Meet Sarah Hyne – Usability & Web Design star!
Most people who have the pleasure of using one Sarah Hyne’s websites, wouldn’t be able to put a finger on what makes them so good.
Why is that you ask..? Well, they just WORK!
And that is the key to usability and web design according to Bluewire’s impressive web designer Sarah Hyne. I sat down with Sarah to find out more.
What is it you do?
Basically, it’s tough trying to describe what you do to people outside web design, because to them it’s a totally intangible product. Whilst they experience usability everyday, they don’t realise there’s someone behind the scenes making it work.
The easiest way to describe it is a bit like getting an architect in to design your houseplan. A lot of people think they know how to design their own website, but similar to designing a house, only an architect really understands how to put it all together and make it work. It’s all based on the person who has to live it in & the person who has to use it. For example, in a well designed house you might put the kitchen near the dining area.
What process do you go through?
There’s a whole lot of research that goes into it. I need to understand it from the business’s or the clients’ point of view – what are their goals and what are they trying to get out of their website.
Then I have to understand who the users are, and this is probably the hardest and trickiest thing to do because often the client doesn’t know their users all that well, so you need to come at it with a really fresh perspective. You must keep that fresh perspective all the way through the process, so that means constantly challenging yourself on the ideas you create.
So back to my process, I map out who the user is, stay abreast of all the latest usability conventions, because conventions are what everybody is used to, so the more you stick to conventions the easier the website is to use.
I look at the information architecture (what you’d call the site map) and do activities like card sorting, or even just bouncing ideas off other people around the office or friends or anyone you can get your hands on. I then do wireframes, which is like doing the blueprint for a house, except for a website. Again – show that to as many people as possible & get their feedback because it really is a collaborative approach to design.
How (or from whom) do you learn?
There’s a tonne of resources online. Yahoo has a set of patterns that they publish so you can stay abreast of conventions. There’s lots of user experience blogs out there. I read the following blogs via a daily RSS feed:
– A List Apart
– UX Booth
– UX Digest
On twitter, I follow gurus like Jared Spool and his company UIE. In terms of books, I’ve recently read Steve Krug‘s Don’t Make Me Think which is considered the bible of usability. And I’m currently reading Information Architecture for the World Wide Web which outlines the process in really fine detail.
What is your advice to someone beginning usability or who can’t afford your services?
Approach it with an open mind and don’t assume you know what is best for your website because what you are going to do is very different from your users. Test & test often, especially from the early stages and then always get feedback.
And the biggest mistakes you see?
Probably when people try to make something look really fancy. They place too much emphasis on the actual graphic design, the ‘look & feel’ and trying to ‘engage’ the user
In fact the most common request I get is, “make it look really incredible & reflect the brand”. Yet a lot of the best websites that we keep coming back to, don’t necessarily look great, but they work very well.
For example, Amazon.com doesn’t look great, in fact its one of the ugliest sites out there, and I hate the colour yellow, but it really, really works. And the reason for this is because they constantly test and improve their user experience.
You see, the thing is that design is such a subjective thing. I don’t like yellow, but you’re wearing a yellow shirt, so you can’t go into it as a designer saying, ‘this is what I like and I’m going to put my stamp on this‘, because everybody comes at it from a different angle.
It’s more important that it works!
Any final comments?
Since most people don’t really understand that usability is part of the web design process, it’s often overlooked, which makes it tough to explain because most people don’t know that this industry exists.
In Brisbane especially I think usability is still in its infancy. However, the more that people understand there’s a science behind designing websites, they’ll appreciate that there’s a lot of thought and strategy and it’s not all about making it look pretty!
Usability Brisbane: To get Sarah to work her magic on your website, call Bluewire Media on 1300 258 394.