Begin with the User in Mind

When you start off with a new website for a client, is your mind full of ideas for artistic colours, exotic fonts, shimmering graphics and slinky new widgets that are sure to dazzle?

If so, you’re putting the cart before the horse.

If you were asked who is the most important person in the web design process, would you answer yourself as the designer or the client as the person who’s paying you?

The correct answer, of course, is neither. The key person in the whole process is the prospective user of the site. Clearly knowing who that person is will help you reap the benefits of user centred web design.

Before you even think about sketching out that nifty display, you have to delve deep into the nitty gritty of whom exactly you’re designing it for. So first, you need to get a clear picture of who that is exactly.


The End User Persona

If the end user seems like a murky figure now, you have to get to know him intimately. One of the best ways to do that is to create personas. Not an Ingmar Bergman film in this case but rather models of the people you’re targeting.

To begin, you need to collect demographic information such as age, gender, education, employment. Then you have to ascertain their pain points, needs and goals.

You should also try to glean when and where your users will access the site along with their level of technical competence. This will help how you structure the site and its navigation.

You can get this information from many sources:

  • Ask the client as he should have a good knowledge of his market.
  • Online services such as Quantcast and Alexa can give you a broad overview of gender, age and education levels.
  • You can read use sites such as amazon. Reading reviews and testimonials can clue you in to what’s important to your target market.
  • Social media research is another source.

Creating personas can be fun. You should give them names and perhaps choose some images from the web.


Applying the Persona

Understanding the end user will help determine the purpose and goals of the site and thus how it should be designed and organised. By studying personas, you can get valuable hints on the best approach to functionality and design. It can also help determine usability issues. Older users for example require larger fonts and clearer menus. Younger audiences probably want something edgy.

Ultimately, your goal is to fulfil the core business objectives determined by your client. However, the clearer the picture you have of the person who’ll be using the site you’re designing, the better you can cater to his needs. You can then create a site which he feels is speaking right to him. Your client will love you for it.

When you’re looking for specialist web designers, Sydney’s Smart Media offers a comprehensive set of professional services including, SEO, design, online advertising, and digital marketing. Get in touch today.

About Nathanael Vanderkolk

Nathanael Vanderkolk is the Director of the Smart SEO Company, a SEO Agency in Sydney, Australia. Smart SEO Sydney has a keen awareness of the latest approaches to online marketing. Follow him on , Facebook and Twitter.
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