The 7 Major Steps For Improving A Web Site

    May 28, 2003

I recently gave a presentation to a group of web designers dealing with what I call the “Seven Steps to Achieving the Next Level” — getting development teams to a point beyond their current practices. Our research shows that almost every design project we see today can readily apply these seven techniques.

What are these steps?

#1) Conduct Field Studies — Many designers are struggling with “Who are my users?” and “Why do they come to my design?” Field studies can provide answers that aren’t available other ways.

#2) Utilize Usability Testing — Testing can provide teams with a wealth of information about what’s happening with the specific portions of the design. Info that can’t be learned any other way!

#3) Build Design Patterns — Take the knowledge gained from field studies and usability testing and embody it in design patterns that the entire team (and future members) utilize as powerful resource.

#4) Separate Style from Content — Too many teams are using implementation techniques that require major changes to the code for every simple stylistic design enhancement. Tools like XHTML and CSS can make the designer’s life tremendously easier.

#5) Write for the Medium — Writing for the screen is different than writing for paper. Writing to encourage action (such as clicking on new links) is different than writing articles. Teams need to understand these differences to see an instant improvement in their designs.

#6) Organize Content for the User — Our research has shown that users follow the scent to the target content by looking for trigger words. The discipline of Information Architecture offers much to designers working to help users through large information-rich sites.

#7) Design for the Experience — The use of our designs is not done in solitude. It’s part of an entire life, with intermingled objectives and constraints. Understanding how to design for the entire experience can dramatically enhance the user’s perceptions.

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A software developer and programmer, Jared founded User Interface Engineering in 1988. He has more than 15 years of experience conducting usability evaluations on a variety of products, and is an expert in low-fidelity prototyping techniques. Visit for more usability information. You can reach Jared by calling our office or by sending mail to