As a young designer, I used to begin projects challenging my screen to a stare-down; a benign and customary tradition that rarely results in a win. I’d followup that stare-down up by evaluating basic navigation and general aesthetic of a site followed by an attempt at keeping the site cohesive from point A to B. I would establish the baseline for what I thought was a well-oiled machine. In the back of my head, I knew it wasn’t an organic site. I created a mechanical marvel but it wasn’t about the user experience; it was about my experience. Since coming to O3, I realized it was time to consider a new approach.
Change. Legions of individuals cringe at the mere thought, as did I, but the reality is that change is always changing. It was time to reexamine my thoughts on how I approached a project. I’ve come to realize that the flow and layout of a website should adapt to your user without demanding that the user adapt to your ideas. I recall visiting a dynamic site for research on an upcoming project and all I could think about was how badly it missed it’s audience. A plethora of passion, effort and time went into creating a visually stunning website but it felt disconnected from it’s target. It connected more to me as a graphic designer which ultimately meant that the project pushed design at the cost of the user – a terrible tradeoff full of unspent potential. All designers should consider this basic law: the project is not yours and it’s not your clients’. It’s for the users and should behave as if it’s for them and no one else.
Research is by far is the most effective tool at your disposal and all too often underestimated. Move forward by exploring existing websites that you and your clients feel are doing it right. Don’t feel ashamed of taking inspiration from other places.
The desire to come off as unique is understandable but should never be a priority. Unique can mean a lot of things. Unique ultimately means different. In the realm of user experience, different can be a negative.
Providing a user manual so a user can simply navigate your site is being different for all the wrong reasons. Familiarity is as important as difference.
Understand the position of your prospects and why they are on your site, what they are looking for, where they are looking for it, and design around their expectations. Keep it simple and avoid the urge to overproduce. Complex sites make it difficult to process information and the reality is users want information as accessible as possible.
As you draw upon tried-and-true methods and draw inspiration from all the right places, you earn a user’s trust who will be less inclined to leave and more inspired to stay. After taking a critical look at your competitors, ask yourself what else will work for your audience. What won’t work? Most importantly, what can you do better? Being better leads to brilliance. Keep up to date with current trends and make sure to take advantage of low-hanging fruit.
Pause and actually become the user. Put yourself in their place. Understand who they are and where they are in their buying journey. It will drastically alter the way you think about design and, in the end, it should be obvious for both you as the designer and the user as a prospect to connect with your website in a meaningful and organic way.