One of the things that needs to change in 2006 (which will undoubtedly be the year of the web-application) is the care for user experience and usability. Many managers and business-people need to change their perspective and hire the right people to take their web-businesses to a new level. We are no longer in 1999, age of Photoshop-designed templates and lens flare effects on homepages, cut into place in Dreamweaver MX.
Weve been getting quite a few work proposals in the last few weeks – which youd say is by any standards, a good thing. But the percentage of people (even on very high places) who have no clear notion of how user-centered design and information architecture should work for their company and websites is astonishing.
Its almost 2006, lets talk 2006
Ive said this before, but Ill repeat: The key to successful web applications is how much it puts the user in the center of the process. What this means is that any design, for any webpage or web-application needs to take into consideration the user, not the looks.
The notion that a page needs to be pixel perfect before usability snaps into the process is wrong. Usability, user experience and information architecture need to be present from the start of development and design. This means that if youre looking for people to send you 3 photoshop templates of pages, youre driving steady against the wall of bad investment.
Remember the rule: The key to successful web applications is how much it puts the user in the center of the process.
If you really want a web-based business,
If you really want a web-based business, your request shouldnt be for templates or layouts. Your question should be how can I make my users/readers come back for more of what Im offering?. Thats the question we like to answer. The reason why is simple – theres basically two schools of web-designers and developers:
- Those that do webpages by thinking about color schemes, pixel-perfect placement of headers, titles and images. They get your job done if your page is a visit-once endeavour (in which case, you dont really have a web business). They do not get the job done if you need to make sense to your users and readers. A web-application (or a blog) is not a concert-night poster.
- Those that want to know your business and your users first, consider all the aspects, and then implement them (even with all the bells and whistles the first kind of designer would get you). This is the right kind of people you want if you are building something for everyone. Someone (or a team) or knows engineering and breathes it into the design. People with people skills and talent.
So is there a ROI in user experience?
Short answer is a resounding yes. You can see clearly that the web-applications that succeed are the ones that had a budget for user experience and information architecture. Does it cost them? Usually, yes – sometimes even more than the development itself. But the difference between an application that people use from one that people dont bother with, relies in 99% of the cases on how well information is structured and how intuitive it is – not how the code works.
If you manage a web-application or a web-based business and are thinking about a new look, dont think color schemes – or hire people that think about color schemes and layouts. Think about the best ways to make what you do clear to your visitors – and hire people accordingly. It might become one of your best decisions.