UX Architecture: How do I design a user-friendly site?

One of the hardest things to do as a site architect and back end administrator is to think like a user. When I designed Fanvertise.com, TheClosetRedmond.net, and this site, there were so many different user experiences that I went a little mad with flowcharts. I’ve architected other sites that have multiple enterprise-level uses and functions, but the real challenge is to switch back and forth in your mind between a consignment shop and a MMO and an advertising company–and what all those users need.

The secret is user stories. It’s a concept in agile development, and though everyone in the field of web development understands the need to think like a site user, this concept formalises UX/UI-based design. In essence, ask yourself what a user (both front-facing and behind-the-scenes) would want from a site like the one you’re developing.

1. “As a consignment
shop customer, I want to know what hours the shop is open and how to get there.”
2. “As a tech blog visitor, I want searchable site archives.”
3. “As an internet marketing company content writer, I want to be able to read and save drafts of my work before publishing it to the web.”

Ask yourself these questions. It’s how you figure out what people actually want from your site as opposed to what you THINK they SHOULD want from your site. This is how you avoid this trap:

People go to the website because they can't wait for the next alumni magazine, right? What do you mean, you want a campus map? One of our students made one as a CS class project back in '01! You can click to zoom and everything!

That’s the reason I did my personal website the way I did. Take a look: Tarahwheeler.com. It’s simple as dirt, crawlable, scannable, and each of the QR codes is also an image map with links to the site the QR code advertises. Anyone at my home site is looking for my web portal; they get a visual experience, and can easily scan or hit links to the location they actually want to be at.

“As a visitor to tarahwheeler.com, I want to find her blog/Facebook/Twitter/web companies/LinkedIn.”

That’s how user stories work; sometimes, talking through them gives you more information than you though possible to get without surveying users. Give it a shot.

The ethics of web development

As coders, we are frequently exposed to passwords, financial information, and very personal facts that our clients may not even be aware they’re showing us.

I’m often passed login information for Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Ebay accounts, and server passwords, often without any real understanding of how much trouble a person can cause with that information. I’m even frequently given personal email account signin information.

How do we stay honest and trustworthy? As a developer, I maintain total confidentiality when it comes to my clients. But what kind of process can be considered both safe and secure?

I typically use KeePassX, a cross-platform password manager that can be accessed wherever I need. Military grade encryption keeps my clients’ passwords and signin information secure, and my own security ensuring that only I can reach my passwords, or, in the event of my death or incapacity, my executor, keeps my clients
feeling that not only can they trust me, but that my security precautions are frequently ten times what they would have expected.

What security measures do you find yourself using to ensure that your clients feel safe entrusting you with the most personal financial details when you’re developing for them?

GeekGirlCon

GeekGirlCon is coming up soon in Seattle!

GeekGirlCon

I will be proposing a panel on women coders. This panel is specifically for younger women to ask about what it’s like to work in coding, how to act, how to get a job, and how to deal with colleagues who may not understand their unique gifts and perspective when it comes to writing beautiful code.

I and three women I know will be on the panel (one of whom will be the lovely Liz Dahlstrom over at Athena Geek); we are also open to the notion of additional members. We will look at ladies who want to join us and ask a few questions; essentially, are you making a living as a coder? While we’ve been approached by some ladies in college looking to join, we want to present a panel of women with experience and full careers as programmers.

If you’d like to know more, ping me at @cowgirlcoder on Twitter, post to The Cowgirl Coder Community on Facebook, or send me an email.