So who are you really building your new website for?

It’s a simple question, right? Or is it?

When you embark on building a new website (or re-designing your existing one) you will obviously bring to the project some ideas about what you want to include in your new website.

You may have some colours or styles in mind, you may even have an idea about navigation and what should go where on the home page, but are you willing to put all that aside, start from scratch and let your users (the ‘experts’) run the show?

We think you should, yes. And here’s why… 

The single most important thing you, as the stakeholder and/or website owner, should be worried about is how your users (the ‘experts’) experience your website. You can have all the bells and whistles you like but if the fundamentals of your user experience (UX) are not in place then your website is inherently flawed.

We have all visited websites where we want to find information (or even hand over our hard earned cash) and have a terrible user experience. The end result is we either leave the site without having achieved our goal, or we leave cheesed off, having spent way more time than expected and unlikely to recommend the site to others. 

So what is UX?

UX or User experience is (loosely) the science that governs how users behave on websites. There are 2 broad types of UX. The first are broader industry or expert-based protocols. These protocols govern what users have come to expect as standard, particular functionality on a website – such as the behavior of an online transaction or submitting a contact enquiry through an online form. The second is about how your specific users want to use your website. For the first, you must rely on the professionalism and skills of your web development team, but the second UX needs input from your users.

There are many different ways of gaining this information from your users but essentially it boils down to research and communication. You need to ask your users what they want, what they like about your existing site (or a competitor’s site) and what they don’t like. The more of your budget you spend on understanding your users, the better you can apply their needs in both the planning and execution stages of the site build. 

This research about UX should guide every decision you make about the website build. The more data you have, the less ‘guesstimating’ you have to do when you’re making decisions.

Ok, sounds simple right?

Well, maybe… In every build there will always be a moment or a conversation about changes and tweaks (we find this usually occurs just before or just after go-live). 

Before you do anything, ask yourself (or the person requesting the changes) “why are you making these changes”? Is it because you want them or will your user genuinely benefit from the change? Do you have any user data to back up the decision to make the change?

The single most damaging event in a web build process is a change made based on individual preferences… “Because I think it should be like this”, “Because I prefer yellow”,  “Because that’s the way it was done on the last website”, “Because that’s the way our competitors do it”…  and so on.

Changes based on this style of reasoning can only spell disaster for your brand new website, and potentially drop you in the ranks from award winning website to also-ran. It can also have detrimental effects on your Google ranking and your UX.

So what to do if you feel changes are required in the final stages?

Number 1 - Research... get all your data together and keep getting whatever data you need to make an evaluative decision (even about look and feel if you need to).

Number 2 - Stick to your guns and go-live, then wait. Wait and see how your users like the new website and then test again, this will stop any wasted expenditure on unnecessary changes.

Number 3 – If changes are required, approach them with the support of your user data – and include them! 

Remember despite the fact that you are footing the bill, your website is there for your users.