You may have noticed that we recently refreshed our website. Our old site had become a little dated, so we gave it a fresh look and feel. In doing so, we became the client, with all the demands and expectations that brings with it. Experiencing a digital project from the ‘other side’ was certainly an eye-opening experience that will help us deal with our own clients in the future.
Here are five key takeaways we learnt from redesigning our own website...
1. Following UX principles is harder as a customer
It’s well known that a good user experience is the key to an effective website. Google’s latest update further prioritised sites that load quickly across all devices. We know this, and we always design our web pages with that in mind. But that doesn’t stop us from getting overexcited. Like a kid in a sweetshop, we found all sorts of delights offered to us, and we wanted them all. This is the first major revamp since 2017, after all. From slick animations flying in from all angles as the user scrolls down the page, to multiple videos auto-playing throughout the site, the temptation was to cram as much in as possible. We know simple and straightforward is best – just sometimes we need to be reminded.
2. Internal stakeholders all have different objectives
Different people have different requirements for your site. The designers want it to be a visual delight, looking amazing and providing an excellent user interface. The sales manager wants messages that are short, to the point and product heavy, while the SEO experts want plenty of informative, long-form content. Finance wants as cheap a build as possible, while legal are at pains to ensure every contact form is GDPR compliant.
All these conflicting inputs can lead to a mismatch of styles and a confusing UX. Having one project manager channel everyone’s opinions, whilst retaining the final say, keeps things consistent and on track. After all, the last thing you want is a complete design overhaul when the CEO finally has his input just prior to launch.
3. The customer is not always right
Ah, that old maxim. We find it all the time in graphic design; it’s always the worst of the options offered to them that the client picks. While, ultimately, their decision is final, it doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. Someone in accounts who’s good with Canva doesn’t know more than a designer with a degree and 20 year’s experience, for example. Likewise, as web designers, we have to listen to advice from web developers when they tell us that something won’t appeal to our audience, or is simply not possible. People are experts in their own field, and working with these talents is a gift that must be appreciated.
4. Everyone wants it yesterday
The creative briefs supplied to us for graphic design jobs often come with impossibly short deadlines. So much so that, along with a quotation, stage one of our design process will often involve negotiating timescales and tempering client expectations.
But… when the shoe’s on the other foot, we wanted our website build completed yesterday!
By having the designs signed off, we just wanted the site to look like the prototype, not the previous, outdated version. With every day of development the existing site – and its problems and limitations – infuriated us more. There’s nothing like the promise of something new and shiny to make something older look outdated and clunky. If experiencing delays in production made us appreciate our clients’ demands for a quick turnaround more, we also had to remind ourselves that the web developers, like our designers, are going as fast as possible!
5. Communication is key
Finally, the most important lesson of them all – communication is key. To get things right first time, a clear brief is essential. In our case, this meant giving detailed instructions for every animation on the pages. In our clients’ cases, it means having copy finalised before design, design styles agreed and imagery signed off. By having everyone on the same page at the outset, we avoided multiple rounds of back-and-forth and saved time in the long run.