Designing Your Web Site Interface

Let’s say I buy a Porsche Boxster.

Fine vehicle. Built for speed and for bolstering the flagging testosterone levels of folks like me.

So I buy one. Looks great.

A few weeks later I want to go up to the mountains and do some skiing. So I put some chunky snow tires on the car and raise the suspension a bit.

Then I get a little worried about the safety of my youngest son while I’m driving around, so I do a little improvement on the safety features. I take the front and rear bumpers from a Volvo and weld them onto the Boxster. Much safer now.

And it is a little cramped inside, so I take out the bucket seats and put in a bench seat instead.

Perfect.

Hey, before you mock too much, take another look at your web site.

Here’s the thing. Prior to launch, we build our sites for the purpose of executing a particular business and marketing plan.

On day one, if you do the job right, the site fits its purpose exactly.

And it stays that way for a week or two.

Then things change. The online business environment may shift under your feet. Or you may have a great new idea. Or create an alliance that changes things just a tad.

So you have to go back to the site development team and say, “Guys, it’s not a big thing, but we need to make some small changes to the site.”

To which they reply, I would hope, “This is a bad thing to do. You can’t just bolt new stuff onto an existing design and navigation structure. It will mess everything up.”

To which you say something like, “Come on, guys. Don’t go all artistic on me. Just make the changes, OK?”

And so on.

There are plenty of sites out there that have become Boxster/Volvo hybrids.

To avoid this happening to you, here are a few things to think about.

First let’s look at things from the development point of view.

It’s inevitable that the interface you design today is going to have to change and adjust before you have the opportunity to do a major upgrade.

So play some of those “What if?” games.

What if you have to add another major category link to the homepage?

What if you have to find some extra space on the homepage at key points in the year – like during the run-up to Christmas or tax time, etc., depending on the kind of online business you’ve got.

What if you have to add ads, sponsorship spots or partner links?

There are a lot of things that can change very quickly. So make sure your interface design is flexible enough to accommodate such changes.

Second, here are some thoughts for the business development and management team.

Think ahead a bit. If you can guess about some things that are likely to change or develop within your business over the months to come, let your designers, programmers and writers know. Well in advance. That way they can build an interface that is ready to accept those extras.

And be realistic. If you’re thinking of a major change in the direction of your plan, content or marketing, maybe it just can’t be done within the confines of your current interface. Maybe it’s time for a full redesign.

In any event, however your teams work, try to avoid creating a hybrid.

A Boxster with Volvo bumpers is not a pretty sight.

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