How do we set ourselves up for success when we begin designing a website? A truly amazing website experience consists of functionality, usability and thoughtfulness. As designers, we’re good at making things usable and functional, but what about making them thoughtful?

First and foremost, we must care about how people feel when they interact with what we’ve created. Thoughtfulness can be very difficult. With demanding deadlines, we don’t always have the luxury of fully understanding the User Experience (UX) before we begin a website project. Many times the task at hand is so complex that our focus lacks the component of personal human interaction.

I’ve come across a number of simple techniques that help me remain thoughtful while tackling difficult problems. This is far from a complete list and the suggestions below may not apply in every situation:

SET YOUR STAKE – Start immediately. Draw your line in the sand and set your stake. User Experience (UX) is absolutely vital for a successful website. Creating a fluid plan is the first and most important step of the process. Embrace the plan: knowing that the plan may change slightly as the project progresses. If you do not have a fluid plan when you begin, it can be difficult to shift gears in the middle of a project and completely change direction. The old adage of “plan your work and work you plan” is never more evident in website User Experience (UX) design.

BECOME THE USER – Before you begin your design, talk to the decision makers on the project and explain how User Experience (UX) is one of the key design principles in preparing the new site. After you have received the input from the decision makers and gather the valuable important information, take the necessary time to do the research and determine what the user desires. What is important to the user? Is the message clearly defined on the page? Is it easy to navigate to locate the requested information? If the needed information is not found, is there an alternative action that the user can take to locate this information? Don’t rely the advice of one or two users. Ask for as many opinions as possible and then formulate your own plan to provide the best user experience possible. You are the expert.

UNDERSTAND THE BIG PICTURE – When designing a site, it is easy to break it into individual pages and overlook the big picture; the fully integrated website. Many times we focused on creating compelling individual pages while ignoring our ultimate goal. Whether you’re creating a simple service or product site, an e-commerce site or an interactive social site, be confident that you are providing elements where each page represents defined roles while adding to the experience of the entire site. By recognizing why a user is responding to a specific page and providing options of where to go next, you will be building an inclusive experience.

IMAGINE YOUR GRANDMOTHER LANDED ON THE SITE – Think of someone that may know very little about the website, its products or services but needs and wants to know more. Think about your Grandmother. Is it easy to navigate through the site? Does Granny feel comfortable or does she feel overwhelmed? Is the contact form simple to use? Think of how your Grandma would and could have the best experience possible.

CARE – Yes, it sounds simple enough but many times it’s the most challenging. When we are working to solve complex problems we’re not always thinking about how the user is going to feel. Understand and care about the user and what the user wants from the site.

SIMPLIFY – When things are simple and uncluttered, the thoughtful details become a more important part of the experience. Do not make it complicated for the user to interact with the site. Roadblocks and multi-step processes can lead to frustration and an increased bounce rate. By simplifying and combining features, you will add to the overall User Experience (UX).

GROW – It is important to not only understand and embrace User Experience (UX) but to also grow your skill set. There are many great tools offered for User Experience (UX) planning. Tools like Balsamic can assist you in wireframing and generating more useful ideas.

SUMMARY – When you think of User Experience (UX), it’s all about functionality, usability and thoughtfulness. Become the user. Think like the user. Design like you were the user. In doing so, you will deliver a well designed website to your client.

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