Ok, I don't really hate my website but I'm more than ready for a new one.
The current SmallBoxWeb.com is only a little over a year old but I feel that we have already outgrown it.
I don't want to beat it up. It has done a great job of growing our company. It's got a nice clean look, easy to update (thanks to our CMS) and has lots of useful information on our services and work. But it's got problems.
Some people find the site confusing. The big blue box in the middle of the site can cause usability issues. We have too many services and too many portfolio items. The whole thing needs to be streamlined and re-thunk.
I didn't come to this conclusion overnight. It started a few months ago. What triggered it was a closer look at how people are actually using the website. In a way we had built it for ourselves, not really considering how others might use the site. Sure, we thought we were building it with normal people in mind but really we built the site without any real user input.
Lately my eyes have been opened to importance of usability tests. I must give credit to Jonathan Arnold at Tuitive Group for having a hand in this awakening. His company does elegant and highly functional web design based on user testing.
I now have a couple new mantras. "Stop assuming, start knowing" and "Tweak and repeat".
Stop assuming you know what people are doing, what they expect what issues they run into, etc. Start using the metrics that the web provides along with user testing to know what people are doing, what they are looking for, etc.
Once you get something going in the right direction don't stop there. Continually fine tune and tweak. Never stop tweaking your site based on real metrics and user feedback.
So, we are in the middle of planning for our new one. To prepare we are doing user tests on the current site. I feel strongly that a web design company has to be prepared to re-build their site at least every 2 years. Do you have any feedback for us as we work on the new site? Be brutal, be honest, tell us what you really think.
I am planning another post that addresses usability more head on including some links to services we use to do user testing. Stay tuned!