Take the 2-minute tour ×
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have been hired to redesign an auction website (which I cannot disclose), the usability, design, even the code beauty is pretty disastrous. The trouble is, the site is already active and my client wants me to gradually fix parts of it piece-by-piece (I'd much prefer to just start over).

Imagine a website whose user experience employs just about every mistake you can make in a UI, what would be the first, most important elements of the UI that should be fixed first?

For example, I'm thinking the registration form might be up there as it is very long, the labels are poorly aligned, no third party registration, etc.

share|improve this question

5 Answers 5

A poor codebase doesn't prohibit a team from making incremental improvements over time, but it's important that clients understand that doing so is usually the most inefficient way to go about doing things. The longer you leave the bad foundation in, the more complicated things get as updates are compounded.

It's like remodeling the bathroom. You could pull down the sheetrock, update the plumbing, then put it all back. Then come back later and pull down the sheetrock, update the electrical, then put it all back. Only to realize the floor joists are sagging and now the wall needs to be reframed.

I think you know that already, but it's worth repeating.

So, what does that leave you? Well, after communicating this to the client, I'd make a really long laundry list of things that could be improved. For each one, decide on how big of a benefit it is to the user/business and decide how much effort/money it will take. You'll end up with a matrix like this:

         Easy to implement                           Hard to implement
                                        |
                                        |
Greatly                                 |
Improves UX                             |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
Somewhat                                |
Improves UX                             |

Everything that gets plotted into the upper left quadrant is the first round of work. This is the 'most bang for your buck' list of things to do.

After than, the lower left and upper right items can be analyzed to see if they warrant the effort at this time. Anything in the lower right is likely best left for if/when the system gets rewritten.

Footnote: There's other ways to plot the tasks, too. Another variation that adds a 3rd 'axis' is:

         Easy to implement                           Hard to implement
                                        |
                                        |
$                                       |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
                                        |
$$$$$                                   |

And then use a different indicator for how much of a benefit it is to the user (size or color of plot points).

share|improve this answer

Besides some of the other things that can fixed in the short term or cherry picked as mentioned in other answers, here's what I would do:

  1. Identify audience and start creating personas based on those characteristics
  2. Identify business objectives and prioritize them - for example, converting users on the aforementioned registration page.
  3. Start documenting issues and problems that users are having - start random sampling, create an easy method for providing feedback on the website, and get surveying in place. Open the lines of communication with the end user.
  4. As you can, assess the feedback you're getting, and work with it to meet the business objectives.
  5. Start making adjustments and testing them out internally, then externally. You can then get metrics on the small tweaks you're making.
  6. Get involved in the software lifecycle so you can get out of the small-change mindset and bring UX into the team's lexicon - this will allow you to make the larger changes that you want in the future. Get them thinking about the user (keeping the user in the room).

I think you have a challenge in front of you in proving the importance of the user, so having feedback and the ability to say "your users are looking for this" is really important. You can tie that in with the business objectives to really get this in gear efficently (in my opinion).

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the excellent advice, melee. –  ajkochanowicz Aug 12 '11 at 15:00

Don't build another storey if the foundations can't take it.

To fix the foundations:

  • First impressions count
  • Reduce complexity
  • Get smart & don't make the users think
  • Remove areas of least value (even if temporarily)
  • Address slowness - make things seem faster
  • Provide feedback

Above all, make no assumptions about what works, and don't ignore what looks simple - if something looks simple but doesn't work, it might just be the weakest link - and the easiest to fix!

share|improve this answer
    
This is great. Thanks, Roger. –  ajkochanowicz Aug 11 '11 at 18:57

We often look for the "biggest impact for the least effort" as the place to start our work. For instance, you've probably heard about the $300 Million Button, proving that a little change can go a long way. If you can make some small improvements that have a large impact on customer retention and/or the bottom line, it also gives you a ton of credibility to move forward with larger projects.

After the "easy" fixes, the next things that I would attack would be those that are actively detrimental to your users' experience. For instance, if you make it difficult to complete registration (as you mention), or if the purchase flow is confusing, these would be my top priorities.

Only once you have those things sorted out would I move on to enhancements, like social sign-on, additional notification options, etc.

share|improve this answer
    
'biggest impact for the least effort' That's an excellent way to sum it up. Thank you! –  ajkochanowicz Aug 11 '11 at 14:21

Start with things that impact the company's profitability or can be measured (increase in registrations, etc). Choose things that have the highest impact to your client first.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks, Jessica. –  ajkochanowicz Aug 11 '11 at 18:57

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.