User centred design – it’s getting personal now. /// salterbaxter /// Creative communications and sustainability advisors in London

Directions Supplement June 2011
User centred design – it’s getting personal now.

Just how well do you know your users?

Are you still guessing what your online audiences want? Who actually reads your online content, whether website, annual or CR report?

That’s easy, I hear you say; there’s all of our various stakeholders, the analysts, our employees, potential employees, the media plus no doubt a few other groups, and so it goes on.

But how well do you really know these sometimes quite disparate groups? You probably think you know them well enough and are in touch regularly with them all. But really, the challenge is not so much who these groups are but what they want from your online content. Have you really ever taken the time to find out properly?

If we take the example of online annual or CR reports, each year companies spend many a countless night preparing their online reports but few will have spent a meaningful amount of time asking the audiences what they want to read, view or download?

We carried out a piece of research specifically in regard to annual reports to find out what audiences are looking for. The results make intriguing reading – have a look at our findings on the reverse of this supplement.

So how do you get it right? For us at Salterbaxter it means one thing – adopting a process of
User Centred Design (UCD) for every online project. What does that mean? Well, there’s a formal definition opposite but that’s only half the story. Read on and this supplement will explain it all for you. Looking at what users need should of course be the starting point for designing any effective online communication. That’s nothing revolutionary you might think, but given time constraints, budgets and deadlines we know it is all too often neglected. We know you can never follow the perfect path every time, but you’ll see how just getting the basics of the process right will always give you a better end result.

What happens when we don’t follow any elements of UCD? We begin to revert to type, we do what we’ve always done or we start to follow others. But as you’ll see from our research in this supplement, often this means investing budget into developing content and functionality that none of your audiences actually want or appreciate.

So stop guessing what your audiences want and ask them!

It’s about designing websites for real people – sounds simple, but so often forgotten. Have a read and please let us come and talk to you about how UCD will help your online projects become more effective.

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