Designing for Next Steps: A Forward-looking User Experience.

Designing for next steps (a forward moving user experience)
Nick DeNardis, Associate Director of Web Communications, Wayne State University

It was standing room only for Nick’s presentation right after the Adam Savage keynote, and he set about busting some myths of his own about the user experience on the Web.

Myth #1: The back button is evil. It is not. It can be a forward-moving path for the user to find success with using your site. They don’t need to follow one single path. Another myth: the homepage is the most important page on your site. BUSTED. The homepage may be the single most visited page, but for most people and most visits, their landing page will NOT be the homepage.

When Nick looks at sites for his EDUcheckup site, he asks himself these four questions: Can I trust this page? Is the information up to date? Can I use this page as a resource for the future? Is it bookmarkable? What do they want me to do on this page? The last is the most important question.

Nick’s session provided plenty of tips and strategies from bringing your websites through four stages: Junk, Good, Great, Rememberable.

A tip for looking at your site through another perspective:  inverse the colors. See what stands out and what recedes. Another suggestion: use the new Google Analytics features like Visitor Flow and Performance to see both how individual users make their way through a site and how long the stay there. For an even deeper look into analytics, Nick highly recommends Woopra, which can track a single visitor’s journey through your site across multiple visits. It creates a kind of customer relationship management system for your website.

If you have an online catalog that content cannot be pulled from dynamically, that’s the first thing to fix. You can also use tools within Google Analytics that allow you to break down the silos by tracking separate pre-existing Google Analytics accounts together, so that you can see a more complete view of the users’ paths.

To get your site from Good to Great, Nick recommends using a “human proxy” – someone who has never worked on the site before. Do this for 15 minutes a month, and just ask them to do a couple of questions and watch them as they do. Nick also recommends a tool call ClickTale, which records videos of how people navigate through your site.

How do you get your site to be truly memorable? Nick plugs the site (and the concept) of Little Big Details: the small things that make a site whimsical or human. Nick looks at error messages on forms as an example where you can walk people through the form process in an unexpected and friendly way. Auto-populating fields on a form for example can create a moment of delight for your users, because no one likes to fill out forms. Details matter – pixels don’t.