As businesses continue to expand their presence on the web, it is more important than ever to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of their websites. If you are thinking about redesigning your current website, evaluating the potential effectiveness of the website design prior to building and publishing it will save you time and money.
One of the first steps in the redesign process is to create website designs and/or wireframes. Wireframes are like a blueprint of your eventual website. They contain the elements included on your webpage but are much lower fidelity than a website design. They typically consist of black and grey boxes and may or may not have actual text and photos. The purpose of wireframes is to quickly and efficiently make design decisions without having to go through the process of updating all the design components included in a full website design.
Website designs are more extensive. They include the visual equivalent of what your website will look like when the site is complete. They’ll typically include actual text, photos and videos and are meant to paint a picture of exactly how your site will look once it’s finished.
It’s important to understand how to evaluate website designs and wireframes so you can plan for success and avoid unnecessary revisions.
Below are four factors you can use to evaluate any website design, mockup or wireframe.
Focus on the customer
When evaluating a new design, it is important to focus on the perceptions and experiences of your ideal customers. Ideal customers are those customers that are going to visit your website, purchase your products and make you money. Infrequent visitors that aren’t the focus of your business should not drive the design of your website.
View the designs from the standpoint of your most likely customer/website visitor. If there are multiple reasons a potential customer would visit your site, prioritize those reasons from most important to least and use the priority ranks when designing. Further, think about how well the design will help your potential customer(s) accomplish their goals on your website. Assessing design factors such as color, fonts, styles, text or photos isn’t important at this point. Those can all be changed during the development process.
Prioritize website elements
The first step towards prioritizing website elements is to determine which elements are most important to helping your visitors achieve their goal(s). If the visitor’s main goal is to fill out a form then put the form in an easily accessible place on the home page. If you don’t want to have an “ugly” form on the home page, then make sure there’s a clear link (or call-to-action) to the form. The link should be intuitive for your most likely customer. This point is crucial because what is intuitive to you as a user may not be all that intuitive to your most likely customer.
If there is a combination of multiple essential elements and most likely customers then you’re going to have to prioritize the most important elements and customers and organize the pages accordingly.
Determine the size, location and styling of the most important elements
The size, location and styling of the most important page elements is the next evaluation step after you determine what elements need to be on the page. In general, the rules below apply to design.
- The larger the element, the more likely it is to get attention
- The closer the element is to the top left, the more likely it is to get attention
- The greater the contrast between the essential element and the background the more likely it is to get attention (think about a yellow button on a black background)
Use these criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of the design. If the most important elements aren’t featured in a way that is easily apparent to your most likely visitors, then the design needs to be revised.
Think about use cases
After you’ve established the most important use cases for your website visitors, you should walk through them on the design concepts to see if they make sense and are easy to use. A practical application of this is to ask, “what happens when I click here?” or “What happens next?” Once you’ve identified those use cases and how the process will work, evaluate that user experience against the expectations of your most likely visitor. How easy will your most likely visitor find that experience? If the answer is ”not very”, then you should revise the design.
Use these tips during a website redesign or as a way to evaluate your existing website. In either case, they’ll help establish goals and a clear direction for your website and leave your website visitors with a better user experience.
If you’re interested in learning more about the website redesign process check out our Website Redesign Guide below.