I’m working with a small non-profit in California on a large web redesign that includes performing user research and developing a content strategy before moving into design. Because of a limited budget, our user research phase only included an online survey and a Google Analytics review of their current site. However, once the user research was underway, we ran into a few issues.
I designed the online survey with mostly closed-ended questions to uncover patterns among responses that differentiated the user groups (e.g. their relationship with the organization, interests, prime motivators, etc). Two hundred individuals completed our online survey, but my analysis revealed that roughly 80% of participants fell into the same user group—leaving relatively little data to identify patterns among the other user groups.
Google Analytics data from the current site was limited as well because of minimal traffic and visitor engagement. I pulled some basic audience data but struggled to recognize many useful trends or themes from users’ online behaviors.
Our user group definitions wouldn’t be backed by solid data which felt too risky to base our content strategy and design decisions on—especially since this was the first user research of any kind the organization had performed. So, to feel more confident in our user groups models, we expanded the user research activities to include:
1. User Group Workshop
We invited staff who regularly engaged with the organization's constituents to a workshop to round-out the user models the project manager and I had created. They spent a morning sharing assumptions about the user groups’ attitudes + beliefs, interest + motivation, experiences, concerns, digital behavior and demographics. Their ideas generated more well-rounded definitions than just the project manager and I could produce as a team of two.
User group workshop I facilitated from Seattle with staff in California
2. Second Online Survey
We needed to attract more diverse participants for our second survey to gather information on more user groups. We asked ally organizations to promote the survey and created targeted Facebook ads to users that fell into our segments. Combining the two surveys, we had 300+ participants and had much more—and better—data to analyze.
The second survey provided more data to identify patterns for user groups
3. User Interviews
Staff conducted interviews with two to three people from the three groups we identified as our primary user groups. The interviews helped us understand participant preferences and attitudes. They provided extremely useful information that helped validate or negate assumptions we’d formed.
After adding these three research activities, we have a solid grasp of our users' needs. We just finished up creating personas and I feel much more confident that they accurately define our users. I'm grateful to have a client that recognized the importance of user research!
The user interviews proved extremely useful for rounding out our personas
A limited budget or timeline for user research can be challenging. As more information is uncovered, unpredictable issues can arise. Having the ability to adjust a timeline and scope of work is important to ensure a web redesign project accurately addresses users’ needs.
Professional Data Analysts is a full-service program evaluation firm dedicated to helping health initiatives succeed with effective data-centric solutions. PDA’s old site was designed in 2007—they needed a responsive site that represented the look of their new logo and branding.
Based on feedback from PDA, I tailored a plan that didn’t delve too deep into user research but was still founded on a user-centered design. Over a six-month process, we developed a content strategy that met the company’s objectives and focused on their users’ needs. We came up with a colorful, approachable site designed to fit PDA's updated brand identity—and that looks good on any size device.
"Carrie spent ample time getting to know us and our needs before jumping in. She was responsive to our needs and expectations, but also able to clearly communicate when she didn't agree with our ideas based on her experience as a web designer. Carrie also has a great eye on design. This was such a wonderful collaboration. We’re all so, so, so happy with the finished website—she did a fantastic job."
—Harlan Luxenberg, CEO
“It was a pleasure working with Carrie to redesign our company website. She guided me through every step of the process, making it fun and easy. Carrie taught me so much about SEO, writing for the web, elements of a strong website, and more. She created a visually appealing, responsive website that we can be proud of. I hope to work with Carrie again on future design projects!”
—Kelly Laurel, Operations Manager
We wanted PDA’s authenticity and approachability to shine on their new site, so I encouraged them to use real photos of their teams in action instead of stock photos. I provided direction and mood boards for their photographer to ensure we ended up with photos for the site that were tasteful and usable. I adhered to the principles of accessible design across the entire site and went with a duotone design on hero images so headings and subheads are legible.
To help prospective clients feel confident in PDA’s work, we designed the consulting service area pages to automatically pull in related staff and work highlights tagged under those service areas. The work highlights are also organized by service areas.
