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Website Design

Fear the Franken-Site

This post has been updated:

We’ve recently come across another variation of the Franken-site, one that can rear it’s ugly head even BEFORE you go live. It’s the one that results from design asphyxia – a design choked by too many changes, from too many “designers”, for much too long. Because site design is one of the most tangible elements of a website project, feedback can and usually does come from anywhere – family, friends, other teams, senior leadership, etc. These are typically groups that did not participate in the project from the beginning, that don’t have a clear understanding of the overall site objectives. This feedback can slow design to a halt and pervert the end result before a single line of code is written.

So what are you do to?

Our best recommendation is to go back to the website mission and strategy. What is the purpose of the site? What are you communicating? Who are you communicating to? What do you want them to do? If the feedback doesn’t support these statements, gently push back. Returning to the strategy is usually enough to get agreement and keep the project moving forward. Then, once your site goes live, use the analytics to drive future design and usability enhancements.

Please enjoy the original post from Nov 1, 2010

Written by Jay Ferrari

Our brains are cloudy from too much coffee and leftover candy. (BTW, drop a Reese’s in to the bottom of your mug before the next fill-up. You’ll thank us.) One thought has managed to bubble through, based on some of our recent site-design consultation.

Quite often, when a client wants to kick off their web presence, they come to us before nary a pixel has been positioned. We get to build it from scratch, and that’s fine by us. In other cases, we’re in damage-control mode. Prospective clients have an existing site that has mutated in to an uncontrollable atrocity. It’s been on the slab too long, with dozens of interested parties chiming in on how it’s supposed to look, what it’s supposed to do, and the messages it’s supposed to communicate.

What we have in that case is a first-class Franken-site. Like Mary Shelley’s monster, it consists of somewhat-viable parts that have been stitched together, bolted on, and assembled with a haphazard urgency that makes the result a nightmare of incongruent content and conflicting functionality.

What’s the cure for such a site? Sometimes you can salvage the guts and start a rebuild. Sometimes it’s best to drive a stake through its proverbial heart and let it die.

Check your site. If you have an immediate, easy sense of what you want a visitor to learn, and what actions you want them to perform, you’re probably in good shape. A good test? Get someone who has never seen the site to click over. If they don’t do what you want within about three to five seconds, you might have a site that’s more monster than masterpiece. Might be time to go back to the lab.