Mar 12, 2018

Everything's a Mess

By: Jacob Smith

Web Design

I came across two posts the other day that really struck me. The first, from Val Head, talks about her writing process.

She describes the second phase as "The Giant Mess Phase." This phase begins when she's completed her research and has to decide what's important. This process is essential during website resign process as well.

I like to imagine this phase of a website redesign as the moment when you are unpacking after a move. Everything you own and the containing boxes are strewn about, but not yet put away. You have been working for hours, but feel further from finishing.

This reminded me of a novel concept: exformation. It's the opposite of information. It's everything that is known, but intentionally omitted. In our digital age, information is cheap, exformation is expensive.

The website redesign process is an exercise in exformation. Which leads me to this post from Jeffery Zeldman. A quote from the post:

By focusing relentlessly on the objectives of the entire site, he was able to bring all the principal interactions and messages into a single performant homepage, essentially reducing a big site to a lean, fast, and more effective one.

Imagine trying to sell that to your boss. Every metric on your website is going to drop. Bounce rate will approach 100 percent. How do you justify your budget? Where did all that money go?

It went into exformation. It went into dozens of choices and hundreds of refinements to distill reams of content into a a few thousand pixels.

It takes bravery to make those choices. It takes fortitude to trust your research. I believe this bravery and fortitude should be rewarded.

So, as you are unpacking all of the content during your next redesign, consider which content is absolutely necessary to your users. Take research backed risks and choose to launch a new site with fewer pages.

How brave will you be? How ruthless can you be with your own content? How focused can you be on what your users really need? How much will you value the exformation?

And if you are working with us, challenge us. Ask if we have done the hard work of chipping away the non-essential to reveal the truly important. Ask us to consider not just the size of the final product, but the value of all of the iterations along the way.

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