Web Design & The Cookie Jar: When Dealing with Clients

I saw this YouTube video and I couldn’t help but post about it. Here is the video, and I’ll add my thoughts at the end:

I’ve seen this happen so many times it isn’t even funny. You have a company with dozens of individuals giving their input on how something should be designed. As in the video, the end result is usually the same: a product that doesn’t accomplish it’s goal. This is what I call the “Cookie Jar” effect, when you have too many “hands” in the cookie jar.

The Problem

Each person involved in the situation has their own goals, ideas, and motives. When designing a company website, each person could easily say “I want to make sure my department’s product is on the front page!” The front page is also a huge breeding ground for debate, seeing as how each person wants a piece. However, if you try to cram each goal in, you’re going to get a very confusion result.

One example I like to use is ESPN. Now I don’t think ESPN’s web team is bad, I actually think with all the content they must serve and cover, they do a good job. However, if a regular company’s website looks like this, I don’t care who you are, your website needs help.

Where are my eyes suppose to look? Where am I suppose to go? ESPN’s entire front page is designed around the idea that visitors come very often, and they learn once how to get to their content. Once you “drill down” into the website, its navigation and content doesn’t because as over-bearing.

The Solution

The video hit the problem on the head without, even though most people would miss the concept. The #1 solution to preventing an over complex and useless product is: testing. Notice at the end of the video the people had came back and said after testing they wanted a few more changes? Why were they not testing from the very beginning? The entire message of “STOP” was lost due to conflicting goals and unclear direction. If they had make their original sign, tested, then made some alterations, tested, and continued on that cycle this whole problem would have been avoided.

I can’t stress this enough: if you find yourself or your project caught in continuous cycles of debating about how to do things, start user testing.

A book that I highly recommend is “Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Krug. It talks about these principles and gives great examples. Hopefully next time you get in this situation it won’t be as big of a headache.

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