I sat in a meeting today and was baffled. I was so confused I thought I was missing something. I heard conversation about the end state of a design. I even saw a layout; actually, multiple options for the layout. Yet, I could help but feel something was missing. The page was there, but the dots weren’t connecting.

I felt tense. Uncomfortable. There were what I perceived to be red flags all over the place.

My nerves were on end, but no one was saying anything because they wanted to “stay positive.” As the attendees brainstormed, I could help but ask questions. And as I the more I asked, the more I realized that that things didn’t feel right to them or to me because the starting direction was half-baked and the goal was slightly unclear. More importantly, there wasn’t a real story or content. The components for the experience had yet to be defined. I’m not sure if they realized that they were essentially asking for a miracle.

Consider What You’re Building

Building a webpage or online experience site is akin to building pretty much anything else. There needs to be a clear starting point and all parameters need to be considered well in advance. Think about it, would you build a house without knowing key elements such as:

  • Why you’re building the house – (privacy, comfort, play)
  • Who the house is for (number of people, age, life stage)
  • What needs to be included in the house? Are they bringing furniture with them? If so, how large is it and how much are they bringing?
  • What the dwellers plan on doing in the house? chill? party? eat as a family?
  • What’s the surrounding environment?

This is just the beginning. The above helps determine number and types of rooms, square footage, safety and durability considerations, which is a key input to layout. While the paint colors are an added bonus and has a psychological effect, who cares if the paint color is right if the layout is all wrong?

Building An Online Experience

We need to have that same thinking when developing online experiences. Start with the foundational questions.

  • Why is the experience being built? Convey information? Drive a sale? Capture a lead?
  • Who is the experience being built for? Parent? CEO? Child? Income level?
  • Will they be bringing anything? Credit cards? Preconceived notions?
  • What does the audience desire from your online experience? Play? Shop? Research?
  • What is the surrounding environment? How does this experience fit within existing website and digital experiences?

Similar to the house discussion, the above helps determine key factors for the online experience. This includes navigation, page layout, length of page, button placement. The images and language are definitely important, but like with a house, the user doesn’t care if the images are top notch and the language is as poetic Shakespeare if they can’t. Instead, your website will be noted as a website to avoid unless absolutely necessary.

Online experiences should be more customer-focused and selfless than self-serving. While internal pressure is real, we shouldn’t approach building online experiences with out doing the due diligence of the upfront work. Instead of allowing internal pressure lead to silence, we should speak up when we see red flags. I know this is not popular in the politically correct world we live in. You may even call you a negative Nancy. However, I’ve realized that this philosophy garners positive results seen in site metrics as well as saved money and time on the back end – both wins for the organization.


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