Conversation

The Question That’ll Make Your Website Successful, Guaranteed.

Dear website owner, I’m going to give you the secret to building a successful website. Well, it’s not really a secret in the web industry but it might as well be for how many organizations, including design and marketing agencies, seem to not know it. The secret to building a successful website is actually a question: Does your website help or prevent your users from completing their tasks?

It’s this simple. Sort of. Okay, it’s a little more complicated than that. You’ll need some good user research and a decent understanding of web usability principles to help you get there. But if you keep this question on the forefront of everything you do, you are well on your way to having a true, user-friendly website that works for you.

‘Good-looking’ doesn’t mean ‘user-friendly’

Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, “Duh. Of course a website should be user-friendly. That’s like saying food should be edible.” Let me ask you this: What does user-friendly really mean? How do you know your website is user-friendly?

Most people that come to PPO&S for a website focus more on how it looks than on how it functions. “I’d like a website that looks new, modern and fresh,” they’d say. This is then followed by what sounds like a P.S. in a letter: “By the way, this needs to be user-friendly.” To be honest, we don’t always know what people are asking for when they say user-friendly. Typically, clients mean that they find their site hard to use but don’t talk about whether or not their users find it hard to use.

If you want your website to be successful, your end-goal can’t be to create a beautiful website that you find easy to use. Such a website will be of no use to your users and will not support your business objectives. What you actually want is a website that is functional and ultimately caters to your users’ needs.

It’s all about the user

This is where user experience (UX) design comes in. Unlike visual design, which focuses on presentation (layout, color, typography, shapes, etc.), UX design focuses on the website’s functionality and usability. It ensures your website aligns with your business objectives and helps your users complete their tasks.

I’m not saying you can’t have a good-looking website you personally feel proud of. (I’m an art director! I highly value aesthetics and push clients to prioritize it in their projects.) What I’m saying is that visual design alone does not address your user’s experience.

Visual design is indeed a powerful tool that conveys your brand, visually and emotionally. It can delight users and compel them to act. But users won’t be moved emotionally or be compelled to act if your website is not functional and user-centered.

My team wants your website to be successful, honest. We want it to make you money, grow your donor base, inspire people to contribute to your social causes, or help you meet whatever your objectives are. That is why we want you to start thinking in terms of UX design instead of visual design.

UX design addresses your audience as they are: task-oriented web users that don’t go to your website for leisure but to complete a task. And if they can’t complete their task, they’ll leave your website for another one where they can.

Make your website successful starting now

So how about it? Now that you know the secret, go ahead and start making improvements to your website today. You can begin with crafting some usability testing questions and grabbing a few users (not your employees) to test your site. Of course we’d like you to hire PPO&S for this. But no matter if you’re doing it yourself or working with an agency, make sure everyone is asking this question:

Does my website help or prevent my users from completing their tasks?

If you filter every decision you make with this question, you’ll have a successful website.

I guarantee it.

Carlos Centeno
By Carlos Centeno Digital Art Director