Looking back at 2014, one of my favorite website projects was cns.org, the responsive website for the Congress of Neurological Surgeons built in Drupal.
Why was it my favorite? Because they were strategic and truly embraced user-centered design.
A focus on user needs
User-centered design takes the subjectivity out of the decision-making process. We didn’t have to define user needs because we had talked to users firsthand. And, as it turns out, neurosurgeons are some of the most direct and decisive users that we’ve ever interviewed.
Because we interviewed stakeholders, we knew the organization’s priorities and were able to strike the right balance between business needs and user needs (hint: you can’t meet the first without meeting the second).
Navigation designed by users
Who better to organize the navigation than the users themselves? We asked CNS members to sort cards (each corresponding to a page on the site) into groups and create labels for the groups they made. Those labels became our navigation. Best practices can tell us how many menu items to have or how flat or deep to make the navigational structure, but only users can really tell us how to intuitively group and label pages and sections.
User tested designs
A neurosurgeon’s time is particularly hard to come by. To ensure we had adequate participation in our usability study, we took our wireframe prototype to the CNS Annual Meeting where we had a captive audience. This was a great opportunity to identify potential stumbling blocks and to allow users to weigh in on areas where there had been internal debate.
We love making great user experiences, and we are able to make the best experiences when we talk to users early and often. That’s why this was one of my favorite projects of 2014.