Balancing the website design between business objectives and user experience

Do you know if your website is aligned with the business objectives of the organization and still meets the needs of the user experience (UX)? In other words, does your website sustain the authentic needs of the users while still serving the needs of the bona fide business model? A balance between the two can be a struggle at times; the ebb and flow of meeting your customers needs and maintaining the business goals can be a challenging affair. Web governance, execution, strategy, measurement, user experience, and funding all play a part in creating a happy marriage of business objectives and user experiences.

In a recent article on Fast Company by Jeff Cram, “Why Are Colleges Flunking Web Strategy 101?” he delves into the important issues of getting governance right when investing in the digital execution, user experience, and funding that should align with the organizations web strategy. Typically it comes down to an IT budget that is underfunded, understaffed, and undervalued and becomes an afterthought for online experiences. Jeff uses the simple Venn diagram below (Figure A, provided by the popular website) to illustrate his contention that typically the only thing that most college’s current websites have on them that people expect to find is the full name of the school. A great divide exists between what users want to find and what they expect to find.

Figure A

This comic from, “How A Web Design Goes Straight To Hell” (Figure B, a screenshot of the final panel), illustrates perfectly how a company executive can influence a website revamp from the initial development through to the final phases, resulting in an even worse design than the one that was being made over. The author shares notations and references to actual events and circumstances that took place with clients who wanted web design makeovers.

Figure B

Consequently, at what point does the business objective of the organization surpass the user’s needs? Executives know that a website which does nothing to create income might as well not have been launched in the first place. Combining great UX for the website visitors while still contributing to the return on investment for the organization strikes the perfect balance. But how do you please both the users and meet the expectations of business executives?

Web governance

Being the agent of change means an uphill battle if the business objectives don’t match with the website or if the UX does not meet the customer needs. Web governance is a term that encompasses all the components that create a road map for the successful implementation of the web design: strategy, oversight, execution, and measurement.

Web strategy means the business has taken the time to decipher the management objectives and organizational goals, and from that, create a set of guidelines and principles to follow. Formulating an authority for executing the plan is the next step.

A Web Council can be organized as part of the web execution team, a workgroup of sorts, which consists of anyone who touches the website within the organization. Along with a central steering committee, the web council oversees all aspects of the web presence, cutting across organizational boundaries to support a strategic and far-reaching approach to developing and maintaining the website. The web council might not be able to do it all alone, but the council can be a vehicle for collaboration between all facets and departments within the organization.

Web execution typically involves selecting the right team that has the authority to effectively implement the web strategy. The “team” should consist of members from various disciplines within and outside of the organization including at least one representative from groups such as top-level executive, marketing, IT, human resources, product management, program management, and web design. There is no one-size-fits-all approach; each organization has their own set of challenges, and this is where the process becomes more of an art than a science.

Web metrics and measurement characteristically incorporate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which help you keep score on how well the web site is functioning by measuring things like average page views per session or percentage of new visitors. Critical success factors (CSF) are another way to gauge success; for example, a goal to increase sales by 5% in the next month or grow the number of subscribers to the company blog by 10%. Using KPIs in conjunction with the CSFs results in web analytics that can actually tell you how well your website is delivering on both business objectives and user experience.

Getting the balance right

Balancing the organizations goals and purpose with the customer in mind takes more than building the best looking, fully-featured website. Web developers have to take into account what is good for both the organization and its users. User experience design as integrated into software and web application development is an aid in finding feature requirements and interaction plans based upon the organization’s goals and objectives.

Have you faced a situation in which designing for the client and the client’s users seemed mutually exclusive? How did you handle it?