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Perform Visual Design Testing on a New Website

The visual design team for a website can create a few different “look and feel” options and test them with users. Aptly named “look and feel,” these designs look real enough to pass for a home page and an interior or subpage of your site but they are not 100 percent accurate in terms of final navigation, photography, or text. However, keep in mind that users and clients are very literal. Selecting headline copy and photography that are fairly accurate to get a good read on your audience is important. All non-major text should be greek (gibberish Latin text, actually), but navigation choices and key headlines should be a close approximation.

For high-profile consumer websites, it’s a good idea to conduct a focus group before committing to a design direction. Otherwise, the design is chosen based on the personal tastes of a few client executives, which is okay if the site is for a small-to-mid-size company. If you get focus group feedback before showing the design options to the client, you can rule out designs that just don’t work at all, and come prepared with user feedback when you go into the client creative presentation to help guide the decision-making process.

To test your visual designs, follow these steps to put together a focus group:

  1. Recruit seven to ten people who represent your intended audience.

  2. Print each of the design options.

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  3. Mount all the designs on boards so that your focus group can get a good look at each one, refer to them, and compare them side by side.

  4. Prepare JPEG versions of your designs (saved at 100% quality for the purposes of demonstration) and place them in HTML pages using Dreamweaver.

    This enables you to show the focus group how each design looks on a computer screen in a browser window.

  5. Gauge people’s emotional reactions to the designs.

    See which design resonates most with the audience, given the type of business your site reflects. There’s nothing fancy or scientific required here, only your keen observations of people’s reactions. Sometimes there are clear winners and losers. If all rate about the same, then truthfully any of the designs can probably fare just fine in the real world.

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