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Designing in a Vacuum: How to Make Your Website Suck

Posted at January 27, 2012 | By : | Categories : Blog,Google Analytics | Comments

Recently we wrote about common pitfalls of redesigning and launching your website.  There was one section in particular that incited some debate, which is expected because we only touched on the tip of the iceberg. And because of that, we were inspired to expand upon the concept of Designing in a Vacuum.

Sucks:

Designers are designers, not analysts

Clean Sweep:

It is true that there is a left brain, right brain battle at times, but they are not at odds. As with most things in life, there is a happy medium. The job of an analyst is to be able to fully interpret a wide range of data, turn it into information, and then into actionable items.  These actionable items usually fall on the designer.  A request of “we need to redesign this page; it looks stale” typically leads to wasted time and effort.  If a designer receives that request, they should immediately push back with questions such as “what exactly is stale?”, “it may be stale, but is the page working?”, “how do people respond to different colors, fonts or layouts?”, “has a user experience expert been involved?”, etc.

Ideally, the analyst feeds the designer information that guides the redesign.

Sucks:

Design is visual first, and functional second

Clean Sweep:

Design is a means to an end. It serves a goal. A designer should have a natural artistic ability to judge color schemes, emotive responses, sense of whitespace, etc.  But all of these elements are meant to drive a user to complete an action.  The late 1990’s and early 2000’s were full of elaborate Flash animation splash pages that were self-serving pieces. They served no purpose, and have thankfully fallen by the wayside.

Sucks:

Not testing

Clean Sweep:

If your designer insists on only one layout option, you have a problem.  There is not one design to rule them all. Pages should be routinely tested to determine their effectiveness.  Even if an entire layout isn’t tested, you can still test individual images, color themes, call to action messaging and more.  And to minimize work on your designers, developers and IT, check out Optimizely. It is an easy way to edit the page, test elements, and track reporting directly in the interface.

Sucks:

Design without a canvas

Clean Sweep:

Artists need a canvas so they can know the strengths and weaknesses of what they can create. Google Analytics can provide this canvas information: Mobile users, Flash version, browser, screen resolution, JavaScript support, etc. If you have a site that is accessed via mobile 70% of the time, your designer needs to know so it can be built in HTML5 instead of Flash. This will save everyone time, effort and money.

Sucks:

Design that doesn’t direct users

Clean Sweep:

Design should be used to shepherd users toward an end goal. Navigation should be built based on pages that are most important to visitors. Knowledge of the abandonment funnel shows where people are lost and how design changes can reverse that trend.

Vacuums Suck. Not Websites.

These are only a few situations that designers and the web team may encounter. Granted these are very black and white, but they serve to illustrate specific ways in which data can lay a foundation for the design process.  Your success lies in the gray, where the strengths of analysts combine with the talents of designers. Luckily, many designers you encounter these days already know each of these points above. And if your current designer is working in a vacuum, chances are your website is going to suck.

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