I am currently reading the seminal book on User Experience (UX), The Elements of User Experience, by Jesse James Garrett. Often referred to as The Elements, this book sets out the levels of thinking, planning, and design that are required in implementing a successful website development project. The model is designed to show that one plane is dependent on those below. The model is also structured into two halves to accommodate the kind of product the website is to deliver, whether it be a functionality, or simply content.
The planes are: strategy, scope, structure, skeleton, and surface. The book is great for giving us this structure and the elements themselves setting out the concern of each plane, how they effect the other planes above as well as below, and the activity involved in approaching each element in a practical way.
This post is going to look at the strategy plane. How important is strategy in a website? It can be the difference between success and failure. The strategy plane is the foundation of the elements, as it is the foundation of your website development project. For a business, the strategy needs to take into account the balance between the requirements of the site for the business, and the needs of the users. The answers to the questions of what does your business need from the site and what do your users need from the site? These then form the basis of every decision thence forth in content, function, structure, and design of the website.
The Website Strategy Balance
The Site Objectives
What do you as a business need from the site? First it should be consistent with your business goals. Is your goal to increase sales, enquiries, or efficiencies, or to decrease expenses, staff turnover, or reputation risk? Essentially, do you want to make money or save money?
The other consideration of strategy is brand expression. How important is it to the business that your brand identity is conveyed through the website? Should it be reflected in the entire user experience, or is the over arching reflection of your style guide enough?
Lastly, but certainly not least, is measurement. How are you going to measure the success of the site? Is it sales, return visits, time on the site? It is important to set these requirements in the strategy phase.
The User Needs
In understanding user needs, we need to know our users, we have written on this in a few previous posts (mentioned below). We start by segmenting users into groups of similar demographics and characteristics. We can research user behaviour once we decide on the right market segment. We can create personas and research how and where they use technology and with what preferred device. In a retrospective or top-down look at a website via the elements, we can look at how users interact with a beta-version in order to ensure the design and strategy align via elements in between.
It is a good idea for the business to document site objectives and user needs into a formal vision. Although it should not be a dynamic strategy, it is important to start with the end result in mind. It is also important that the strategic relationship between the desired objectives of the project fit with that of the organisation as a whole.
Over time, I will come back to Garret’s Elements, and take a look at each in future posts. In the meantime, do you have a strategy underpinning your website? Does it balance your needs as a business and the needs of your users, your potential customers and clients? Feel free to contact us for a review of your site, your strategy and for an analysis of how effective the alignment is between the two.
For further reading, here are some previous posts: How We Focus on Your Market to Create Value for Your Business looks at how we as developers encourage a user-centred approach in balance with your business needs. What Would Customer X Do? looks at how we consider customer journeys and interaction. Reaching You Target looks at market segmentation and personas.