The customer has always been the king. In today’s age of hyper-competition, marketers bend over backward to delight the customer. In the realm of website design, this requires a paradigm shift in approach, from designing for the user rather than designing based on what suits the business. It is easy to overlook user flows and needs when faced with technical (architecture, content management systems etc.) and design constraints.
Two manifestation of designing with the user in mind is responsive web design and persona management.
The mobile revolution has affected a paradigm shift in the computing landscape. People now access the net from myriad devices, and access through mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones is tipped to overwhelm access through desktops by 2015.
For the content developer, the biggest implication of such a change is in website design. Mobile devices come in myriad screen sizes and shapes, and a design or style that works best in one screen may look crazy in another screen. Responsive web design, or adjusting settings to ensure optimal experience by taking in screen info from the device, is a panacea to such a situation.
Designing for the user however goes much beyond creating the optimal setting for viewing a website on the tablet or smartphone.
Persona Management is customizing the web experience for the user, based on their likes and preferences. It entails ascertaining the user preferences, allowing them to make their preferred settings, or both, and ensuring that such settings load by default the next time the user accesses the website.
The customization may manifest in areas such as application data and setting, specific content types to display, applications remembering toolbar positions and preferences, configuration of Windows registry entries, default loading on start-up, and much more. Persona management can extend to anything that fashions user experience: interface design, usability, information architecture, presentation, organization, and interaction of online services.
In an age where users are constantly on the move, and access the web from multiple devices and locations, effective persona management syncs across devices. This requires the content management system to refresh the view desktop and copy the same to the remote server repository at regular intervals.
The virtues of persona management notwithstanding, the website developer still needs to reconcile user preferences with the business purpose of the website. Website developers need to understand their users and design the website with a clear-cut idea on the user flow. The user flow defines the path that the user will follow when they visit the website – from the point from where the user enters the website to where the journey ends. The developer needs to ensure that the user performs a desirable action that fulfills the business objective of the website at the end of the journey.
Image Credit : Reinier Sierag on Flickr