It’s launch day. Your website is shiny and new. Your content is up-to-date, well-organized and there’s nary a typo in site.
Weeks go by and your News page’s top story is 12 days old. Someone just quit, but their smiling mug is still on your “Our People” section. Nobody is using your “submit resume” tool and employees aren’t using the online bulletin board to post info about events. You find five typos on your homepage. The shiny newness has worn off.
“Why!” you cry to yourself. “We made beautiful, annotated wireframes. Our designs are lovely. Our usability tests went well. Why isn’t it working?!”
The answer is “people”.
Excellent design and technical implementations must take into account how actual human beings are going to look after this new digital creature you’ve created.
Oh the Humanity – How to Consider the Human Factor in Web Design and Development
Understand Your Stakeholders & Your Audience
To begin, we recommend interviewing the project stakeholders. This means speaking with people who “own” the site, those who update the site and those who rely on the site to deliver on conversions.
These interviews tell you what the business goals of the site are, who will be tasked with owning it and how to determine if it’s working as planned … or not.
Interviewing people who would be using your site can give you important information about how to prioritize content, what questions users have that you can try to answer with your content and an understanding of how people will find and interact with your site.
These interviews can help you architect the website and your content in ways that map to a user’s needs and interests.
Understand What Content People Are Using … Or Aren’t Using
If you’re updating or reworking your current site, pay close attention to any analytics you currently collect. Review these analytics to determine what pages are most popular, what pages are causing people to “bounce” off the site quickly and what search terms people are using to arrive at your site. This provides important information about the type of content that people find useful.
You can build on this information by improving content people aren’t reading or using and developing more of the type of content they are leveraging already.
If you’re starting from scratch, do some Keyword research that relates to the material you’ll be posting on your site. For example, if you’re developing a site dedicated to selling hockey equipment, conduct keyword research to understand the types of related searches people are entering in Google. Maybe “children’s hockey helmets” is highly searched. In this case, you’d be sure to create content about children’s hockey helmets for your site.
Assign Content Responsibilities
Web content governance and workflows are hot topics in the digital world these days. That’s because it’s impossible to ignore how important the ongoing maintenance and care is to a website’s long term success.
In order to plan for the careful management of a site’s content, we recommend plotting out visual workflows for key content-related activities.
In order to arrive at streamlined workflow, it’s important to understand all the outside factors and elements that could impact or trigger the need for this activity. Figure out how things happen in the current world and then focus on ways you can make them more efficient in the future.
Often these scenarios can be drawn out during brainstorm sessions with project stakeholders. Here is a simple example of a “real world” scenario - adding a News article to a site - that could be refined by the simple workflow.
A streamlined, “perfect world” workflow of the same scenario could be refined like so:
The workflow process is directly linked to the approval, or governance model. Understanding who is responsible for the site’s content is vital as you work through a plan to keep that content up-to-date and relevant.
Here is a simplistic look at what a basic governance plan could look like:
Review, Revisit, Update
The web is a living thing. So are your users. Their needs and expectations will change as technology evolves.
With this in mind, remember to check-in frequently with your users. You can do that subtly, by reviewing analytics and launching A/B tests on pieces of content to understand what performs best. You can also commit to repeating the interview process on a regular basis to ensure you’re staying on track.
Keep a watchful eye on your content. Review and audit your site frequently to ensure content is written in a tone that reflects your company’s brand, that it’s factually correct and up-to-date. Deal with problem areas right away – the longer you let content fester – the harder it is to clean up.
Consider setting up a steering committee that’s tasked with upholding the quality and purpose of the site. Ensure the committee meets regularly to review analytics and any issues that have arisen.
Remember to communicate with everyone who uses or maintains the site. Make sure they understand what the goals and users of the site.
Good luck. Stay human.