Have you ever had a moment where you have stumbled upon a site that peeks your curiosity? A site design where you get to totally geek out, open firebug and look at all the DIVs and CSS? Or have you ever experienced a proud moment when you have looked at a mockup and thought “this might be one of my best”? The graphics is the fun part of design; it is the reasons a lot of us do what we do.
But the graphical elements aren’t the only thing that makes a site good. The look of a site, although very important, is a small piece of the pie. Did someone say pie?
Design is a combination of several elements; having a target audience, great content, stellar information architecture and site accessibility. We can make a site look good, but if the other elements aren’t part of the equation then our visitors will not be happy.
A Target Audience
If you try to serve all your audiences then you don’t serve any of them effectively. Have you ever gone to a site and the home page is a jumbled mess? Most the time this means they have a bad case of the “trying to make everyone happy”, so they try to put information for everyone on the page. What is outcome of doing this? No one can find the information they need. There isn’t any organization, so the site leaves you frustrated and your questions unanswered.
Make your content conversational. Have you ever gone to a site and feel disengaged from the site and their purpose? Or needed a doctoral degree to understand what they are trying to say? When reading their content does it sound like an old grant proposal, with a lot of “The candidate”, “The person”, “The Company” phrasing? You wouldn’t talk to a person if they came into your office that way, so why would you write content for your site that way? Instead of saying “The candidate will receive….” say “You will receive..”. Just that little change makes visitors more engaged and feel included in your purpose.
Stellar Information Architecture
Make it easy for visitors to find the information they desire. Have you ever been frustrated when on a site because it is impossible to find answers to your questions? Have you ever been sure that something would be found in one area of the site, to only find it somewhere totally different? Your navigation should be easy to follow. Navigation sets should be grouped together and there should be more than one way to get to content.
Make your site accessible to ALL that visit. Have you ever found it difficult to read something on a site because the color of the font? Or seen a flashing “new” animated gif and thought wow that is really distracting? We need to be aware and thinking about accessibility of our site to all visitors. The smallest things can make the biggest difference.
As you can see there are more elements to design than just the graphics. These are all elements we need to think about when creating an excellent web site for ourselves and our customers. It is our responsibility to make our customers aware of these items and help them understand the importance of each. I will spend more time in upcoming posts to go deeper into each of these areas. So look back often for what other goodies I might have to say