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Investing in research

Research is often the first expense a client will choose to forgo in order to cut costs. In reality, this only jeopardises the success of your website and may incur more expense down the line as solutions are altered.

Kat Peskett

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Published: 24th March 2016

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At Squiders, we pride ourselves on being research and data led. It is crucial to help us determine and meet your users’ very individual needs. Read on for an insight into the process and why it is an important investment.

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Kat, the newest addition to the Squiders team. I came on board as Project Manager in October. You may have received a performance review from me in your inbox recently. Research is an important part of my role here, both in the earlier stages of a project and on an ongoing basis post-launch.

Once a project has been given the green light, we request a follow-up meeting with you. Your valuable expertise helps us to understand more about your business and the market that you operate within. Stakeholder interviews will also be held at this initial stage if appropriate. I then continue the research process, informed by these findings.

What is researched and what impact does it have on my website?

The first thing I do is examine your existing website, if you have one. Google Analytics is a great tool for this. It allows me to identify which content is most important to your users so that we can ensure common tasks are effortless to perform. Pain points to be addressed might also reveal themselves. For example, important content that is not being engaged with and requires a clearer call to action. Analytics also provides an insight into the location of your users, the devices they browse on and countless other factors. I interpret this wealth of data to produce a report of any significant findings. This is valuable, not just for assisting the design process, but also post-launch as a benchmark for measuring success.

One of the most important research areas is already underway by this point. Defining your audience and, by extension, the users of your website. Drawing on the client’s existing knowledge, I gather further information on age, gender, occupation and social grade. Relevant sources of information about that demographic’s browsing behaviour and requirements are then gathered and conclusions drawn.

All of my findings are passed on to the team, allowing them to design with a clear picture of the user and their needs in mind. This user awareness might dictate design elements such as typeface, colour choice etc. For example, more senior visitors have trouble seeing certain colours and require larger copy. As a result, all design decisions are made with solid reasoning that transcends aesthetics and ‘looking pretty’. The solution's suitability is trialed further yet with user testing and the subsequent monitoring of your site after launch. Usability is our priority and a factor we don’t leave up to chance.

The research process doesn’t end here and can be as bespoke as our solutions themselves. We consolidate all of this knowledge to pinpoint your USP and create a narrative that best sets you apart from competitors.

The cost of a lack of research

Without research, your website is built on uninformed guesswork. Or is simply too aesthetically-led. No matter how good a website looks, if a user does not engage with it successfully you won't get those all-important conversions. Take VistaPrint as an example. They redesigned their 'All Products' page, taking it from an extensive list of text links to a photographic product guide. After putting the new page live they saw a 16% increase in exit rate, as well as 68% more clicks on navigational links rather than in-page links. Although the new design was more visually engaging, user testing revealed that this is not what these particular users needed and that functionality had taken a hit.

VistaPrint users that choose to navigate through this page are looking to quickly locate a specific product they are already familiar with. They don’t need to be guided through product categories with visuals in the same way another user might. This is why it is so important to discover how different types of users will engage with your website. We always integrate multiple paths to important content into our designs, ensuring everyone’s needs are met. VistaPrint’s page has now reverted back to the text-only approach and seen engagement stats return to normal. Of course, some issues inevitably get missed in the initial research stage. This is why we also place such an emphasis on testing and monitoring post-launch, in the same way VistaPrint did to discover and address any issues.

It’s not all about the data

Of course, you have to find a happy medium. The research and discovery phase can only take you so far, since not every eventuality can be foreseen. At a certain point it is a better use of time and money to get the website live. The process can then be continued with the monitoring of real data, rather than relying on our educated predictions. If something is not right we will know, find another solution and subsequently test that.

We always say that web design is an iterative process. The beauty of digital is how easily we can test and action changes to improve performance. Research and data monitoring are what dictate those changes and increase your chances of long term success.

Thanks for reading,
Kat



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