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I’ve been working on website design and development for 7 years now. Building real estate websites, hotels, startup websites and designing creative solutions is always a pleasure, but it is even nicer when the website or interface is designed with a purpose.

In working with small and large companies, I have learned that one of the most difficult tasks is to come up with the features a website actually needs and not what everyone on the team thinks the website needs to have.

Also, I noticed the great connection between ‘My competitor or this other company has this feature, hence we should have it as well’.

This did not only add extra hours of design, cost and time to projects, but it also made me feel that there has to be more than just designing a website for design sake.

Something that when someone visits a website or interacts with an application, they are able to accomplish goals and objectives in a seamless manner.

My job and other designers job is to create experiences that are enjoyable by all, but most importantly that generate the goals we have established.

And this is also what differentiates web designers that are using templates to implement a website vs those who are taking their time to understand the users and create a user-centric design from scratch.

So how can you as a designer, business owner, marketing manager or whatever your role is, find out what features your website really needs and stay away from the famous ‘Shiny object syndrome’?

Start by funneling your vision

If you want to design for the users, you need to understand them

Your website needs to act as your sales-person when you are not there. Hence, it needs to relate and successfully answer or guide your clients through any solution. The biggest issue is that most websites are just codes and templates built to serve thousands of businesses.

Since you want to be different and create a unique experience, you want to put your website aside and concentrate on your users

You can do this by creating user personas. This will give the ability to further understand the demographic you are working with, what their lives are like and what they are trying to accomplish.

To do this, you can start by creating a simple person of a client you know or of your dream clients. You need to start by creating some sort of empathy with the user, a powerful connection, hence you want to give him/her an actual name and you will always refer to them through this name.

Think about their demographics, where is he/she from, the age of the client, are they single, married or may be in a relationship that needs work (if you are a relationship therapist), do they have any kids? How much income do you think their household gets every year? Where do they live, are the city people or rather live outside of the city and have a big yard with dogs and cats?

These sort of questions need to be answered and will help you start to build a connection. As a result, you will start to feel as if you are them and will start to think like them.

Let’s get further into your customer’s minds and thoughts

Let’s create a story

Imagine you are the customer, let’s use the name ‘Amie’ for this example.

Think of yourself as Amie, and start to come up with a story. Some examples I have worked with are customers who have a love for creating Pinterest boards on a daily or weekly basis, they look to shop for shoes and bags, hence they create boards that help them guide themselves when they are shopping.

You can also add elements of what ‘Amie’ likes to do, she may have a love for music, creative design, and daily quotes

Maybe she also has a daily or monthly routine she likes to practice.

Get yourself in her shoes, generate feelings and thoughts through this story. Keep in mind all the elements you took when you defined the demographics.

Creating the user-centric approach and features for your website

You cannot just jump into this section, all the steps from above MUST be done, else you will misunderstand the user and continue to create features that may not be needed

Now you will work towards creating two aspects of this user.

Start by identifying at least 5 to 6 goals ‘Amie’ is trying to achieve. It can be as simple as get a new pair of shoes for the winter, or find a contractor that can help her fix a few problems in her house. Once you have come up with 5 to 6 or even 10 goals, you can move into the next step.

This is where the website’s features are created

What does ‘Amie’ needs to accomplish those goals?

List all the different elements that she will need to accomplish her goals. For example, if she is shopping for winter shoes, she may need to see different categories and filter through colors, shapes, water-proof or skid proof.

If she is looking for a contractor, she will need testimonials, prices, rates, contact information, contact forms, maybe a way to schedule an appointment or to let them know what the problem she is having and if the person is coming into her house, most likely she will need a photo or some sort of identification on the site.

You have finished this, now what?

If time and budget were unlimited you will work towards fixing each goal and creating a feature of each. But if there are many features to be created and the budget is limited, you can start to narrow it down to the most important ones.

Furthermore, you can give each feature a value from 1 – 10 in how much you want it on the website or app, let’s call it desirability and another 1 – 10 in how easy it will be for you to obtain this feature. This one will be based on your budget, time and skills.

Now that you know the steps to create powerful features for your website, take a look at it. Think about which features are there for this reason and which are there because other people or companies have them.

Also, think about your website in the shoes of ‘Amie’, of course, make her fit your customer’s life. How is your website helping her or any of your other clients achieve their needs and goals?

Let me know what are some of the problems you are having when creating your website and improving its experience by commenting below in this post.

Changing the way you have built your website and customer’s experience is not always as easy as it sounds.  If you require help in better understanding your website, goals and the way client’s interact with your website, you can hire me as a freelance consultant to have a one-on-one session (s) to really understand your customers and how we can create a better experience for them.

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