Creativity is a necessary component of website development, but it can seem risky, too. Getting clients involved in the design process can be a great way to show them you know what you’re doing and have their success in mind.
The first step in creating professional websites is to clearly define goals. Most people know why they want a website, but they may have a hard time articulating specific goals. “We need to sell more product” is too broad a statement. Acceptance criteria exercises can be adapted to set design goals for a website. Suppose the client says
“We need to update our website to drive more traffic and improve our standing in the industry.”
All right, but that’s not very specific. By getting the client to fill in the blanks in the following statement, a website development team can pinpoint specific design goals
“We want to___________ because we need___________ in order to _____________.”
Having the project owner clearly articulate the “how”, “why” and “what” may even help them to discover deeper motivations and it will certainly help the client and designer to work better together. You can use this same method to uncover secondary and tertiary goals, but don’t get too crazy with it. Professional websites should only have a few high-priority goals.
Users prefer websites that help them accomplish their goals without wasting their mental energy on learning to use the website. Card sorting is a very useful tool for organising websites. Write the title of each page of your site on an index card. Place all the cards on a table and arrange them so the categories and subcategories make sense. If you don’t have the time for a card sort, the same thing can be accomplished with a spread sheet.
If you’re redesigning a site, analytics can help you figure out which pages are getting more or less traffic. Use this information to reorganise the pages and present content in the most user-friendly way. Every once in a while, revisit the card sort to optimise the site’s usability.
Use attention maps to prioritise the site’s visuals. Make a list of goals for a page and decide on a number of points, e.g. eleven points divided amongst three goals. The result might be something like this:
Then, make a rough sketch of the page, allocating more space to the goals with higher points. Filling in details that suit the goals, organisation and attention map should be a lot easier now. When you’re done sketching, try viewing the sketches upside-down or in a mirror. A literal change in perspective can do wonders for creativity.