It’s not just about the design
When I was studying for my degree back in 1995, one of the courses I had to take was around Human Computer Interaction – the general theme being that using a computer shouldn’t be difficult but you have to put a bit of thought into how humans might interact with the computer and consider what might be intuative to them. The same premise must be applied to websites, but is often overlooked in the desire fo having a website that looks cool, adheres to the brand or has funky flashing lights.
Andy, my business partner and website designer is a huge advocate of what he calls the ‘User Experience’, meaning that the overall experience of using a website for the user should be positive and they should be able to find whatever information they want nice and easily and not end up somewhere that they don’t want to be.
It sounds easy, but it isn’t and it requires lots of preparatory work beforehand into what the end goal of the website is (whether to sell something, or to present some information) and how the ‘journey’ through the website should be structured. And it’s not just large companies that need to do it (many don’t – both the BT and Royal Mail websites are a complete nightmare to navigate) but small companies, if they truly want to realise the investment in their website, must also give at least some consideration to what a website is like to use.
Think of it in this way – if your shop in the high street has a fantastic design with lots of great lighting, comfy chairs, great music and pretty staff but your customers can’t actually find anything then you’re never going to achieve the ambition for the shop (which, presumably, is to sell stuff). Therefore whilst having a nice design for your website is important, you must also consider the experience of your user and ensure that they can achieve their aim, whether it’s to buy something or to find some information, as easily as possible.
Gregor Spowart is a partner in Mass Media Design, a website design and Internet Marketing company based in Reading (Berkshire), Swindon (Wiltshire) and Cardiff. Gregor is an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) specialist.