Back to user basics

Our web users are important. YOU are my web user, therefore, you are very important to me. If I don’t take your opinions, skill level, and behaviors into account when building a web site, why in the world did I build it?

You are NOT your user

Let’s face it, we are not the users of our websites. Your users are your clients, customers, fans, and website visitors. They come to your website with a purpose. You must know and understand what that purpose is if you are to engage them in an effective and meaningful way, which includes enticing them to return to your website.

You must know your users. You might even have different types of users too. You have to research their needs and learn WHY they visit your website. You must understand HOW they use and behave on your website. What TASKS do they want to accomplish? Without answers to these basic questions, you wind up building a website for you and what you THINK your user wants.

Do you really know what your web users want from your site and how they behave on it? I mean really know?

Your business needs are important too

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about you. Your needs for your website are vital. However, you must learn how your users engage with your business needs and how they accomplish the tasks they set out to do on your website.

Let’s say you have a website for a restaurant you own. You feel this website is important because:

  1. A good business has a website;
  2. Your customers need to learn more about you;
  3. You want to show off your amazing food and dining space;
  4. Other things you as a restaurant owner need.

Your website probably has the beautiful image viewer on the homepage with stunning foodie photos, a contact/location page, menu listings, etc. Now, I ask what page does your user want to visit first? You honestly will not know unless you either ask them or incorporate analytics software (which would be after launching the site, and might be too late). Many website owners think the About page is must-see page for their users, when that menu or contact page is probably the most commonly sought after.

Until you do some real user research and user testing, you really can’t definitively state how your users engage with your website. What is confusing for them when visiting your site? How do they navigate through your website?

So many questions to ask your users. So let’s ask them! A simple user survey can find most of these answers, but engaging users one-on-one during the planning and design processes is crucial. Retrofitting changes down the road to accommodate user needs difficult, so you might as well obtain that user feedback beforehand.

It’s well worth it.

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