Bryan Eisenberg, of FutureNow, has written an article called Web Marketing and Analytics: Process, Talent & Tools that raises several points about the practical, necessary work to be done in persuasive, user centered web site design.
Firstly, he talks about the need for someone who can take audit or test data and actually do something with it. One of the failures of usability reports is the follow through afterwards. Many reports simply send site owners jumping over cliffs in frustration because they don’t have someone on staff to implement fixes and enhancements.
They don’t have someone who can test and re-test click paths because they’ve never heard of this process before, let alone how to do it.
I run into this constantly, where a company or individual orders a site review and after getting it, approaches me for referrals for who can do the necessary work to bring the site back up to par. There are few companies and people who I know for sure understand holistic design that includes SEO and usability and even less who have the expertise to test their designs or applications before launch.
It’s difficult to believe that many companies, especially in software development, still don’t include usability testing in their QA departments. They seem to have no desire to know how or why someone uses their product. They just build it, sell it and hope for the best.
Bryan also gets into the discipline behind true, hard core design work. The only place I’ve personally seen any of it in action is in software QA, where every nook and cranny is traceable to a business or functional requirement. And even at that, actual user persona requirements, based on known target market or user behavior data, was just not taken into account.
His article lists ways to implement serious steps in design process. He writes,
Build your website from that model which defines the responsibilities of every word, pixel and click. This is where it’s valuable to have talented marketing and creative staff or resources. Could you go to your site’s homepage now, click on any link and then tell me why any phrase, link or image exists?
Yes! This is what’s missing in mainstream web site design. For SEO purposes, it can be fairly easy to point out why an image, word or link is placed somewhere on a page. There’s optimization for search engine rules that apply and many people are good at doing this. But, if you were to ask the mom and pop operation why they have 3 duplicate navigation schemes on their homepage, or 100 links plus 50 product images and more links on their homepage, they may not know. Their designer did it and they never knew they should ask these questions.
It’s refreshing to read about “deliberate” design (I’m stealing a word from Bryan because it really nails the idea.) It plays right into holistic design and includes accessibility. Most of all, web site visitor needs and desires will be met more often.
We’ll all benefit from that.