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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Tailoring your web design process to site visitors’ needs

An analysis of the visitor statistics during a recent web project showed that a large number of visitors were visiting the site using medium-small devices with 1024px x 768px screens. This corresponds to an iPad held in horizontal format.

But further research into the statistics showed that a large proportion of the visitors with this screen size were using Google’s Chrome web browser in the Windows 7 operating system. That corresponds to a small notebook-type laptop.

For work projects, designs are usually planned for common device sizes: smartphone, tablet, desktop and occasionally laptop. But in this project, we could see that it was necessary to specifically target a specific medium-small resolution, as that would be the version seen by the most users.

Was the header area compact enough to reduce scrolling as much as possible? Were the icons large enough and the interactive elements planned ideally for use at this size? Could we target the site at this resolution for touch screens? (No. An interface has to work with any input device – touch interface or mouse – regardless of the screen size.)

It’s important to talk to clients about their intended audience right from the start of the planning process. During the kick-off meeting, before opening Sketch to start working on visual design, find out what the user base is like for an existing site which you’re redesigning. Whether Google Analytics, Piwiks, or another reporting system, take a look at the visitor counts and details from the last 12 months. Is there a particular trend amongst them?

This doesn’t mean that you have to dismiss the needs of other visitors, of course. Just start with the needs of the majority, then work on alternatives for other visitors with larger or smaller devices. Tailor the design for each expected target audience with their needs and interactive methods in mind.

Did you know that 52% of the internet-browsing public uses mobile devices these days? If you’re still expecting to design projects with the desktop user in mind, then you need to start revising your planning and design processes. By doing so, you’ll meet the needs of the site visitors more accurately, whilst allowing the developers to build your projects more quickly and more efficiently.