Customer-Centered Web Design: More Than a Good Idea | 5 | WebReference

Customer-Centered Web Design: More Than a Good Idea | 5


Customer-Centered Web Design: More Than a Good Idea

Applying Customer-Centered Design

Over time we have evaluated the best practices to use when designing powerful, compelling, and useful interactive Web sites. We realize that designers need concepts that they can quickly integrate into their Web site design practices, as well as a process that can be applied universally, from entertainment sites to e-commerce sites, from sites for informal clubs to sites for large corporations. Our experiences, research, and discussions with other Web designers have helped us refine our ideas on customer-centered design into three parts: principles, processes, and patterns.


Principles are high-level concepts that guide the entire design process and help you stay focused. For example, as we state in one of our key principles, you must acquire a deep understanding of your customers' needs. Another major principle is to design your Web site iteratively, moving from rough cuts to refined prototypes, before creating the production Web site. These principles—described in Chapters 3 (Knowing Your Customers: Principles and Techniques) and 4 (Involving Customers with Iterative Design)—can be applied to any design problem and are the foundation for the patterns that we describe in the second half of the book.


Processes are how you put the principles into practice. In Chapter 5 (Processes for Developing Customer-Centered Sites), we describe our Web site development process, providing a guide that explains the major steps and milestones for developing a Web site. We also provide a collection of how-to tips, such as how to conduct a focus group, how to run a survey, and how to conduct a usability test (most of these tips are included in the appendixes). If your firm has similar processes, use Chapter 5 to update your process so that the key principles of customer-centered design are supported.


Design patterns solve recurring design problems, so you can use pattern solutions to design your sites without reinventing the wheel. Patterns are a language, a common vocabulary that allows you and your team to articulate an infinite variety of Web designs.

These patterns let you focus your energies on solving new problems, rather than addressing problems that have been worked out hundreds of times before. But design patterns do not make cookie-cutter sites—far from it. Because no two businesses are the same, we created the design patterns for you to tailor to your particular business needs. This book shows you how to create an overall solution that works for your customers and your business.

Using the Principles, Processes, and Patterns

Design is about making informed trade-offs between competing constraints. Customer-centered design tries to make these trade-offs clearer, but only you can solve the problems. The principles help you decide between different process activities at a particular stage of your project. For example, in evaluating whether to iterate on a paper design one more time or to build a high-fidelity version of the design, you might decide to stick with paper because you can easily bring in potential customers to evaluate the design.

You can also use the principles to help you decide among the different design solutions that you developed using the patterns. Say, for example, that you're not sure whether your branding is prominent enough during checkout on your site. You could use online surveys, a common tool of market researchers, to quickly see what potential customers think.

Take-away Ideas

Your opportunities on the Web are vast, but so are the difficulties of delivering a site that customers will give high marks for content, ease of use, performance, trustworthiness (as well as other indicators of brand value), and overall satisfaction. These problems are not insurmountable if you solve them with the set of principles, processes, and patterns that we describe in this book.

In the rest of this book you will find more reasons to implement customer-centered design, descriptions of techniques to use in your current projects, and over a hundred design patterns proven to enhance your customers' experience. Guidelines for instituting customer-centered design will help you through the process.

This book is meant as the first step in an ongoing conversation to improve the Web. We have not identified all of the useful Web design patterns. New patterns will be found, and the patterns we describe here will evolve as new techniques are invented and customer knowledge and skills change. In fact, this second edition of the book adds 17 new patterns and includes major revisions to 25 of the existing patterns. We encourage you to join in the conversation and keep moving the Web toward the new, raised bar for success.

This chapter is excerpted from the book titled, The Design of Sites, Second Edition: Patterns for Creating Winning Web Sites, authored by Douglas K. van Duyne, James A. Landay, and Jason I. Hong. © Copyright 2007 Douglas K. van Duyne, James A. Landay, and Jason I. Hong, published by Prentice Hall Professional, December, 2006. ISBN 0131345559.