Don’t Let Your Experience Be Your Guide

If you’re in the web industry, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that everyone — and I mean everyone — is an expert on what the web should be doing. It’s similar to education in this way: We all went to school, so we all think we know how a school ought to work. The same mindset applies when we use the web.

You hear web project managers, designers, programmers and others complain about this — the marketing director who likes the color green, so the site must be green, or the CFO who doesn’t use Google, so he won’t approve an expenditure for any site search technology….the list goes on.

Unfortunately, I’ve also run across this attitude in other web professionals. It’s an easy bias to have: We know how we search/browse/like images/don’t like images/expect to find content/like our forms to look, so it’s all too easy to say, “The way you want to do it is [list your personal favorite way].”

So when you’re hiring web professionals to work on a project, you don’t want to know their favorite way. We’ve all got our own biases. Just because I can use your site search engine for 10 minutes and find any document on command doesn’t mean your customers can or will. Hire the person who can tell you how most people like to do it, or even better, who can figure out how your site users like to do it.

And whatever you do, make sure you’ve got a better reason for your site design….or your navigation philosophy….or your content categorization, than, “makes sense to me.”

P.S.: This is the first post I’ve written in an editing swap with Matthew Grocki. Thanks for the cleanup, Matthew!