We incorporated both collapsible accordion boxes and flip cards to allow visitors who wanted more information learn more without leaving the page. These features enabled us to provide a lot of information without making the page feel too dense or text heavy. On mobile, the accordion boxes still function the same but the flip cards have all of the information.
As with all sites I build for clients, PDA can easily edit content and add or remove pages on their own. (Having worked much of my career for non-profits, sustainability is important to me. I make sure my clients aren’t dependent on me to maintain beautiful, usable sites.)
Activities + Deliverables
Have a website you need help with?
Peace Coffee is an amazing fair trade, organic coffee roaster based in Minneapolis. Since 2016 I've enjoyed working with them on various content strategy and user experience (ux) design activities to make improvements to their existing site and prepare for a new website in 2019.
By spring of 2018, we’d worked our way through the following ux and content strategy activities:
We learned last summer our web redesign timeline was dramatically shortened when the company decided to move from Salesforce to Netsuite in time for the 2018 holiday season. Our web team needed to design and build a new website on a new platform—Wordpress + Woo Commerce—in just a few months.
The homepage and a sample product page from Peace Coffee's old website
"Carrie kept our team productive and focused during our expedited timeline for the new site. She added huge expertise every step of the way. She is flexible and capable of playing many roles from project manager, content strategist, UX developer and designer, team cheerleader, basically whatever we needed from her she found a way to help us add value to our new website. The results speak for themselves and are a testament to her incredible work ethic and skills!"
—Melanee Meegan, Director of Marketing
Peace's website was built in 2011 on a now-obsolete platform that didn’t offer many of the eCommerce features that are considered standard these days. The design was dated and not as responsive as we would’ve liked.
Because we had to move quickly, I pared down the content strategy and ux design activities to the bare minimum. We swiftly worked our way through the following:
Sketches and wireframe samples - click to enlarge
The new website launched December 1st and is a drastic improvement over the previous site. While not enough time has passed to draw strong conclusions from Analytics, the new site is already outperforming the old site. Here are a few results from the first two months compared to the same period the previous year:
The homepage and a sample product page on Peace's new website - click to enlarge
Not only do I encourage you to peruse their website to check out the new and improved design but you should also order some of their coffee. It's the best!
Have a website you need help with?
Marcy Porus-Gottlieb is an Executive Coach based in Seattle. Last year she decided to update her website with a fresh design and new content to reflect the new direction of her coaching services.
Since launching the new site in October 2017, traffic has surged and visitors are more engaged—unique visitors and pageviews have nearly tripled. Furthermore, search traffic has doubled so Marcy’s site is ranking higher, thus increasing her reach with prospective clients.
"Carrie’s expertise and guidance in creating my new website were invaluable. The combination of her web and design expertise, her business savvy and her cheerful demeanor—made her an absolute delight to work with. I’m enjoying and benefiting from the increased traffic to my site, but take most pleasure in the positive comments I’m receiving, 'your site is not only beautiful but really expresses who you are and what you do.' Carrie has been a marvelous partner and I look forward to engaging her again in the future."
Marcy’s website was outdated—both design- and content-wise. It felt text heavy and lacked clear calls to action. While Marcy is an excellent writer, her writing wasn’t optimized for the web.
When we first met, Marcy was ready to dive straight into design—the fun stuff! I helped Marcy realize that to build a strong website and optimal user experience, we first needed to focus on user research to define and understand her target audience, perform multiple activities to ensure all written content satisfied their needs, and then get to design.
To cut down on project costs, I coached Marcy through some activities that she could do on her own. We created an online survey to get feedback from current clients. A competitive analysis of four websites offered design and content inspiration and guidance for the new site's information architecture. Marcy rewrote most copy that experience multiple rounds of edits and I edited her blog posts to optimize them for web consumption.
I refreshed Marcy’s logo and created a new style guide reflecting the logo’s new font and design. Once the website was ready to launch, I set Marcy up with a Mailchimp account, created templates to easily send emails and taught her how to use the platform. Lastly, I guided Marcy through setting up a Google Business page to improve her search ranking.
Activities + Deliverables
Interested in updating your own website?