Your Host: Kip Russell

Show Notes:

Today, we’ll be going into detail about the many factors you need to consider before embarking on a website redesign.  And we’ll also explain user interface design..

But first, I want to let you know we’re planning an upcoming question and answer podcast episode that will feature your questions.  If you’d like to submit your question to be featured on our upcoming Q & A episode,  go to our website PODCAST.ARTVERSION.COM, again that’s PODCAST.ARTVERSION.COM, to submit your question and we will include your question in our question and answer episode which we’ll be doing in a couple of weeks, and we’ll be happy to answer your question…

Most of our clients are familiar with web design jargon, but when we refer to user interface design, we often get blank stares.  That’s why today we’re going to explain what it is and why it is the most important element in successfully building software, websites, e-commerce sites, and Web apps.

User interface design is the design of computers, appliances, machines, apps, software, and websites that focus on the user’s experience and interaction.  Basically, it makes the user’s interaction as simple, professional, and effective as possible.  The key is to balance the technical functions while also being aesthetically pleasing.  The goal of user interface design is to make the users interaction as simple and efficient as possible.  We want always to create an application or a design that is easy to use and easy on the eyes.  We accomplish this by anticipating and handling any complexities on the back end.  This allows our user interface designs to shine.  That way when it’s time to build the front end, the part that people interact with, it is easy.

There are a few principles that we keep in mind for designing user interface.

  1. Profile your user. Before you can have a good user interface it is important to know who your users are.  A design for a tech-savvy person would not be as good for a person who is not as skilled.
  2. Borrow behaviors from systems familiar to users. The more familiar an object or system is to a user, the easier it will be for them.  This is especially helpful if a system is a more complex software system.
  3. Make your features stand out. Users like to know what features are available to them without having to search hard for it.  We also don’t want to overwhelm the user if there is a lot of detail involved in a feature.  In this case, it may be appropriate to “hide” features.
  4. Keep it Coherent. The program should behave in a way that makes sense.  It should be logical and consistent.  For example, if one part of the program uses a pop-up menu, then it might be expected that other parts of the program would do the same.
  5. Keep changes noticeable. When a user makes a change in the program it should be reflected within the program accordingly.  For example, when a user is trying to select an item it might be helpful to gray out the other choices and only highlight what they are selecting so that they are confident in what they are picking.
  6. Shortcuts are key. Giving the user a way to complete a task by using a shortcut is important.  Once a user has experience with a program and feels comfortable with the results that they are having it’s nice for them to be able to get the same task completed, but with a shortcut.
  7. The human eye is drawn to motion. The eye is drawn to movement more than static objects.  An animated object is usually going to be noticed quicker than an object that is not moving.  Anything that we want to stand out can often be benefited by adding a little movement to it.
  8. Help! The user may at some point in time need help, and when they do it is important to understand the type of help that they might need.  There are five basic types of help: Goal-oriented – what can I do with this program?, Descriptive–  What is this?, procedural– How do I do this?, Interpretive–  Why did this just happen?, and Navigational– Where am I?
  9. The User needs to feel safe. A new user does not want to feel stupid.  So, it might be important to make them feel comfortable and keep them from feeling overwhelmed with the program.  On the other hand, a more skilled user does not want to feel bored and constantly hounded with reminders or tips.  In this case, we might want to consider having a tip menu that can be turned off once a user has learned the program.
  10. Keep programs aesthetically pleasing. The program should be pleasing to the eye and make sense.  Keeping some rules of graphic design helps to make what the user is seeing to stand out in a good way and not a bad way.  We want our users to feel happy and comfortable with what they are using.  What we don’t want, is for them to be bothered by the look of something even if it has nothing to do with how well it performs.
  11. Test first. Before releasing a program, test it first.  A software engineer may be brilliant in what they do, but they think differently than how an average person thinks.  Having someone who is not involved in the design of the program test it first, can be incredibly effective in finding faults and bugs within the system.
  12. Listen to what others say. Watching people attempt to use your program, can give you valuable insight.  It’s important to keep in mind aspects like computer literacy, and that the “average” person is different depending on who you ask.  Getting as much feedback as possible from users is a great way to spot frustrations or problems ahead of time.

It’s safe to say that we use interface design every single time we use the Web.  The important part is not having the user realize it, so it’s our goal every time to create a design that is user friendly and effective.

Ok, so we’ve talked about user interface design– what it is and why it’s important.  Now let’s talk a little about website redesign.  There are many businesses considering redesigning their website.  Perhaps you are facing new competition and need to make sure that you are competitive.  Maybe it’s just time for a change.  It’s always a good idea to keep things fresh and now may be a good time to jazz things up, to make your website more user friendly, design-friendly, and visitor friendly.

Before you begin it is helpful to ask yourself a few questions.

