Reporting live from Web Content 2007 here in Chicago, I attended (rock star
and creative director of Duo Consulting
) Yvonne Doll's Designing Content for Usability
session this morning. Yvonne stated her case clearly, reminding those on hand that all website projects succeed or fail for the same reason -- communication.
Relating the do's and don'ts of Web usability to song titles, Ms. Doll engaged her audience with in-depth knowledge of content design and usability. Living up to her mantra of "a good website is like a good conversation," her presentation was engaging, demonstrated both by her skills as a speaker and listener.
Being in tune with the shared culture among the users is key. Web designers who aren't on the same page as their users will soon find that their information is lost. How many of us have groaned when our users can't find what we think is obvious? How many of us decided to trust the user and understand that it's in our company's best interest to change our design accordingly?
Delving into the three tiers of web usability, information architecture design, presentation design and interaction design, essentially, any site should be easy to use. Yet, on a deeper level, to get there every project team should know exactly what it is they are trying to achieve -- its imperative that you know your audience and that you team has a clear and achievable purpose.
If you lack this, you must find out why. Have you failed to listen to your users? Have you failed to closely interrogate the functional pathways of your site? Have you asked your key employees what they believe your site's main responsibility is? As well, your testers and reviewers should be interviewing themselves, asking, what am I looking for? how did I get here? and where do I want to go?
The answers to these simple questions can be overwhelming simple and powerful. But to find them there must be structured and clear communication. Speaking the same language is the underlying theme of Web usability.
At the end of her session, some Q&A offered testimonials about the importance of good navigation or color choices for specific demographics as well as how to talk clients out of bad design choices, especially if they go against best practices.
Ms. Doll simply encourages designers to ask why. Understanding why your client thinks the logo looks best in position X, Y or Z; or why they want photos of the CEO on the home page. Digging into the "why" of peoples' perspectives and expectations can help you expose them to common misconceptions and help them better understand what takes a website or web application from being good to being great!