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User Centred or User Centred?
The web design industry is going through some changes. User Centered Web Design, or User Centred if you’re in the UK, is the process of involving users and, more specifically, testing the users of your website during the website web design process. The trends which dictate the reasons for clients having websites developed has changed. Ten years ago it was difficult to sell web design. A few years later business owners had a website developed simply because their competitors had websites. Just a few years ago five page brochure sites were ubiquitous. Nowadays though, websites are becoming much different. Clients are demanding more. With the advent of social media networking, social bookmarking and blogging, theIinternet is becoming a much different place.
Make your website work for you
The idea of making a website work for you is a relatively new concept. A website can now generate sales leads for a business whereas before a website was simply one very small part of a business owner’s arsenal. Just a brochure. Now a website can be so much more. A real marketing channel. A way of driving more targeted traffic to your business. With these changing trends more is expected of web designers and developers. This is why User Centered Web Design is so much more important these days.
Search Engine Optimisation is a hot topic at the moment and Website Usability aids Search Engine Optimisation. In fact you can’t have one without the other. It is a case of balancing SEO and Usability. Testing users during the development process can help convert more visitors and saves time and money testing later on. Common errors can be found early on in the development process. Including this type of testing in your web design methodology is, therefore, a fantastic way of making a website work harder for a business and improve the return on investment (ROI).
User Centred Web Design
Designing a website that works for users will make the website work for your business. Ultimately, your website’s visitors are the ones who will need to navigate your web presence, find information, and, essentially, complete tasks. Your job as a web designer is to make that user experience better. This can include reducing cognitive memory load by making navigation and “next steps” more obvious. It can also include having the relevant information on the website in the first place.
Who should carry out User Centred Web Design
It is not unusual, especially with smaller web design teams, for team members to take on multiple roles. So a web designer may also program back end databases, etc. I do, however, believe in specialising and keeping up to date in your chosen field so as far as I’m concerned, Web Usability Testing should, ideally, be carried out be a Website Usability Specialist. The usual process is for the specialist to look for common faults with a website. Then real, domain specific, users can be recruited. They can usually pick up on faults that even the Web Usability Expert may miss. This is because the expert is an expert is Web Usability and not in hair and beauty or cars for example. A 1.6 litre car of a specific make and model may not exist, for example, they may only go up to a 1.4 litre. The expert might miss this. The real user would be less likely to.
Another kind of Web Usability Testing is when you simply let your website go live and put a message on your website asking visitors to email you with suggestions or any problems that they run into. The benefits of this solution is that it is free. I do think that this can be a good idea depending on the type of website but I would never suggest letting a website go live unless a User Centred Web Design methodology as been followed and User Testing has taken place