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Getting rid of guesswork in design

Creative breathes life into successful sites. However, creative ideas and solutions often look like guessing – a dangerous business, I tell you. What can designers do to convince the customer of their obsession with best intentions and of their decisions that they are hard as stone? The following exercises will help build a real dialogue with the customer and teach you to document it, and the client will remove the veil of fear of creativity and get involved in the process of creating his site.

Set clear goals
Some people think that they know why they need a website, and they are fighting for the right to formulate clear and measurable goals. Doubtful goals force a person to assume, and assumptions can lead to disappointment. Goals like “sell more of our products” or “become more popular” are blurred and sent almost to nowhere.

Exercise with modified acceptance criteria exercise is the simplest and at the same time effective that I know. It will teach us goal setting. Nimble developers from different fields use it to show why solve this problem and how it will fit into the overall picture of the case. A couple of changes and the exercise is suitable for goal setting in site building:

Request example:

* We will redesign the site because we need more traffic and a new look, and we want to become more respected in the market.

An example of a query construction scheme:

* We want ______ because ________ to _________.

An example of relevant goals:

* We want to increase website traffic by 20%, because we need more attention from potential customers in order to attract a minimum of 8 contacts with customers per month.
* We need to change the appearance of the site to a more modern one, because we need to better meet the needs of consumers in order to increase sales by 10%.
* We want to write four articles about our industry per month, because we want to help our market, with the goal of forming at least two partners per month.

Notice how the semantic separation of “means”, “sense” and “future result” outlines the goals of the client and describes why he wants to do this and how he will achieve it. Acceptance criteria for design is a great way to “wash” unnecessary deep, perhaps even unknown, intentions, which will help the designer and the customer to see the right decisions and avoid surprises in the future. Review goals until all relevant individuals (who make decisions) understand and agree with them.

Bonus: Formulate a few goals to see which of them are secondary and tertiary, but do not overdo it – no site can solve many primary goals.

Organize pages
People drag on sites that help solve problems without much mental difficulty. The user should spend his mental strength on solving his problems, and not understand how the site works.

Sorting cards is a great way to organize your site. Write a list of all the pages on the site and write their headings on the cards, then put the cards on the table. Move them back and forth until you build the most understandable diagram of all sections and their subsections.

If you don’t have the opportunity to do this yourself or if your team does not have time to move cards around the tables all together, then try to do this with colleagues online, filling out the table. Here is an example of the work of some craftsmen for the site of a New Zealand company that is engaged in investments (figures are invented), made in Google Docs:

Google docs
An example of sorting a site using a table.

If you are currently engaged in a redesign, then take the time to ask the webmaster of the site about traffic: which pages are most visited and which are the least? This is a cool opportunity to evaluate the quality of the content of the site’s pages and serve them to the visitor. Then trim and combine related pages, separate complex pages from them, and simplify them.

Even after the usual site design, the card sorting exercise can significantly increase the usability and website performance. This move can be practiced so that the site always remains useful to visitors. I invite the reader to familiarize themselves with other ways of performing card sorting of the site and invite you to read the Boxes and Arrows ’card sorting guide, Usability.gov’s card sorting article or read a whole book on card sorting.

Bonus: An interesting trick is to do card sorting with a person who does not know anything about the customer company. So you can get unexpected recommendations and avoid bias.

Share information on the page
The next step: we need to understand the visual hierarchy of information on the page. Let us turn to the distribution of attention — I call it the “attention map” —and to the simplest arithmetic.

Attention map is a set of goals for a specific page; Each goal has a certain amount of points. Assign the total number of points necessary for a good distribution of information on this page.

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