A change I've noticed over the last year or so is an increased desire from clients to focus on the strategy for their website.
I think there's a few reasons for this, but the main one is simply that the potential of what your website can or should be doing online is growing. Businesses are increasingly aware that the website is not just an offshoot of marketing, it's not even an offshoot of many different departments - it shouldn't be considered an offshoot at all but embraced right at the centre of the business, with most decisions taking a digital first approach.
While my background is primarily website development, it's actually misleading to talk about this type of project being website strategy. If you focus only on the website, you've probably failed at the first hurdle. It's essential to think in terms of a digital strategy. Your website might be the hub of a digital strategy, but information needs to be able to propagate from it into other channels like social media, API's, content feeds, mobile apps, intranets, CRMs, stock management systems and myriad others.
I've been helping clients on both the implementation of some of these strategy points and in identifying other opportunities to make better use of digital systems - which typically introduces a bigger range of features available to users. This is, in theory, a good thing - but over time the range of features can become confusing and an essential point of any digital strategy needs to be management of features.
Ironically, bringing more features into reach for customers and staff, also brings the risk of overwhelming them with options and becoming counter productive.
'Good User Experience' is the kind of term that appears in many digital strategies. It's not so much a strategy as a goal. The strategy should probably be more like an agreement to dedicate some time to asses the impact on UX with every website update.
It might sound ridiculous and would go without saying, but you might be surprised. If developing a new feature for a website - you might dedicate resource to ensure the UX for that particular feature is good, but what are the implications of adding this new feature for the website as a whole?
If you're adding a new link in the main navigation, the impact on UX might be negligible or none. But once you've added two, three or more links to new features - there's a greater chance of it having a noticeable impact on usability. By recognising that every single change on the website does have a usability impact (good and bad) - it becomes less of an issue when you suddenly realise that what should have been a small update will suddenly tip the balance on that navigation menu and necessitate much more substantial site wide redesign.
Basic physics teaches us that things naturally fall apart and become chaotic. Even the building of fundamentally well planned and highly structured systems in our websites has a tendency to shift the overall website to one that is more complex rather than more simple. But it isn't inevitable for your website to fall into the grip of entropy. You can plan to make systems less complex and more user friendly - just be aware of what's involved to make it happen.
In working with clients in many different sectors and developing a wide range of bespoke systems, I've acquired a lot of knowledge about what does and doesn't work online. If you'd like to discuss this for your business please email me or call: 01392 428024.