Watch Your Customers “Get the Job Done” for the Best Web Design
A common goal every website and every web design should have is to provide solutions to problems experienced by its visitors. In this context, content is created to address problems potential customers are trying to resolve, and the site’s calls-to-action or conversion points represent the beginning of your company’s intent to fulfilling its user’s needs. Unfortunately, the focal word in the previous sentence is “should”.
Peter Drucker asserted that “customers rarely buy what companies think they are selling” and this is proven by the accepted “mal-practices” for new websites and website redesigns. At the start of many new web development initiatives, discussions gravitate around decorative preferences, functional requests, and non-essential elements before investigating the site visitor’s needs. While each of these points merit attention, they should not be examined until later in the process.
Any decisions pertaining to a website’s interface should be made within the context of the place where your users’ needs and your company’s business objectives intercede. The misalignment between a web design and its usefulness to a user stems from companies assuming or neglecting the needs of its visitors before thinking of decorative and topical aspects of a website.
What is the Job at Hand?
When undertaking a web development project, attention should be given first to understanding the job customers are trying to accomplish when they arrive on a website, while in their “natural” environment. Being on location with your clients provides insight on issues central to your exploration, and opens your view to peripheral concerns that influence your potential customer’s decisions and behaviors.
On location doesn’t always mean you need to physically be on site with your customers, although if that is possible, it’s the ideal scenario. On location can mean “watching” from a retail location through a secret shopper, observing from a distribution site that services your customers, or even getting recon from a client’s team member on site in their location. Ideally, this recon is done through observation and interaction.
Some companies try to understand customer needs by asking them directly using tools like focus groups or surveys, but asking people to tell you what they want only gets you so far. While surveys, focus groups, website analytics, secondary research about your target audience are all helpful, they should be used in orchestration with “on site” observation, if possible, to triangulate any formulated conclusion. Here’s why. As the anthropologist Margaret Mead said “What people say what people do and what people say they do are entirely different things.”
Golden opportunities surface when you watch people use workarounds to get their jobs done. Workarounds are needed because what’s available isn’t always good enough. It’s these gaps exhibited off-line and in web design, these roadblocks, that cause people to find a work around that become opportunities for correction, improvement and innovation in your website development strategy. Not witnessing this scene first hand, you would not be aware of this particular problem. By using this knowledge as the foundation, filter, and focus for future decisions, you’re web design and development will always translate favorably to your website’s visitors’ needs.
Watch with an Open Mind and Objective Eyes
When observing, it is important to forget everything you know, avoid assumptions, and eliminate the concept of “common sense.” To make the most of your observations, it takes a “beginner’s mind” of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions. With this mindset, you’ll begin to notice the hidden obvious – and only after it’s noticed does it become obvious.
The purpose in this approach to web development is to help you provide informed design oriented input for your new website that anticipates and cooperates with its users. Good design flows smoothly and naturally without calling attention to itself or getting in the way. Good design contributes to the achievement of goals and works within the parameter of constraints. When a new website is designed for human-computer interaction, with user needs at the center of a collaborative and iterative process, it becomes a usable and useful website that cooperates with people. It allows your visitors to efficiently and effectively get their jobs done.
If you patiently observe your customers attempting to achieve their goals with an open mind, you will discover the hidden obvious, which will lead to novel breakthrough ideas to help visitors achieve the jobs they are trying to accomplish online.