Sunday, 9 October 2011

Avoiding your next site redesign - Lou Rosenfeld

I attended a seminar by Lou Rosenfeld last week - "Adaptable Information Architecture; How to say no to your next website redesign". It was a great session, and his slides are available online.

I wouldn't say that I heard anything that new, but that's probably partly due to me having read his recent Search Site Analytics book. Some areas of the content also mirrored the message Gerry McGovern often covers about the long neck and long tail of demand for content, priority tasks and search terms. And Lou tours with Steve Krug, so aspects of usability testing also came up.

I particularly found the session useful because Lou clearly has a good understanding of public sector IA issues, and the way he approached a few topics gave me food for thought, including new ways to explain things to others.

Lou's slides are available via Slideshare.
Lou says:
"Where problems are undefined lies insanity and vanity"
What he means is that organisations are all too ready to ignore the fundamental issues affecting the successful operation of a website, and instead undertake redesigns every few years which polish the surface but leave the underlying factors that really need to be identified, understood and acted upon. And therefore senior managers are all too ready to listen to the claims and promises of consultants and software vendors. Over and over again.

See slides 11 to 38 where he goes through this, illustrated with 10 years of redesigns at the University of Michigan where the top level pages are changed over and over again but the fundamental content that lies a few layers down remains the same.

A lot of this is echoed in Paul Boag's ROI podcasts too (see my post about Paul's building websites for ROI podcasts from June 2011).

I particularly like the diagram on slide 63 and will be trying this approach to explaining to colleagues how they should express and measure their aspirations for their website.

Lou also likened people relying solely on webstats analytics as like the blind man exploring an elephant. Bringing in extra techniques like user testing brings more blind people to the same elephant.

In other words, combining techniques provide insight that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Related post: Retune don't redesign your site - Lou Rosenfeld article

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