Websites: the end is just the beginning
16 Oct 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman
When I visit a website, I typically (and quickly) scan the homepage. I might scroll just beyond the fold to see what content morsels lie just out of sight – and if I don’t find anything to sink my teeth into – I check out the menu. If it’s a burger, I open it.
Every website has a goal. An intent. Whether measurable by dollars & cents, subscription or shares, or likes or engagements. In an ideal situation, users would all view a website in the same way, they would understand the intent and participate – consciously or sub-consciously. The problem is, that even with the clearest of journeys, the user will always do what the user always does. The challenge then becomes one of designing a better user experience. One that marries the user’s needs with the business objectives.
When we develop a website, we factor in that people engage differently. They navigate differently; some consume content, others snack; some anchor themselves to desktops, others view things on the go. The one truism is that people engage differently.
So, given that people engage differently, how do you build the perfect website to cater for all the differences? The answer is, you don’t.
When you start defining an experience, you research, and plan, and interview and develop and trial all of the ideas and possibilities you think will solve the challenge. At some point, you have to put it out there and watch. And learn. And then refine and evolve.
Knowledge, creativity, and experience provide a perfect starting point, but ultimately your users define how they will engage with you and your brand.
"At some point, you have to put it out there and watch. And learn.
And then refine and evolve."
Through observation of user behaviour, you can refine your service and offer more meaningful choices. You can cater for better engagement. Ultimately, you aim to aid your users to achieve your goals by delivering a better experience. To assist in your quest for clarity, a wealth of knowledge, tools and analysis is on offer to help you maximise the online experience of your users.
Don’t be afraid to not know all the answers when you go live with a website. Be galvanised in the notion that you’ll learn, and refine, and improve with each user interaction. Your goals will be more achievable, fuelled by an increase in your understanding. Your platform will become more resilient to change the more you know about how your users engage – regardless of browser, device or time of day etc.
To create meaningful online experiences that ebb & flow based on user needs and business objectives – don’t ever see the ‘going live’ of your website as the end of your project – but instead, the beginning. Be prepared to learn more about your users, beyond what you thought you knew. And don’t shy away from changing your direction off the back of analysis of your users’ behaviours.