Remember personas, usability testing, and brand vs. e-commerce when redesigning your site.
I'm in the middle of prepping for the Shop.org Merchandising workshop, where I'll be leading a panel of experts talking about when it is time to redesign. I thought today I'd write about some of the topics we are hashing through.
Many writers have dedicated a lot of time and energy writing articles and books about personas. But, I find a disconnect between how personas are created and how they're used. Creating them is now a well-worn exercise, but I've talked to many companies who don't know what to do with them once they are created. Have you designed personas and used them effectively in creating new functionality or design? Or did you skip personas and just build out the functionality you assumed everyone would love?
In our consulting practice, we create a functionality matrix that lists, by persona, each functionality we are proposing. That way, we can clearly see each phase of the development process along with what personas are affected. Generally, phase one contains the most common functionality across all personas, but later phases clearly target specific personas.
Usability testing is another hot-button issue. Everyone agrees they should do it, but it is often the first thing cut when budgets need trimming. Do you do usability testing? If so, when do you do it: during the wireframing process, once the designs are done, once the entire site is done? Do you do testing on pieces of functionality, or just save testing for end-to-end testing?
We've done every permutation of this, depending on client budgets, and the results are always interesting. When we do usability testing on wireframes, we get great information about the features we are testing. But, 75 to 80 percent of the suggestions are design suggestions, because "normal" people aren't used to wireframes. This kind of feedback needs to be filtered because it can detract from the value of the testing at this point. We also test on discreet sections of functionality, such as "browsing for a product," "searching for a product," "checking out," or interacting with a specific feature. After all these "unit tests," we do an end-to-end test, either on wireframes or on the final design.
So, when do you find testing to be the most useful?
Brand vs. E-commerce
We've found that many of our clients have a "brand vs. e-commerce" war brewing internally. This is especially true of fashion and luxury brands. The issue is that they've spent their entire offline existence creating a brand experience, and don't want that sacrificed online. However, most of the online brand experiences they create are not good at converting customers. But, a strict e-commerce site is devoid of brand for the most part. This has often led to websites with split personalities. The user needs to choose whether she wants the brand experience, or if she wants to buy things. Obviously, this is not a great user experience, as often the two sides of these sites have different navigation and nomenclature. Plus, it's rarely easy to move between the two sites.
Do you have this issue? If so, how have you tackled it? Once a few of our luxury clients have launched their new sites, we can talk more openly about how we have solved this issue.
These are only a few of the topics I plan on tackling. Do they resonate for you in your company? If so, how have you attacked these issues? What other parts of a redesign present challenges to you? We are assembling a panel of experts, and I would love to include your questions as part of the session.
Until next time...
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