Iterative Web Design Drives Web Site Conversions
To follow a user centered design approach, you start your web project with a design concept (e.g. on a wireframe basis) for each page, describing the rough layout and the workflows of the site. An advanced feature would be creating clickable wireframes (e.g. with Axure or pidoco.com) where you not only sketch the pages, but link the single wireframe pages and add dynamic content like menus and combo boxes.
With this clickable wireframe of your website you then invite a hand full of test users – either in a usability lab or remote with a special software or web service – and observe the user when using your wireframe prototype. But instead of just watching your test users clicking through your site, you should give them tasks to complete, measuring completion rates, duration for completion and writing down what usability issues occurred.
With these findings you go back to the drawing table (okay, let’s be it a computer) and re-design your prototype. Depending on time and budget you can repeat testing and re-designing your digital prototype (clickable wireframe) as long as you wish. But at some point you will start writing specs and giving it to the developers. Now, your digital prototype will again be to your assistance, showing the developers on a prototype, what you really want. Finally, with the site’s launch, the development phase in completed.
When the site is online, the iterative optimization process starts all over, but with a different foundation and quite different technologies. As foundation, you have now the real web site instead of a wireframe prototype. Instead of just being able to test with a hand full of test users, you can now track and trace live user behavior with as many unique visitors coming to your website.
Instead of only qualitative user observation, you should install a web analytics tool (such as Google Analytics, Omniture or Webtrends) and define metrics to measure the success of your site. Moreover you should implement a solution for split testing, getting quantitative data on different versions of your pages.
And here it starts all over again. By testing different page designs (which could be created in an iterative process too) you will gather information about what content, design etc. your users prefer and with which elements your website perform best. The nice thing about that process is that the evaluation of these metrics happens more or less automated in the tracking tools. You only have to define the right metrics and relevant business goals for your website.
In other words, iterative