February 2, 2018
  |   UX / CX

3 Questions To Ask About Your Website Design Before The Launch

So here we are. You’ve finally come to the end of what has been a long, arduous journey. The road has been fraught with internal debates, delays, budget conundrums, revisions, and more meetings than you’d care to count. You’ve gone through discovery sessions, user testing, and wireframing…followed by more user testing. Visual designs have been submitted, argued, revised, re-submitted and you’ve now finally reached the fabled holy grail. That which has only been whispered in hushed tones in dark corners.
You have finally found a consensus.
But as a designer who has been through numerous site launches, it is my experience that some key design considerations can easily get lost in the shuffle for consensus. So before you sign off for good on that shiny new design of yours, here are some quick questions to consider.
1. Does this design reflect and reinforce the priorities of my organization?
Web Design is both an art and science. While good design is always driven by research, metrics, and data, it is impossible to separate the aesthetic element from the equation. And aesthetics are by nature subjective. This can mean the path to consensus can be a contentious one wherein a myriad of subjective opinions clash.  Along the way, it is very easy for secondary concerns to take center stage and before long you’re looking at a design that may satisfy all parties aesthetically, but still misses the mark. It is critical that you examine your design from an unbiased perspective to see if it still matches the organizational priorities set from the beginning.
For example, let’s say one of your organization’s primary goals for the new website is to increase the number of people on your email list. You’re constantly producing new content in an effort to entice your site visitors to subscribe. Now take a look at the design. Does this design support your goal of increasing subscriptions? Perhaps you’ve built a consensus around a really beautiful, giant hero image front and center on the homepage. Any designer worth their salt will know how to make it look beautiful. But does that mean it’s the right choice for your site? Perhaps a carousel or a news feed would be a better choice, allowing you to showcase your latest content while giving a snapshot of previously published material. This would likely better serve your organization’s goal of increasing subscriptions. But in the struggle for consensus, this can often get lost in the shuffle. So before you sign off on that design be sure to revisit your organization’s original goals and make certain that the design supports them.
2. Does this design address my user’s priorities?
Now that we’ve established the importance of keeping your organization’s goals front and center, there is one more question that is critical to consider.  This group of people is actually even more important than your most influential stakeholders. We’re talking about your site’s users. Your primary audience and the only reason anyone in your organization has a job at all. In the desire to make all internal parties happy it can be very easy to lose sight of your users. After all, they’re not sitting in on those stressful meetings. They’re not the ones hounding you to hit your deadlines and come in under budget while doing it. They don’t have a voice in those meetings.
But just because they can’t voice their frustrations in your meetings, it doesn’t mean they don’t have one. And it’s a voice you need to listen too.
Instead of arguments and complaints, your users talk with their wallets and clicks, which often speak much later than words. You’ll need to ensure that your design delivers by focusing on what they want and making it easier for them to get it. For example, if your users are shopping online and need to find a piece of equipment that matches their very detailed specifications then making your search functionality both simple and robust will be critical to the success of your design. Perhaps using something like a faceted search will allow shoppers to refine their search results to their desired specificity. While the consensus around the stakeholder table may be that a super simple search bar with minimalist, contemporary styling is the most attractive option, it may not align with your users’ goals.
3. Once I launch the redesign am I done?
Is water wet? Are the hills alive with the sound of music? These questions are just as rhetorical as the premise for this final point. The answer should almost always be a resounding “no”. There is a big difference between launched and finished. The internet is a living, breathing digital ecosystem and things are always changing. It is critical that you prize adaptability over all else. Six months down the road what if a particular feature on the site is performing exceptionally well? Then perhaps it will be time to find avenues to apply its success to other parts of the website. What if after analyzing and tracking results you realize that another part of the design is not hitting the targets you’d hoped for.  Great! That isn’t necessarily a failure but rather an area for improvement. One of the many strengths of digital design is its malleability. The site you launched yesterday can be revisited, revised and edited tomorrow on the strength of the data gleaned from today’s users.

The Key Take-a-way

In your case, perhaps questions one and two can be answered simply with some thoughtful reflection. Perhaps not. Perhaps your best approach is to launch, observe and validate your assumptions with more UX Testing or an heuristic evaluation. While doing this research and testing work ahead of time will pay dividends after launch, but it’s also important to remember that websites are not set in stone and that companies that boast a successful online presence are always testing and iterating their sites to meet the changing needs of their users even after launch. Keeping this in mind is a great way to prioritize what’s important and give you confidence that you’re ready to go.

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Ryan Davis
Ryan Davis is a Visual Designer at Blue Acorn iCi, with an eye for marketing and a focus on results-oriented creativity. He also enjoys long walks on the beach and horseback rides and dreams of world peace.
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