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Icon or Spacer Macromedia Website Production Management Techniques Phase 1: Discover
Understanding Your Audience

Targeting your audience and understanding their motivations and goals is helps to create a positive user experience. A website's content and functionality should support the needs of its audience. A website should be a clear and effective way for a typical user coming to the site to meet their goals. Gathering general demographics is the first step. Identifying the characteristics of your primary and secondary audience base will help to create a targeted interface and determine how you will structure your content, messaging, and design. The more detail and depth you can provide will help to create a mental picture of the user—and will help the team to think like a user, and not a developer.

 

Creating User Profiles

Who's coming to your site? Why are they coming? And what do they hope to achieve once they get there? As your client fills out the client survey, you'll find that many questions address the specifics of the intended audience. Demographics—a listing of specific information about your target audience—are important, and should be gathered by interviewing the client. However, demographics tell only part of the story. Through interviews with both the client and users of the existing site, you can begin to create detailed profiles of targeted users. A user profile describes a particular type of user you are targeting to use the redesigned site. By creating a collection of such profiles, you can begin to "humanize" the demographic data and craft personalized stories that clearly define your design goals to the client. Additionally, user profiles can aid your designers throughout the creative process by breaking down the demographic data into information they can easily relate to. Each user profile should include the following information:

· Age range
· Gender
· Occupation
· Salary range
· Online experience (newbie, experienced, very savvy)
· Online frequency (how many hours per day? per week? per month?
· Online location & activities (at work or at home? what do you do at work versus at home?)
· Connectivity (modem, DSL, ISDN, T1)
· Types of sites visited
· Online purchases per month

General and Specific User Profiles
User profiles can be generic or specific, depending on the type of information you're able to collect, and the amount of time you're able to allocate to creating the profiles. General information includes such basic demographic information as user age, occupation, salary range, online experience, and connection speeds. A general profile gives you an idea of the type of person you are targeting. In contrast, gathering specific information will help you create actual profiles of typical users. The more specific you can be—who they are, what they do for a living, what their environment is like, what they do in their spare time—the more targeted your site design, navigation, and content will be.

General Sample User Profile:
Typical user is a male/female between 25-40 years old; highly educated, very computer savvy. Goes online daily, with high-speed connections at work and at home. Conducts research, purchases online at least once a month, PC-based, 4.0 browsers and above. Is an avid reader, reading between 1-3 books per week (both fiction and non-fiction). Favorite sites include Amazon and Half.com.

Specific Sample User Profile:
Liz is a 34-year-old professor with a Ph.D, balancing a life of teaching and motherhood. At school, she has a PC with a T1 connection and is online (when not teaching) doing research and writing reports several hours a day. She's an active online user and very used to purchasing, conducting detailed searches, and researching online. At home, she's on a 56k modem (DSL is still not available in her neighborhood.) After preparing dinner and getting her two daughters (ages 2 and 4) off to bed, she has a few hours to enjoy a bit of personal time online. She's an avid reader and often searches for books and music at online stores such as Half.com and Amazon.com for personal items and gifts.

 

Detailed Sample User Profile
Paige and, her dog, Ruthie

Paige McCormick is an elementary art teacher, artist, and girls' Little League track coach in Portland, Oregon. She's 35 years old and lives in northwest Portland near Forest Park with her dog Ruth Ann (Ruthie), who's a year and a half old.

Paige owns her house and spends a great deal of time fixing it up and gardening. She leads a very busy and active lifestyle. When not working, Paige spends her time outdoors running, mountain-biking, and playing with Ruthie.

Paige is an enthusiastic dog-owner and goes out of her way to provide for her dog. She's given up on stuffed animal toys—they're so cute, but Ruthie guts them immediately and eats the fiberfill. Paige studies dog behavior and training techniques as a hobby. She enjoys living near Forest Park, especially since it's an excellent place for Ruthie to romp and chase squirrels.

Paige has a 56k modem but is thinking about upgrading to DSL service soon. She uses a Mac G3 and considers herself very computer-savvy. She does a significant amount of her shopping online, which she finds saves her a great deal of time, although sometimes the shipping is a deterrent. She does appreciates the automatic monthly deliveries of dog food that she orders online.

Paige loves smaller pet shops that specialize in items that appeal to her aesthetics and dislikes large warehouse-style pet stores such as PetClub, although she admits they do provide necessities at a reasonable price.

 

Creating User-Scenarios

Understanding the user—their demographic information, goals, and habits—is a key part of developing user profiles. To take the process a step further, we need to identify the actual situations or scenarios a targeted user might experience in a typical day as he or she attempts to achieve different goals on the site. The user profile describes the user, while the user scenario describes how that user interacts with the site.

Put yourself once again in the user's shoes and think of the actual online and offline circumstances surrounding the user and the task. Creating various scenarios within the site should take you through several tasks, and lead the user down different paths. Perhaps in one situation the user wants to buy a CD-ROM online for a gift. Perhaps another user wants to browse through new artists to determine if he wants to download a sample clip. Whatever the situation, it's important to think about the user, the task, and the situation together in order to truly gauge the optimal path for the user to follow.

General Sample User Scenario:
Kathleen is a busy executive who hasn't had a vacation in three years. She's online daily, accessing a T1 line from work and a DSL line from home. She searches online for "adventure travel" after deciding that she needs a break and would like to go somewhere active, adventurous, and fun. She's heard there are excellent rafting trips offered in Costa Rica. After browsing a few sites to determine which might be a good fit, she selects Away.com and begins to explore, search, and gather information. She searches for "Costa Rica," and is provided with several activity choices, from horseback riding to rafting. She narrows her search to rafting and is given a list of a dozen or so to choose from, based on trip duration and activity level. She calls the site's posted 800 number and is able to speak to a live customer service representative who can see that she is on the Costa Rica page, which impresses Kathleen greatly. Mixing online offerings (ticketing, booking, airfare) with offline offerings (customer service, phone numbers, etc.) is helpful and convenient for a busy executive like Kathleen, and add to her overall user experience.

Examples need not be complex—they should just be "real." Even a conversation or two about a typical user and his needs and experiences with a site is valuable for the team to assist in creating the ultimate user experience.

 

Detailed Sample User Scenario
Paige and, her dog, Ruthie

Paige spoils her dog, Ruthie, senseless. Being a devoted dog owner, she's well-versed in online pet stores. Her current favorite is Petco.com, who deliver all Ruthie's dog food—and a lovely selection of rawhide chews—monthly.

Since Ruthie has pretty much managed to neurotically gnaw and dig her current cushion into small, barely identifiable bits of canvas and fluff, today Paige has decided to buy Ruthie a fresh new bed.

She starts her shopping by going to Petco.com. She then selects the Dog area under the header "Go Shopping" by clicking the happy panting dog icon. Once in the Dog Shopping area, she uses the expanding tree menu system to navigate her way into the "Cuddler Beds" category. After examining a selection of five or six beds, she clicks the Product Options button for the "Bed Buddies Lounger" bed in blue.

Here she notes that the cover is stain-resistant and machine-washable and that it has a comfy faux sheepskin lining. Paige thinks that Ruthie will like that (and is amused by "Bed Buddies" nomenclature) and clicks the Add to Cart button.

She's now prompted to login or register as a new customer. As a regular site user, she logs in with her e-mail address and password. She then reviews her billing and shipping information, followed by her saved credit card information. Satisfied that all is in order, she clicks the Place Order Online button and completes her order.



Discover Summary

The value of the discovery phase is in allowing the development team to get the inside track on the client's industry, audience, and competition. Seeing the competition from an objective standpoint allows the developer to see what works—and what doesn't work—firsthand. When the discovery process is complete, your team should have a clear picture of the target audience(s), their motivations, and the competitive landscape—what other companies are doing that's successful and why. Budget or no budget, it's important to conduct some sort of initial research. For teams requiring additional information regarding functionality, feature, and other in-depth information, it's important to know that this is just the beginning of the discovery process. The information you've gathered will enable your team to focus on the site from the user perspective instead of from the developer point of view. Allow the team to conduct research as their expertise and comfort-level allow, while the project manager creates the project plan that's outlined in the next section: Define.

 

 Discover
Overview
Analyzing Your Industry
Understanding Your Audience
 Define
Overview
Goals and Objectives
Creating a Project Plan
Establishing Requirements
Housekeeping
 Structure
Overview
Content
Site View
Screen View
User View
Design and Prototype
 Build and Test
Overview
Pre-Production
Building
Testing
Launch
Evaluate and Maintain
Resources
Online Forums