Just came across this advert for the .tel domain name. Even though it is not new I’d never seen it and I find it quite funny. Especially when you view it on Youtube a little banner at the bottom that invites you to buy the song on iTunes, “Sweet about Me” by Gabriella Climi…
The importance of experience architects in creating or updating a web site is often underestimated. There is a general tendency to fudge the initial user experience phase (sitemaps, personas with their specific user journeys and wireframes) or even skip it and jump straight to concept designs that are then fleshed out to ‘wow’ the client. The whole rationale that consists in understanding what functionalities and services are required on the site and structure them in a coherent manner, hopefully even test them before designing commences, is omitted. Defining the main functionalities of a site, then having an experience architect (who worked on that first phase) to sketch it out and analyse it should precede the functional specifications but most of all the design phase. Designers that have extensive web design knowledge as well as experience architecture knowledge are few and far between so you are unlikely to obtain the optimum result by starting with the design.
The initial phases, when analysing the structure and organisation of an existing site in view of updating it ‘can’ benefit from card sorting. This consists of taking the different sections and seeing how users sort the different sections / areas into groups. It can help you understand how users would expect these different areas to be organised and therefore, where they would expect to find them. Different logical taxonomies may appear following the analysis as different user groups may sort cards in different ways. There are also 2 different types of card sorting, ‘open’ where no structure is predefined and ‘closed’ where participants are asked to place the cards in a pre-defined structure. Card sorting is not recommended to simply test a current site but should be considered as part of the process involved in defining the structure of a site that is being created or updated / redesigned. It can also help when adding or updating a new area to a site. As Nielsen explains more users are required in card sorting than in usability testing though. A fair amount of analysis is required to obtain useful findings.
Sitemap, user journeys, wireframes
By creating the recommended set of ‘sitemap / user journeys / wireframes’ you are capable of seeing black on white the optimum route a person will take. The organization and categorization of content blocks should be logical but can be modified to optimise the user journey outcome. A site should usually provide several optimised user journeys for the different types of target users / personas that have been identified.
Simplify the site and structure
Generation Y as opposed to generation X and the baby boomers are more net fluent and savvy online, capable of delving through content until they find the information they feel relevant and trustworthy. Their experience and knowledge provides near instantaneous gut feeling about a site. Uncluttered, simple pages with straightforward navigation principles just feel good. A pleasant experience on a web site that easily allows you to find what you are looking for is memorable simply because it is unfortunately a rare experience. This new generation and generations to come are a primary targets, neglecting them is not an option.
Simplify the design and content
Simple ways of communicating, avoiding the “noise” traditional designers want to apply in order to personalise or own their design can complicate things. Twitter, like SMS are two extremely simple ways of communicating, their restrictions simplify the communication.
Now is this to say that design is just powder in your eyes? Well, when applied by talented designers that know their target audience, how to play and innovate with the chosen medium and how to further optimise the previously crafted user journey, then obviously no.
A friend of mine works at the “Musée des Arts Décoratifs” in Paris, we discussed this concept when applied to modern decorative art. I was comparing the concept to artists capable of choosing specific material(s) and their ability to amplify the user experience and overall design through the selection of specific material(s). The technology but also the interfaces mechanisms of web sites are in this perspective key elements that a great designer will know and use to further his / her design.
Accessibility, standards, usability and web 2.0
Web applications are becoming more and more complex to the extent that they are starting to compete with desktop applications (ex. Google Maps and Mail, Flickr etc.). The interaction provided as well as both usability and accessibility when relying on standards are far better. Although the ‘web 2.0’ term is often used as a buzz word (see Zelman’s web 3.0 article) the term has undoubtedly helped spread the idea of more savvy websites, thought through and help improve user experience.
Designing sites is a great opportunity, especially when you are lucky enough to be surrounded by clever and experienced people. When you can combine extremely talented people at all the different levels you require to build a website the results can be amazing. Although traditional advertising agencies are starting to learn that they need to further integrate the technical implications of the production of a website into projects, user experience is just as important and often overlooked by so many agencies. Design is considered the Holy Grail but this can hide some ugly surprises when the user experience aspect of the website is overlooked. Experience architecture when used in a rigorous way can really help to understand what will help the end-users of a site will be looking for, how and where to include it in your website.
While reading an article on SearchEngineLand I was happy to see that the experience architecture aspect of a site build was nicely touched upon. First impressions count. It really does give you an extra insight into the way the site can be successful when you try to understand how people will react to a site, what they are looking for and how designing it differently can help you help them find what they are looking for quickly without compromising the design.
The gut feeling is an important factor with today’s fast moving generation Z, the same gut feeling can be tested with various personas you have identified as your key target population to make sure that you don’t alienate your other personas from previous generations.
Quick note to say that there seems to be a twitter security issue based upon cross site scripting. Initially it was thought to be a virus but this post on NetworkWorld seems to indicate that it is in effect a cross site scripting hack . This basically means that should it be an XSS hack, Twitter are not high up there with their security standards. It won’t look good if what seems to be a phishing hack is possible on their site!
Update: the script used to infect all the Twitter users was crafted by a 17 year old from Brooklyn who claims to have been bored and was highlighting the vulnerability while promoting his own site! Twitter have “closed the hole” as per Geoff’s comment below.