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1.2 The User Attention Point Exercise

This approach is something I call “The User Attention Point Exercise”. I’ll teach you how to work with clients, coaching them into understanding their users’ priorities, as opposed to their own. Let’s get started!

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1.How to Get Homepage Design Approval
2 lessons, 09:29


The User Attention Point Exercise

1.2 The User Attention Point Exercise

[SOUND] How did you know just how people obsess over their home pages? It's by far the hardest challenge that you will face as a web designer is getting people to approve the home page design. With varying priorities, different people across organizations all want different content to appear on the homepage of the website. And there are endless debates and arguments about what should appear. This often results in an absolute mess, with far too much information, with totally conflicting priorities, and user needs go out the window. My name is Barry. And over the next few minutes, I wanna share with you a couple of techniques for getting clients to agree on their homepage content. And to do so without compromising the needs of users. The first thing I want to suggest is whatever you do, don't start the design process with the homepage. A homepage is always gonna be way too controversial to be a good starting point. You'll find that perfectly good designs get rejected because the content can't, they agreed upon. By starting with something more innocuous, something like a text page, you'll find you're able to establish the design aesthetic without getting bogged down in the content. And that means by the time you move on to the home page, half the battle has already been won. You've agreed on a look and feel. Also, work hard to downplay the importance of the homepage in an attempt to take some of the sting out of it. The truth is that a homepage is nowhere near as important as it once was. For most people, they come to your website either via search engines or social media, and in both cases, they normally link into a specific page of your website, rather than the home page. Before beginning the design process, it's always worth looking at any analytics you've got access to, to establish just how many people are actually landing on the home page. Showing these analytics to the client and other stakeholders can often diffuse some of the tension around the homepage design, as they realize it's maybe not quite as important as they thought. But sooner or later the homepage will need to be addressed, and it's always gonna be more scrutinized than other pages. Now, my solution to this problem is something called the User Attention Point Exercise. What you do is, you gather all of the stakeholders, all of the people that want content on the homepage together into a room. Ask this group to create a list of every possible element that they might possibly want to add to the home page. This could include things like news stories, products, contact information, all the way down to things like the logo and the search box. By the end of the exercise, they're gonna have a very long list. Now, explain to them that users only have limited attention, and you can back this up with all kinds of pieces of research online. There's a great BBC article, about how we make decisions about websites in the blink of an eye. Another one is about how we have the memory of a goldfish. Most people will generally accept the idea that we have pretty limited attention when it comes to looking at home pages, and so you're not gonna have a huge battle convincing them of that. Next, explain that we're gonna represent this limited attention in the form of user attention points. Every element that they want to add to the homepage is going to take up at least one point of user attention. But if the group decides that they want the user to pay more attention to one particular element over another, then they need to spend additional user attention points on that particular element. At this point, you'll give the group a specific number of user attention points to spend. The exact number of how many points you wanna give them is really up to you but it's usually somewhere between about 15 and 20 points depending on how strict you want to be. Every element from the logo to the news listing to the hero banner all needs to have at least one point of user attention assigned to them. That will give the group an opportunity to discuss how they want to spend their attention points. They will make some initial cuts to their list cuz they'll have to, they won't have enough points, but generally speaking, they'll spend those points as thinly as they can. They'll spread them across all the different items in their list, giving only one or two points to each of the items that they wanna add to the home page. Once they finish, take a moment to show them both the Yahoo home page, and then the Google home page. And ask the group which of the two pages they prefer. Now, without exception people always, always say the Google homepage, which is fair enough, it's by far the best of the two. But this is the point where you now break the bad news to them that they've just designed the Yahoo home page. Like Yahoo, they've spread their voice so thinly over lot of different elements. Google, on the other hand, spend almost all of the user attention point on the search box. It's a great way of pointing out the need to prioritize to your stakeholders. If you really wanna drive the point home you could also show them the product pages on the Apple website compared to the Dell website. Once again, Apple have chosen to spend their user attention points very wisely, much wiser than Dell have. Now, I ask the group, once they've seen those examples, to repeat the exercise of spending their user retention points. You'll find that this time around, they're much more focused and they all make much deeper cuts in the content that they want to include on the homepage and they will put much more emphasis on some elements over others. What makes this exercise so effective is that it makes the users needs so incredibly tangible and easy for your stakeholders to understand. It is also ensures that the entire conversation is based around the needs of the user rather than what the organization wants to say about it. The result is that you'll often have a much more focused design, and one that everyone has agreed upon. No endless iterations, and no need for long meetings discussing the pros and cons of the options. It's just one simple exercise. If you want to make the exercise even more focused on users' needs, it's possible to slightly change the beginning of the exercise. Instead of asking the group to list all of the items they would like to see on the homepage, you get them to create two separate lists. One list would include everything that they as an organization want to say to the user, and the second list would be everything the user wants to see and do. When they work on that second list around user's needs encouraged them to articulate it in terms of questions that the user might have or tasks that the user might want to complete. This will keep them focused on the user's needs. And a real view of the world rather than their internal focus on how they see the world internally. You may find yourself a bit reluctant to bring a group of people together to work on the home page design like this. You may worry that it'll turn into design by committee. But by focusing them in the way that I've outlined in that exercise, they're not really designing the home page. They're simply prioritizing the content. They're not dictating the design in anyway. But what you are doing in this exercise is engaging them with the design process. And this is important because it helps people feel a sense of ownership over the design that's produced. The more that they feel they've contributed to the final design, the less likely they are to reject it at a later stage. As people we like to be consistent. If you can show that you've reflected their ideas and their priorities, they're not gonna then turn around and reject the design. In fact, I've learned that the more you engage stake holders in the design process, the smoother things become. So why not give it a go in your next project and see what happens? I promise you that if you do, it will make a huge difference to getting sign off on that home page.

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