A building under construction for all to see is a work in progress. This is rarely the case with corporate websites.
Often conceived in back rooms and built by teams of design and marketing professionals, small business websites tend to be built less for target visitors than for executives at the companies that run them.
They are the best guess of what your target visitors want based on the opinions of people who haven’t met many of them.
His approach allows anyone interested to juxtapose the old with the new, see the thinking behind the redesign, and give their feedback.
It’s a tactic more businesses should be using.
Out with the old
The IS ADA.gov The site is the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s most accessed website, with approximately 3.5 million annual visitors and 8 million page views. Launched in 1999, it has been redesigned only once, and it shows.
Stretching across a positively mobile-hostile multi-column grid crammed into a space optimized for a 640X480 screen, the ADA.gov format is just one of its problems.
The content and navigation elements appear to be aimed at compliance officers and litigants. That’s because they are.
The IS new ADA.gov site, which is still in beta testing, targets people with disabilities rather than bureaucrats. The home page clearly states at the top what the ADA is and who the site is for.
Images are people, not documents.
In reimagining the site, Nava applied some of the lessons she learned rescuing from the government’s Healthcare.gov site disastrous 2013 launch and other projects he has completed. One of them is redesigning the US Department of Veteran’s Medical Centers portal, a project that reduced the amount of written content by 87%.
A key principle was to start with the target group and work backwards from there.
Simplify and humanize
The talk style of the new site does not mean that the technical content has disappeared.
Instead, it’s been moved from the home page to a dedicated section that bureaucrats and lawyers can love.
On the current site, “technical assistance resources are organized, so you need years of experience to get what you need,” says Chinelo Ikejimba, Navarre’s senior designer/researcher. “Now everything is on one page, and visitors can use tags and filters to find what they want.”
Modern web constructions help with readability.
“Plus” and “minus” buttons selectively expand and collapse content to reduce scrolling and halve the page length compared to the corresponding information on the current location.
Responsive design puts all the content in one column, and headline tags show the content to search engines.
Talk like people do
However, look and feel are only part of the equation.
“When people come to a website like this, they don’t want to be happy,” says Chief Delivery Officer Jodi Leo. “We want to help them focus on the task at hand, and that means using simple language.”
For the ADA project, that meant writing to an eighth grade reading level, which isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
Many software products help optimize readability, and a good human editor helps with tone, so the result is “empathetic but not intrusive, accessible without being condescending,” says Ikejimba.
There is also GSA a site dedicated to ordinary language launched by a group of federal employees.
Iconography helps. “Instead of a whole article on service animals, can we use icons and simplified language like ‘a service animal can go here but not here,'” she says.
The project was aided by announcements such as the Biden Administration’s Executive Order and Changing the Federal Customer Experience and its mandate to “design and deliver services in a way that people of all abilities can navigate.”
Still, there are always skeptics who cling to the technical jargon they love.
Nava’s approach is to “try to get them to buy in earlier,” says Leo. “We’re sharing research on how people’s understanding has improved. When they see the difficulty people had using the old site, things become more collaborative.”
Test and test again
It comes down to testing and lots of it.
For the VA site redesign, Nava conducted over 75 moderated and 200 unmoderated sessions with people whose profiles matched the target audience of employees, advocates and government employees.
They were asked to perform routine tasks such as finding information about a topic or scheduling an appointment. And to talk through the process as they went. The process uses quote test to determine whether readers see the intended message.
Other useful metrics include referring pages, visitor paths, and search engine queries.
If terms are frequently searched for, for example, you may deserve a menu or page entry.
There is a tiny clickable box at the bottom of every page that simply asks, “How can we improve this site?”
New feedback comes in from that source daily, totaling about 1,000 suggestions on the ADA.gov beta site alone.
Such contextual feedback, says Ikejimba, “is very effective because it helps us identify what the pain points are.”
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Thinking of a website redesign? Why not do it in public?
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