  1. What is the purpose of the website? Are you looking to increase your sales?  Perhaps you want to make your site more social by intertwining social networking sites and features such as Twitter and Facebook.  Are you looking to get customer feedback and make your site more interactive?  Are you planning on updating your site often or is this something that will stay the same for the most part?
  2. Is it time to change your branding? Has your product or company changed?  If so maybe it is time to not only update your website but also your logo, colors, and message.  A successful image is a key to a successful company.  If your current branding is a little lacking then now could be the perfect time to give it a fresh look.  Make sure that whatever you do, you are creating the right impression to your customers.
  3. Has your business changed or grown? Maybe you are redesigning your website so that your business will grow, or perhaps it has already grown.  Make sure that you leave room to accommodate new growth.  Redesigning a website can be a lot of work and often when all is said and done most people are not eager to go through the process anytime soon.  Unfortunately, websites don’t last forever and can be outdated quickly.  It may be a good idea to leave room for parts of your website to be updated easily without having to redo everything if your business should grow or change in the near future.
  4. What is currently working what needs a little help? Determining what your strengths are will help you keep the parts of your site that are working for you.  Chances are, your customers also come to rely on this aspect of your site and will look for it in the new redesign.  On the other hand, knowing what is not working for you will help you either redesign that feature or get rid of it altogether.
  5. What do you want to stand out? Decide what the most important part of your site is.  Perhaps you want your contact information to stand out the most, or maybe it is a blog on what is current with your company.  You will want the new design to keep this in mind and in some way highlight this feature.
  6. Will the new site improve upon Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? It is important to keep search engine optimization in mind.  You are redesigning your website for a reason, and you want to make sure that when current or potential customers are searching for something that your website is on the top of the list.  There are many ways to improve SEO.  Keep your titles short but effective.  Make sure your title reflects the item of interest that you want your customers to look up.  In addition, choose good keywords.  Keeping your keywords to short two to four-word phrases is helpful.  In order to stay on top, your website needs to be current and fresh.  These are just a few things to keep in mind with search engine optimization.
  7. Is your site social media friendly? If your current site doesn’t take advantage of this and you would like it to, there are several things that you can do.  Consider adding a video to your site.  A video attracts people to your site and it keeps them there for a while.  You can post videos directly on your website, or you can use sites such as YouTube to post videos.  Consider adding a blog to your site and let users leave comments.  Blogs are a great way to show that your company is up to date and with the times.  Letting customers leave feedback shows that you care about what they say and it keeps it interactive.  Add a live cam if appropriate.  Live cameras let people see real-life images of what is happening in your company.  Finally, make sure that you are up to date with the popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
  8. Does your website let customers know who you are and what you are about? There are different ways to accomplish this task.  Perhaps you are a builder and you want to emphasize the care and pride you take in designing your homes.  Then maybe a video with the company owner talking about his philosophy would be most appropriate, or customer testimonials.  If you are a photographer then you might only need to showcase your photographs to let your customers know what kind of work you do.  Maybe you are an online store.  It might be a good idea to have customers rate your products and leave comments on things such as customer service and shipping.  Whatever your company is about, make sure that your customers know it as soon as they enter your website.  Your website is the online face of your company, so it is important that it represents you in a good way.
  9. Will the new site be updated for Mobile devices? Nowadays there really is no predicting where visitors will be viewing your site. It could be a computer, but it also could be an iPhone or Blackberry. Make sure that your site is optimized for mobile devices. It’s another way to up your traffic and make sure you’re not losing visitors.

When planning a web design, there are many factors to consider in order to ensure your site comes out perfect.  It’s important to understand your end goals.  Knowing what you want your website to bring to the table will help you actually receive that end product. For example, is your site’s main purpose to make a sale, or is it to provide information? Knowing the answer to this question will affect everything from design to layout to content. It is the overarching key to making a website redesign work.  Make sure that you do your homework.  You don’t want to jump into redesigning your site without finding out a little more about your target audience.  It might be a good idea to set up an online survey, focus group, or usability tests.

Other factors to take into consideration when redesigning a website is the design, content, usability, professional look and feel, and so much more. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but the top factors we discussed are often overlooked and overshadowed by the excitement of design and colors and graphics. Make sure that doesn’t happen and you are not only wowed by the look and feel of the site, but take into account the goals you want your site to achieve as well.

…That’s it for EPISODE #4 of REDISCOVER YOUR BRAND.  If you enjoyed this episode, please take a minute to rate the show on ITUNES.

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If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to send us an email, our email address is podcast/at/, we would love to hear from you.  To get more information on ARTVERSION, visit our website at ARTVERSION.COM.

Don’t forget about our upcoming question and answer podcast episode where we’ll answer your questions.  To submit your question and have it featured on our upcoming Q & A episode,  go to PODCAST.ARTVERSION.COM, again that’s PODCAST.ARTVERSION.COM, to submit your question and we will include your question in our upcoming question and answer episode.

Next time on the REDISCOVER YOUR BRAND podcast EPISODE #5, we’ll be covering the top website marketing trends for 2011 and we’ll also talk about how design can shape a business.  That’s next time, until then, Thank you for listening – I’m Kip Russell helping you REDISCOVER YOUR BRAND.