Monday, December 15, 2008

Web Design - Who are the experts?

Prior to taking this class, I simply believed that there are people who know everything about how to design a web site and those that don’t. After our studies this week, I’m not so sure I believe there is such thing as a “web design expert”. Ultimately your customers determine what is a good web site design, not your company, not your boss and not a marketing agency.

The key is to test the site. As Uborne states “In a business environment where marketers demand an accountable performance from every web page, it’s time to put aside the assumed expertise of design and copy gurus. The way forward is to test, and let our readers show us which designs work best, and which copy works best” (Usborne).

Here are few things that you should ask any potential outside vendor that is trying to give you help with your web site.

1. Do you design the home page first or the internal pages first?

Now I would have automatically thought the home page would be the obvious answer however check out what Powazek thinks about this approach “When I set out to design a website, I do it backwards. I start with the design of the smallest, deepest element: the story page or search results. Then I work backwards to design their containers: section pages, indexes. Then, lastly, I work on the home page. I do this because each container needs to adequately set expectations for what it contains. If the home page says one thing, but the internal pages say another, that’s going to lead to a user-experience failure” (Powazek). This makes a lot of sense check out the rest of the article for other good pointers at http://www.alistapart.com/articles/homepagegoals.

2. What have been the results of your previous projects for your clients?

If the vendor can’t give you some hard numbers then you should probably move onto another one. Web site effectiveness is very quantifiable therefore you shouldn’t settle for “We made a site look better.” Says who? Make them prove it.

3. What do you think are the strong points and weak points of our current site?

If they don’t have some real substantial opinions immediately then move onto the next vendor. Don’t settle for “We haven’t had time to look yet since you are not our customer yet.” Chances are if they haven’t put forth the effort prior to meeting with you to at least give your site a general review then they are simply looking for a sale and not a partnership with you. I really believe that not only in web design but marketing in general that the best vendors are those that do their homework first and go out on a limb and make recommendations early in the process rather than waiting for you to basically tell them what to do.

If you have any of your own good questions to ask (and expected answers), feel free to respond to this post.

- Patrick

References

Powazek. Retrieved on December 15, 2008 from http://www.alistapart.com/articles/homepagegoals

Usborne. Retrieved on December 15, 2008 from http://www.alistapart.com/articles/designcancripple