You know you need to redesign your website to make it better for your customers. But how do you find out exactly what design and site functions will be best to boost online sales? It can all seem too complicated and overwhelming. Where do you start? The temptation is to rush ahead and just get a shiny new site up and running, hoping it will attract your customers. Time to stop and take a deep breath.
You’ve probably heard of wireframes and prototypes. You may even have wondered if they are the one and the same thing. Wireframing and prototyping are separate but key steps in the website development cycle. They allow for ideas to be quickly created, tested and proven before the expensive development process is undertaken. They are, indeed, different but both help you visualise and test your site before the nuts and bolts are hammered into place.
A wireframe is a visual guide that shows you the page layout and arrangement of elements on the page – such as menus, blocks of content, functional buttons and so on. With wireframes the main focus is on content and function. They show the most basic design and where everything sits on the page and so there’s no need for colour or graphics. Prototypes take wireframes to the next stage. They are clickable and interactive so you can see the function of each area and ensure the usability of the design.
Why testing is important
Like any other testing phase for a product or service, creating wireframes and prototypes allows:
- solutions to be ‘brought to life’, showing you how your site will be more user friendly for customers, how its design encourages click-through rates, optimising sales
- you to ‘see’ the page before development starts
- functionality and usability of the final website to be replicated
- user testing to be carried out before expensive development is undertaken
- quick and cost-effective changes to be made before the more expensive development stage.
What’s the process?
The conversion team at Summit follows a tried and tested methodology for successful website design. We look at:
- high-level requirements (your business objectives)
- personas and scenarios (research about your customers and what they like)
- information architecture (how to present your products and services)
- page objectives (what is needed for each page to function how you want it to)
- user testing
Also, the final visual designs – with colour, graphics and photos – can be mocked up and used with the prototype to give a ‘working’ website for additional user testing to make sure that the design enhances the user experience.
You may think this is a lot of waiting time before you see the new designs, but the testing phase really is fascinating and can give you all sorts of insights into consumer behaviour. Trying out the functions before the site design is firmed up can also help get your products to your customers more successfully in the long term. Because, once the site is live and your customers find it confusing or difficult to use, they aren’t going to be coming back in a hurry.
Send me your comments and questions.