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Beyond Usability: Cool, Usable and Persuasive Web Design

Even die-hard web usability zealots agree that being easy to use is just a starting point. To be truly effective, a website must also be beautiful, inspiring and (in most cases) persuasive. But very few people are experts in usability, graphic design and marketing. That's why:

  • Usability professionals tend to make designs that are easy to use, but very conventional and uninspiring.
  • Art directors and graphic artists tend to make designs that are beautiful and innovative, but hard to use because they don't work they way users expect.
  • Traditional marketing folk (who are usually the most knowledgeable about marketing strategies and the psychology of persuasion) often know little about usability or graphic design... and can't make either type of web site!

To create a site that is cool, usable and persuasive requires a cooperative effort between these three diverse groups. Yet they each have such different approaches, priorities and mindsets. Is it any wonder that such sites are rare?

Bringing these three groups together requires strong management. Each side must be taught to understand and respect where the others are coming from. And clear boundaries — areas of responsibility — must be negotiated and defined. Usually, it breaks down like this:

  • The usability expert is responsible for information architecture, navigation and interaction
  • The graphic designer is responsible for the overall design and graphic elements
  • The marketing expert is responsible for content

Naturally, some projects will require more or less input from each group. Most Intranets, for example, have little need for cutting-edge design, let alone marketing or persuasion efforts. The users just want to get their jobs done. So it makes sense to let the usability team take the lead.

An online brochure, on the other hand, requires a focus on creative design. The usability team need only perform a reality check.

Ecommerce sites are where the real challenges lie. All three areas of expertise are needed, and a true multi-disciplinary approach is required.


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