Filmmaker, Video Editor, Motion Graphics Designer, and Photographer in Cairo, Egypt.
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Websites!

I came cross this article some time ago. & I liked it! I'll quote some of it here.

Habit # 1: Be Proactive: 
Covey talks about this habit in the following words: 
“Your life doesn't just ‘happen’. Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment and every situation provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results. Being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can't keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are response-able."
In the user-experience world, this is the responsibility of the website managers. Web managers can be proactive by making user centered choices about their websites. Either they can react to the business’s demands for feature and content overload, or they can be proactive by understanding their audiences, their feedback and needs, and by making sure that the website meets the needs of the users. 

Every user-experience project starts with proactive website managers, who choose to make the website better. This is a case of top-down vs. bottom-up management. If you let the changes come to you, you end up taking orders for the business units in your organization. If you set the direction, define the standards and ask business units to meet them, you end up leading rather than following. 

Habit # 2: Begin With End In Mind
As Covey says, habit two is based on imagination — the ability to envision what you cannot see with your eyes at the outset. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental, or first creation and a physical, or second creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint.

In UX projects, we use this habit in many different ways. We set up visioning workshops with the business’s stakeholders. We create a common vision, where the user is playing an important role. 

Our back-casting exercises are somewhat like beginning with the end in mind. We see where the project is going to be when it’s finished and then define the steps that will get us to that endpoint. The wireframes are the blueprints of the future website. They are how we make the future visual. 

It’s also important for teams to set objectives, or at least overarching design goals. For web teams, we see setting business objectives (and measuring performance) as a key way for them to get out of the rut of merely being content managers. 

Habit # 3: Put First Things, First: 
In user-experience projects, prioritization activities are very important. Priorities are established based on the users’ needs. This is a very healthy habit for a successful website. Ask yourself this question whenever a new request for content or feature on the website comes along: Who does it benefit? Does it benefit your customers/stakeholders and your business equally? Another thing to look for is whether new content or functionality benefits the organization as a whole or just the person who’s recommending the change.

Covey says, “To live a more balanced existence, you have to recognize that not doing everything that comes along is OK. There's no need to overextend you. All it takes is realizing that it's alright to say no when necessary, and then to focus on your highest priorities.”

So, It’s OK to question a request that will make your website fall out of a good habit. This decision becomes really easy when you understand the value of that feature and content. 

Habit # 4: Think Win-Win: 
Think Win-Win isn't about being nice, nor is it a quick-fix technique. It is a character-based code for human interaction and collaboration. 

In user-experience practices, we are not just advocating for the users. We are also advocating for the business’s requirements. We bring both of them value. So it’s important to have a good understanding of the business, and then to align your functionality so that your user needs and business needs are met. 

Habit # 5: Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood: 
It’s one of the basic underlying techniques in the user-experience field. We use this technique liberally during our user research, and design phases. It’s a very important habit in the UX field. Researchers and designers use different techniques and methodologies to first understand the users. They then use that understanding to help the business be understood. 

Most of the time, we’re not experts in the business. In fact we might start a project without knowing anything about the business. So it’s critical we keep our eyes and ears open so that we can design an appropriate solution. On the other side of this equation, we’re almost always surprised by what users actually do. We may have done hundreds of usability tests on a product and we can still find something interesting about the 101st participant.

Habit # 6: Synergize: 
Covey explains this habit this way: 
“Synergy means ‘two heads are better than one.’ Synergizing is the habit of creative co-operation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems.”
We view this habit often in user-experience project teams. We work with a group of people to make the website better. That group usually includes a business analyst, researcher, technical architect, user specialist, designer, project manager, etc.

It’s the case with UX projects teams. Technical and business teams cannot be effective without UX teams and UX teams cannot be fully effective without engaging technical and business teams.

Habit # 7: Sharpen The Saw:
The last but not the least habit Covey recommends for highly effective people is to sharpen the saw, by taking time off from the daily routine, learning something new, taking a break and coming back more effective. It’s about constantly reflecting on you and improving your skills and habits.

In terms of website and user-experience practices, it’s important to know that your job is not done once the site is designed or redesigned, and launched. You constantly need to reflect on and evaluate your site, and to keep on improving it. 

It’s much better to do ongoing evaluation, and get creative about ways the site can be improved. But it takes a lot of discipline, and that’s really the hard part. 

Whether you have already adapted these UX habits or are getting to know them, remember this sentence from Covey: 
“We at first make the habits and then habits make us.”
The sooner you start thinking about your websites in terms of these habits, the sooner you’ll be known in terms of your great habits!

My Conclusion:
Most of those habits I've practiced them already myself, and I got much better results. They are very recommended for any websites manger, developer, designer, or administrator.