Our new website has gone live for Webnographer, the remote usability testing tool that we have developed. We spent some time working on the Information Architecture of the site with Danny Hope, of UX Brighton fame.
The challenge we faced, which is common for many sites, is that our audience has many levels of knowledge both about Usability, and Remote Usability. Information Architecture is critical for any website, that is getting the conceptual structure and logical organization of the site right.
So, how did we go about it?
We put the user at the heart of our design. This is usually done in the world of usability and information architecture through reasearch and creating personas. These personas are fictitious characters created to represent the different user types that might use a site.
There are many heated discussions to be found on the subject on the IxDA mailing list, with many different arguments for and against personas.
Here is our take on it. We don’t use them. Instead, we use real people! The important thing is that you think about your user, a person. Not a target market, that is a non-tangible thing. Thinking about a real person helps build empaphy, helps focus your design process, and lets you design better products. Personas help encourage this. But they take time to create as they are fictional creations of a user type. Real people work just as well, and even better, because you don’t have to imagine whether they would like something, as you can just give them a call and ask them.
When we started designing the website, the first step was to map out the target audience that we had identified to date. As you can see on the picture of the white board, we broke our user base down by the industry sector they worked in (see picture of white board). For example in our case: In-house UX specialists, Agencies, and Usability Professionals, Developers, etc. Then we picked people who were representative for the culture of a sector, put their names on the board. (To protect their identity I have smudged out their names.) We know these representative users, as we have met them and keep meeting them throughout the concurrent ethnographic research that we are carying out.
The hard part in the exercise was to identify what are peoples motivations and feelings. This is always hard as people have varied backgrounds, knowledge and views. Even people in the same sector have different mental models. Using real people to motivate the design, meant that if we where unsure about their motivation, all it took was a phone call, or meet up with them to find out.
Once we had our hypothesis of peoples motivations, we then could start creating the structure of the site and different message for communication. As you can see on the photo on the left the design started taking place, and the design for our website evolved.
So, are we finished?
No. We work agile and want to keep improving our site. People and technology will keep changing, and so too will the Webnographer website. Also, we are aware that some of the language used on the site is still geeky, and needs to be “translated” into non-geek language. This is something we are working on at the moment. Also we are very keen on getting feedback from our users, so if there is anything you like, dislike, or fell is missing, please feel free to leave you comments here. We are listening!
We would like to thank Danny for all the enlightenment in structuring the ideas and the insight that he gave us. Just look at our old holding page above and compare that to our new website. Its a great improvement!