FloorPop -  Internet Marketing that Works, May 7, 2003

Vol. 3, Issue 2

Copyright (C) 2003 Blair Kuhnen.  All rights reserved. May be reproduced in any medium for noncommercial purposes as long as attribution is given (though it would be nice to let me know anyhow).

Executive Design

Ever wonder how really successful companies can have homepages that defy all standards of usability and design? Have you ever looked at a site and said "Hey, I should go to work for them and add lots of value by re-designing things the ‘right way’?" Well, think again. If it got that way, it got that way for a reason.

In every design there is an artist, an executive, or some individual that picked the design. Assuming the company has means, there is not a logical reason for a website to not have good design and provide for a good user experience. So, the next time you see a design that clearly violates the rules, consider how it might have gotten that way in the first place. The real question is not what is an optimal design, but how do I get the organization to change.

I see two very effective ways to get a site to change. However, real chance will not happen until the Decision Maker behind the current design, is converted into seeing that the current design is a problem. Preferably, the Decision Maker needs to decide that they discovered or at least clarified the problem so that it can be fixed.

The first task is to agree on the goals of the customers. Why is the customer there? Once the Decision Maker and the designer agree upon to customer’s objective, it becomes much easier to identify what the implications are for the current design. From that set of issues, we can see a number of problems: they may leave because of slow response, get frustrated trying to find elements crucial to achieving a goal, or simply feel overwhelmed with choices. Next, find some objective evidence supporting the relative rating of the site. This can be from objective third party ratings or from in-house usability studies.

Now the tough part, the Decision Maker has to agree upon a set of objective measures that can be scenario tested through usability of alternative designs. This will not always work with precision and sometimes you will have to live with suboptimal designs or take a more circuitous route to redesign. Keep a stiff upper lip, digital Darwinism rules in the end.