Back when I was in tech support, I used to get calls from friends and family asking me how to fix their computer issues. Now, I get asked to cast an eye over a website, a blog or a design concept. The truth is that there’s no secret usability voodoo involved when doing these ad hoc reviews. It’s a simple case of asking them three straight forward questions. But when I do, I am often answered by silence while they think about their answer, as it is not something they have really considered.
Once they’ve answered the three questions, I’m in a much better position to review the design and advise on the best way to improve them. The three simple questions you should ask yourself when designing anything:
Who is the typical user?
You need to know enough detail to get into their head. To empathise with them and see the world through their eyes. You don’t necessarily need demographics such as age, sex, or income. But you do need to be able to picture a stereotypical user.
What is their goal?
Now you have a typical user in mind think carefully about what their objective in using the site is. What is their number one reason for being there? Are they desperately trying to find a present for their mum? Are they trying to decipher all the technical speak to decide which camera to buy? Understanding their goal allows you to focus specifically on helping them find what their looking for quickly and easily. All the rest of the stuff can be de-emphasised.
What do you want them to do?
It is your businesses, so you lead the way, but make sure you bear in mind what users are trying to achieve. A lot of websites are too busy pushing their own agenda to help users reach their goals. Instead, look for opportunities to link your goal with their goal. For example, help users find the product they want first and then persuade them to sign-up to your newsletter.
If you get stuck during the design process, or want to review something to see how well it works, consider these questions and you’ll see how useful they can be.
The simple fact is that, as a designer, your role is to influence behaviour. To do so, you must understand who you are influencing, what you want them to do, and what it is that they want to do. Successful websites are those that align their business goals with the goals of their users. If you are designing anything without some idea of how to answer the three questions above, you’ll most likely end up with an ineffective design.
What questions do you think designers should consider?
Related service: User Journey Design
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About Damian Rees
Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees