Hi, I’m Mark Huesman and I’ve let crappy web sites happen. I knew it was wrong when we were doing it, but it felt so good to get it done so fast. I’m not proud of it and I’m looking for redemption; redemption from my clients, redemption from their user experience and redemption from myself.

OK, that might be a little extreme, but the core message is true; it’s happened to all of us at one time or another where we’ve allowed ourselves to get too busy and cut corners. Much like we complain that educators in our field lose their edge, those of us actively engaged in our respective fields can get stuck in our ways and resistant to try new things. I’m looking to remedy the problem by re-educating myself in my own practice.

I recently found a book that explains all the things we’ve attempted to do with client sites in the past summed up in a little over 900 pages (not a web sites for dummies book). One of the main points within the first chapter is developing Customer-Centered Design. Sounds simple enough – here’s their definition:

Customer-Centered Design: This design practice increases the value of Web sites through better design and evaluation. It is about how you empathize with customers – how well you understand their needs, the tools and technologies they use, and their social and organizational context. It is about how you use this understanding to shape your designs and then test those designs to ensure that the customer’s needs are met.

The Design of Sites. 2nd Edition. Prentice Hall Van Duye, Landay, Hong

Ok, sounds idealistic, but what does it mean?

From my point of view: Designers and Account Managers have to immerse themselves into their clients’ products and services, all the way down to how their product delivery systems work, if need be. They need to gain perspective on their clients from an insider’s view, but more importantly they also need to gather data from new and existing customers in order to make informed decisions about marketing solutions. Gathering this information at the beginning of a major project or campaign can not only open up a conversation between you (marketing/web agency) and them – it can also educate your clients in customer-centered practices and marketing techniques – building trust levels and overall strength in your relationship.

Doing all this work at the beginning of the project may seem like a lot, but doing this kind of research and planning ahead of time means less work further into the project when even the smallest change of mind can throw a monkey wrench into the system.

Crappy web sites happen and will continue to happen, but hopefully not on my watch. I pledge going forward to do my best to prevent embarrassing web site development behavior and promise not to lapse into old habits.