This article originally appeared as a Design and Usability Tactics e-newsletter.
By Jim Kukral
I think more Web designers need to practice what I like to call "thought design." Thought design is the practice of identifying, separating, and displaying your site objectives in a clear and understandable way on your Web site. Thought design enables you to accurately convey the message you want to get across to your customers.
Good thought designers will think like their customers. Imagine what your customer wants or needs to see in order to take action, and then determine if your site delivers. Once you establish where you need to fill in the blanks, you're ready to utilize thought design.
We'll outline the three key steps to applying thought design methods to your Web site design.
Identify your objectives
The first step to practicing good thought design is to identify your objectives. Before you start your design project, list all of the objectives you want to accomplish. Then fine-tune your list, paring it down to as few objectives as possible. (If you attempt to accomplish too much, it usually spells disaster.)
When you have a final copy of your objectives, print out your list and tape it up near your workstation. (Take it from me—seeing your objectives in black and white helps tremendously.)
Separate your objectives
Now you need to decide how to distribute these objectives within your Web site's flow diagram.
Even if you already have a diagram built, you don't have to stick to it. For instance, it may make sense to adjust your diagram to fit these specific objectives, or perhaps someone else built the diagram but didn't practice thought design.
Display your objectives
Display your goals on your home page or landing page. This is imperative because of the small amount of time you have to capture the reader's attention and interest.
It's also usually a good idea to display each of your major objectives in their own category. For example, if your major objectives are to show product features and to get newsletter sign-ups, then you'll probably want your first navigational items to be "Product Features" and "Newsletter Registration." There's no reason to obscure your goals.
By following these three steps, you should be well on your way to a more productive return on investment for your Web site and its customers.
Jim Kukral has spent the last seven years working in the trenches of Web design, development, and usability for Fortune 500 clients as well as mom-and-pop companies.