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Designing For Your Users, Not Your Stakeholders

Design is subjective. While one person may love the shiny metallic teal of a new compact car, another may find it appalling. The same goes for websites. Your design agency might create what they think is the next greatest online masterpiece, but it might look nothing like what you want. You send it back to them for another go at it because, as the client, you feel you should have the final say. You’re wrong.

Website design is much more complex than making something aesthetically pleasing. There are many factors that need to be taken into account in order to create a successful design and designers are often frustrated by client push-back because it changes the design concept leaving a diluted version of what the designer delivered. I’ve seen masterpieces get torn apart and website refreshes end up worse off than they began. Everyone has an opinion about design, and it can become a frustrating and never-ending cycle of revisions. So how do designers and clients find a compromise?

The fact of the matter is that it’s not about what the designer wants or what the client wants; it’s about what the users want. Your users are the most important variable in the equation to a successful website. It should be they who decide how your website ultimately looks. Your website is, after all, for them.

How Do You Know What Your Users Want?

Many people second guess their users. While some stereotypes reign true, you’d be surprised how different people think. Designing for your users goes deeper than just choosing feminine or masculine colors or which images fit your target demographic. Each set of users has individual tastes and styles that you need to be aware of, and there are few different methods you can use to discover what they are.

Persona Development

Persona development can greatly increase your knowledge and understanding of your users’ behaviors and habits and help reveal the truth about your target audience. When building personas for your website, you’re breaking up your “typical” users into segmented groups with similar behaviors and demographics. You can then prioritize these personas to help focus your design more efficiently. There is a lot of work involved in the persona creation process and it is best if a professional user-experience firm does the work for you.

Testing & Surveys

Design refreshes don’t have to come about once every few years; design can be an ongoing process for your site. If coded correctly, updating a website design can be simplified. There are different forms of testing that can help hone the aesthetics of your site and help increase its efficiency. Multivariate testing gives you the opportunity to test the effectiveness of several design variations and immediately compare results. Surveys are also a great way to get a response about your site straight from your users. Using the feedback you gather can help lead to a better overall design.

Research

Information about your users, their preferences and online behavior, and your site in general is already available, and an easy place to look for answers is your web analytics. I know digging through the immense amount of information is a daunting task, but there are tools that will let you know which sites your users are frequenting and where they are coming from to get to your site. If you see a trend of people coming from a technology site, you can make the assumption that catering to a geeky audience will help make your site more successful. See what design trends technology sites are using and gather similar elements that might make your users feel more at home when on your site.

Conclusion

Stakeholders often forget to think about their users when it comes to the design process. Since design is the most exciting step in taking the concept to the screen, everyone wants to be involved. Don’t let your design process become a tug-of-war between varying opinions. If you do, the conversations quickly turn to “I don’t like that color” and “that corner should be more rounded” and, before you know it, you’re into the 8th round of revisions and the site doesn’t look like it was intended. Instead focus on what your users want and care about. If you keep the users at the forefront of the design process, I guarantee you will see higher returns on investment.