So you’ve spent hundreds of hours tweaking your redesign, making every pixel look perfect. You’ve showed it to a few friends, you’ve tested it in all the major browsers, and you’re ready to push it live on your site.
You’re not even close to done, though.
Once your redesign launches you need to figure out how well it works. Don’t listen to all those people in the comments telling you how much you kick ass and how great it looks. They don’t know what they’re talking about. You need data.
Getting the data
Head on over to CrazyEgg and get a heatmap setup so that you can figure out where people are clicking. Once you know where they’re clicking you can realign your site to put the key action items where people seem to be looking the most. You’ll also know whether or not that AdSense block is in the right place, whether anyone is seeing your “Keep reading” links, and all sorts of other useful information that will help you realign the layout that you thought was perfect.
Along with CrazyEgg I would suggest signing up for Google Analytics. You can track where visitors go on your website and get an idea of how long people spend on your site. If people are spending an average of 5 seconds on your website, you did something wrong. Go back, rework the site, and figure out how to capture their attention. Make fonts bigger, make links a different color – do something and see if it works. If it doesn’t try again.
A design is never done
Your design might look great but you can always tweak it and try to get just a little bit more out of it. Once you’ve gotten everything you can out of a design, it’s time to redesign…again. Your design is there to solve a problem, if it’s not solving problems then it’s not a useful design.
Designing on the web is not about making things as pretty as you can. It’s about making things work for users. It’s nice to make things look great and work for users, but the primary goal is making the user experience as smooth as possible.
Redesigning without using web analytics, heatmaps, and whatever other tools are at your disposal is useless. Your goal shouldn’t be to just make your site look nicer – make it WORK. Make it USEFUL. Make sure your design decisions aren’t based on “this looks cool.”
Not everyone browses the web like you do
As a designer one of the most important things to realize is that not everyone is browsing the web the way you do. Some people like search boxes, others like navigation bars, others like clicking through links in posts.
This is why looking at heatmaps and web analytics is so important. If you base your design on what YOU do then you’re not giving average users much of a chance to navigate your site. I personally think big footers are great, but do users really scroll all the way down to look at them? Maybe. Maybe not. You need to run an analysis on your site if you have a big footer to see if people are actually clicking the links.
So what am I writing about next week? I’ll take you through the design decisions on my recent redesign of OkDork.com and explain what the CrazyEgg heatmap tells me.
Ben Bleikampis a freelance designer and student from Columbus, OH. He enjoys Chipotle burritos and hates waking up early.