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3 Key Pillars of a Research-Driven Website Design

by Jessica Terashima
Post Date:09/07/2016

After a while, it starts to become obvious when a municipal website needs an overhaul. Everyone from citizens to web editors to elected officials make comments that the site looks old, or is hard to use, or is too cluttered. While it’s easy to say your site needs help, it’s more challenging to know how to approach the improvements.

It’s Not So Obvious What the Next Steps Are

When you speak to website vendors or your own internal web team about how to organize your website, you’ll hear lots of terminology, like “templated design” and “best practices.” While both of can assist in the development of effective sites, focusing on research – uncovering the needs, goals and behaviors of your users – can ensure that the design works for your community’s needs.

It’s Simple as I, 2, 3

How do you understand and then design for your users? By following the 3 key pillars of research-driven design:

  1. Data – Gather relevant data from your website analytics on how users interact with your site, as well as information about the users themselves – who they are, where they are, what devices they use and when they’re most likely to engage. Mesh that information with the demographic data you already have on your community.
  2.  Analysis – Analyze the data to create a portrait of your typical users. Maybe they’re single travelers planning a visit, or parents looking for picnic table reservations – there are usually a handful of key personas that emerge that your designs must serve. 
  3. Iteration – Once you have a clear portrait of the different user types, you can start building experiences that work for them. Highlight the most requested pieces of information and functions. Make it easy to complete typical processes. Then, when you’ve got a framework made, solicit feedback and track the data again. Be prepared to make adjustments based on what you learn.

It’s Time to Get Started

After looking at these 3 pillars, start thinking about your own website and how a research-driven approach can help you make changes. Taking a quick dive into your data can help you chart a plan for easy wins as well as longer-term evolution. At Vision, we specialize in helping agencies research and implement user-focused improvements, and are always happy to discuss your particular needs. Request a free consultation now.

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