Goal Oriented Approach to Development

Keeping a goal focused approach to development can keep projects on track, weed out frivilous bells and whistles and maximize ROI all while keeping your developers happy.

I’ve been involved with web development since 2003 and one of the biggest obstacles that I consistently run into is having to convert a client’s request into a development strategy. This can be a daunting task since many of the requests come disguised as buzz topic fresh from the blogosphere; Things like RSS, AJAX, Web 2.0, Mobile Ready or Responsive Design to name a few.

The problem isn’t those technologies; in fact all of them listed above are important under proper circumstances. The problem is implementing solutions that don’t contribute to the goal. Let’s look at an example.

Joe’s shoe store wants to sell shoes online. Joe had a website built for him and the developer created a system for Joe to post his shoe inventory, upload images, post things like description, price, technical details and all the information about the shoes. The site has drop down menus, search boxes, a beautiful slide show on the home page and everything you could want to make the site fresh and up to date.

The site launches and Joe does a big advertising push. The site gets some traction on launch but as his advertising diminishes so does his sales. He is getting virtually no online sales and he doesn’t know what is the matter. When Joe looks at his sales and traffic he makes a great conversion on his featured items, but outside of that – nothing. This is a serious problem. Joe has thousands of inventory and just selling the featured shoes isn’t going to work.

Joe does some searching online and everything he finds suggests to integrate social media; things like Pinterest, Facebook or to install a responsive layout so that users can purchase items on their mobile devices. Joe educates himself the best he can and calls up his developer

Before long, Joe’s simple website has turned into a project that never ends – he’s got widgets and RSS, and web 2.0 AJAX running out of his ears, and all of these solutions have made little to no impact on his sales. What could be his problem?

His problem was a simple linking and navigation issue – by relying on his integrated search feature no one knew what to search for – In Joe’s situation customers rely on browsing to make purchases. Unfortunately Joe’s website didn’t have many strong browsing features – sure it had the featured items (which sold well) but aside from that users had a tough time finding anything. He had a site map – but the link for that was at the bottom of the page. All Joe really needed was a way of allowing users to view his products through categories, shoe type or sales. Information Architecture which didn’t allow a user to browse was the issue – simple as that.

Many times designers want to hide features as it makes for a cleaner design – however this can hinder user experience. Be aware of how design choices impact usability and even more how those choices can impact the goals of the site. It is always a good idea to examine proposed solutions or features and ask how does this truly help us accomplish our goals. If that goal doesn’t significantly contribute then it may not be worth the time and effort.

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