also: Google search, competitors’ sites etc).
- Within this map of their situation we can see opportunities for us – to help solve their problems better (easier, faster, at lower cost). Example: when you look at the map of the situation, you will see that in step 1, 4 & 7 of the user’s journey, our current website doesn’t help at all (e.g. doesn’t answer the user’s questions).
- We analyse different users and different situations this way. We end up having an opportunity map – map of areas where we can help people better solve their problems.
- This way the whole team has a common vision of what problems you are solving for different users. Thus, it will be easier for you to gain acceptance from your own team later on, when you will show them graphic designs for the website.
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III. The new website: How should it work, what should it look like, what should it say? The third question to ask in a website makeover
- A website is like a Swiss Army knife, a multitool that your customers can use to solve their problems. The website has to elegantly combine different thinking tools that people use to make decisions online. Some of those tools are information they seek. Other tools are the website’s functions, that allow people to find information, compare it, generate it, and send it to others.
- Putting together these different thinking tools into one, coherent webpage (a.k.a. Swiss Army knife) requires skill and planning.
- First off – you need to know what kind of blades you put there, whether those tiny scissors will be useful, and … “do we need a corkscrew of all things?”. How do you decide that?
- Well – you look at the situation map – and the problem areas you want to help the user get through. The situation map tells you about:
- Their goal
- The steps they have to take to reach the goal
- Difficulties & questions they face
- Current solutions they utilize (whatever their worth is)
- Now – visualise a better situation for the user: one, where the difficulties and questions are instantly solved. What would it look like? How could our new website contribute to this new, better situation? We may sketch this vision as:
- Storyboards – where we visualise a new, better situation for the user, showing how they interact with a new website
- Writing a dialogue between your website and the consumer (yes, you read this right!)
- Wire-framing screen-by-screen what the user can see, when they interact with your interface.
- Therein you will see whether those ‘scissors’ (the Swiss Army knife metaphor!) are necessary. Whether a corkscrew is a good idea. You even know how long a blade you need for the job.
- You repeat the process for each and every one of the situations you have mapped. In this process you will usually find out that the tools you have envisioned for situation #1 can be applied to situations #2 and #3… (those tiny scissors have so many applications!). In other words: you can see commonalities between the thinking tools that you prepare for different users and different situations.
- Only now comes the time for putting all those different tools (thinking tools) together into a usable Swiss Army knife that will work for all of your users in different situations. This part is about building the ‘information architecture’ and building out navigation. Putting those thinking tools together so people can easily find the right one and apply it to their particular situation. A lot can be said about this part (including user input), and we think we will leave it for some other time.
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IV. Testing your new, revamped website with users
Before you launch your new website, it’s a reasonable thing to test it with users. In our experience, even a single test session with several users can bring you interesting insight into how people understand what you say to them. That’s why we always recommend user-testing, before testing the site live, on open waters. The subject of testing is so broad, we will cover it in other articles.
V. Website redesign services
Our workshops are one of those rare occasions, where your team can look at your whole business with fresh eyes, from a new perspective. That often means new ideas that go beyond the website into branding, communication or customer service.
We work with fundamentals first: your value proposition, your customer’s situation. Thanks to this approach, the process of building the website, creating graphic designs, communication and functional backlog feels like a treat, not a chore. If you are thinking of redesigning your website, give us a call.
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