Bottom-Up Web Redesign

The description for this talk read:

Web site redesign used to be a chore, but no longer! By using a process that combines evidence-based design, user-driven planning, and extensive user testing, you can create a site that practically designs itself. Wisnewski will map out how a bottom-up design process is both easier, as well as more effective, at producing an attractive and functional Web site that meets user needs.

Sounds promising doesn’t it?? Well if you’re in a public or academic library it probably is – but I’m not so sure how these techniques will work in an environment where time is money for our patrons. Jeff Wisnewski was a great speaker and fun to listen to. He started by defining bottom-up web design for us. Usually when it comes time to redesign a page we start at the top and list the things we want. Jeff says we should start with the users and work our way up to what we think we want.

Some hallmarks of Bottom-Up Design are:

It is evidence based

Using tools like, Library Terms That Users Understand, and Yahoo! Pattern Library we can see evidence that certain web designs work and others don’t. The example Jeff used was that drop down menus are not the best design technique and that left menus are better than right. Why should we spend time answering silly questions like “where should the menu be” when they have already been tested and answered? Jeff also reminds us to ask users what they think things should be named – there is no reason for librarians to debate whether it should be called “research” or “reference” because it’s likely the user doesn’t understand either of those terms.

It is user driven

We have to include the users all throughout the process, not just when it comes time for testing. Keep data logs to see what tasks people are completing on your site and how they’re going about doing them. Use affinity mapping to let your users organize the site the way that makes sense to them – trust me it won’t be the same way you think the site should be designed. Ask users questions like “If you could design the site – what would it look like?” Let them draw out a sketch or just talk through it with you.

It is highly credible

How willing are people to trust your site? Jeff includes some results from a report (I didn’t note with one) that lists the impact certain factors have on credibility when people look at a site. The first was Design/Look with 46% saying it was the most important.


As I said before, it’s not quite as easy to get people to stop and talk to you about your website when they have to bill that time to someone, but I’m hoping that we can put some of these practices into play because it sounds like such an obvious (and less painful) way to redesign a site.

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