User First Web Design / Development

Is your website designed all wrong?

Most websites are built to fulfill the aesthetic preferences and feature list of the owner(s) of the website. The so-called web designer simply assembles the client's vision and wish list, with a flexible off-the-shelf theme and a 'stack' of 3rd party software apps. If you think about it, clients actually "design" most business websites, start to finish. So if the site's owners get the look and features they wanted, isn't that a good thing?

I will always argue the case for my client's customer… the user of the site. I firmly believe the user (your customer) should be your first consideration. In other words, I urge you to consider your customer to be right, when it comes to the design of your site. Why? Because your users are only there to solve their problem. They don't care if you think your site is awesome and that your company is freaking amazing... not even a little.

Google also doesn't care if you believe the design is perfect, and the site has all the trendy new features you wanted. Your visitors clicked a search result link in Google and they're on a content mission. They didn't come to ooh and ah over your site's design. They want an solution to their pain point, and they want it quick.

How is user first different?

User first = content first

User first, or user-centred design (UCD), focuses on what users need before balancing this with the technical requirements, business needs, and owner/management preferences. This approach involves user profiling (an understanding of the audience and ideal customer), user journey mapping and usability testing. User experience (UX) becomes the primary focus, and creating the shortest path — number of clicks to the information users are most interested in — central to the design. Lightning quick page loads are also very important.

Putting the user first is an ongoing process, with course corrections that result from A/B split tests and user feedback. If increased usage and improving conversion rates are important, to improve the bottom line, user first is the ideal design approach.

My definition of a great design

I believe the perfect website design strikes a balance between an outstanding user experience and the features, look and feel the website's owner can be happy with.

1. Mobile first and platform agnostic

Most of your visitors are likely to be visiting your site from a mobile device. I build sites that provide a great user experience on mobile phones, tablets, laptop and desktop computers. I test the sites I build on Mac OS and Windows computers, Apple iOS and Android mobile devices.

2. Flexible and scalable

Based upon the content you will be presenting to your users, I will identify the page templates, blocks and other tools I'll need to build or assemble to deliver that content. It will be easy to create your content, including complex landing pages, or ecommerce products. Your site will also be designed so that it can grow to where it needs to go, over the next few years.

3. Fast loading

I do my best to deliver a really fast-loading site, for the best user experience. This is an area where the client's wish list can make a difference, and I will advise against using some plugin extensions that can add significantly to code bloat, and reduce performance.

4. Custom (or semi-custom) development

I also try to avoid the use of off-the-shelf themes.* In order to meet the requirement of many different layouts and designs, many of the popular themes suffer from code bloat. By that I mean they're resource hogs, and can make the site load very slowly, particularly on mobile. Also, off-the-shelf designs can be very limiting… you get what you get.

I've been developing websites since 1997. Back in the day, we hand-coded our sites from the ground up. While it's not cost effective to build that way any more, I still prefer to begin essentially with a blank slate, building the design components and assembling the content presentation elements we'll need for the page layout templates you'll use regularly.

5. Easy to use, with personal training

A WordPress page, post or product can be virtually as easy to create and update as a Word document. I prefer a more personalized approach to training than the generic WordPress training video solutions many developers install. The off-the-shelf training libraries are screencast on another website, and don't always reflect the software combination and setup used in your own website. This can make the training visuals confusing to the owner.

I usually include 4 screencast tutorial videos*, made in the WordPress dashboard of your own website, covering the basic edits and content additions you are likely to make on your site, step-by-step. (If there are are more tutorials you would like, I can provide a quotation for creating those.) I'm also just an email, text or phone call away.

6.Ongoing maintenance available

Many web designers and developers build the sites to be be handed off for any future maintenance, with developer notes for future webmasters. (It's more profitable to just keep building more sites.) I provide webmaster services to my clients on an ongoing basis. I offer a WordPress Care service to my clients with a very preferential hourly rate.

7. Secure and built to go the distance

I build WordPress websites to be secure. To remain secure, they need regular backups and software updates, and at times, some tweaks to the security solution. I recommend having these completed monthly by me, as part of the WordPress Care webmaster service I offer. However, there are managed hosting and other automated 3rd party solutions that can take care of these, if preferred.

I build my sites to last a long time. I try to only use premium plugin extensions in client sites, so they will be supported for a very long time. (There are times when the customer wants a unique feature, and we take a chance on an extension I don't have experience with, to fulfill that request.)

I just rebuilt this website, after 12 years. The previous version of the site was launched in 2007. The content changed, and some aesthetic updates were made along the way, to keep it looking current, but it was the same old site. All I did was make the software updates as they came out. (The only reason I rebuilt it now was to try going "themeless" on my own site, before building client sites that way.)

A well built WordPress site, like a quality car, can run for a very long time if it's maintained.


My Design / Development Process*

I like to begin any new website with a discovery process. It’s important for me to understand your business, desired outcomes and our target audience. I then move to the wireframing / prototyping stage of the design, mapping out your site’s flow and sales funnel strategy. Once we’ve established how we’re going to attract the ideal buyers to your website, and our conversion strategy for turning those visitors into customers, I can create mood boards and design layouts for your approval.

When we’re agreed on exactly what I'm building, I’ll begin the development phase. After all the menus and shell pages have been created, we’ll take a navigation walk-through, and then I can begin any copywriting, and populating the pages with content. Following the launch, it’s time to begin marketing your site, rolling out our SEO and content marketing strategy, to attract potential buyers to your site and engage them in your sales funnel.

* Important: Not all of the websites I design and develop are built with my signature design process. Many of the sites were built to fulfill specific client requests or accommodate limited budgets.

Let's talk about your web development project

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