The web design research phase is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of the web design and development process by clients. Face it, if you were a client and given the choice between obsessing over awesome typography selections or researching business strategies, which one would you rather do? There’s no arguing that visual design elements are important—they do help set the stage for your website’s and business’s tone—but how would you know what tone to set without research?
Research for Whom?
Before we can prescribe a digital solution, thorough web design research allows us to understand and assess the client’s business concerns. Without considering any of these things, your new website will be doomed to the land of ineffectiveness. After all, designers and developers aren’t designing for themselves. They also aren’t really designing for their clients, in a weird twist of design irony. Any and all redesigns are for the clients’ audiences and without proper web design research, planning and implementation of effective websites becomes more difficult.
At WDG, we are somewhat persnickety about the web design research phase. During one user persona exercise for a client, two others and myself spent a few hours until the end of the workday reviewing and assessing potential user types as research to understand what potential audiences were using their services and what motivated them to do so. Time-consuming? Yes. Surefire way to target specific users, drive traffic, and support the client’s mission? Duh.
Need help getting started? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
The target audience
Remember these folks, the people you are trying to attract to your site? Solid research needs to go beyond demographics; it should address the context in which users interact with the client and their inner cognitive frameworks.
Understanding the competition and who is competing for the target audience allows you to separate you and your company from others.
The client’s goals
Probably the least obvious element of research is the organization you are working for. What are your organization’s current problems and goals, what are the risks and concerns—all these need to be considered during the research phase.
Make Research a Priority
So, what’s the bottom line? Content strategy, sitemaps, branding, copywriting—none of those things can progress successfully without conducting web design research first. And that’s bad for your company’s bottom line. If you are in the market for an updated online presence, make sure that you and the digital agency you choose make research a priority. Luckily for you, our fantastic WDG team does just that. Interested in learning more? Contact us today.