To validate the investment of building a website, you first need to know why you’re building it.
Do users actually need my website?
It seems obvious, but it’s a complex question. It’s also the most important question to answer before you begin the even more complex project of designing and building a new website. To ensure users find value in the website solution you provide them, you first need a deep understanding of users - what they need, what they value, their abilities and limitations. Your questions can be broken down like this:
“What do users need from my website?”
“How will users use my website?”
“Who are the users???”
To help you answer these questions, here are a few different methods you can follow.
Listen to your users
Interviews or workshops with current or prospective users will allow you to understand the complete customer journey - when and why people are using the website. By discussing with them you define the clients needs and expectations for the website, and validate your User Profiles.
Don’t forget your stakeholders! Often staff are the main users of the website. Not only is it important to understand their needs, especially their workflow and the function of the Content Management System (CMS) or integrated online tools they use, but they will have valuable insight on the customers’ journey too.
It’s all in the profile
A User Profile is a representation of your website's ideal customers. It is a fictitious profile based on the type of people who would be the main users of your site. User profiles act as a benchmark for user experience (UX) design and development teams to work with in order to create the optimal user experience.
Creating User Profiles involves outlining your ideal customer’s goals, pain points, behaviour and demographic information. It’s also good to know when, where and on what device they use the site. This information be drawn from staff and user interviews, surveys, data gathered from your existing client base or from analytics from the website itself.
Once you’ve created your User Profiles, define what their objectives are for the website. For example:
As a customer, I would like a one-click purchase option so I can save time when buying online.
It’s useful to use the template: As a < type of user >, I want < some goal > so that < some reason >. In doing this you will create what’s called a ‘User Story’. User Stories are short, simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the user.
The answer is yes
Now that you’ve validated your website is a solution to a need, you can work with key customer groups or stakeholders to prioritise your User Stories. This is often done through a voting process. From there, create a user flow map for the top User Stories. This will show how a user will move through the website to complete their objective and effectively gives you the basis of your website design and requirements.