Web Design News 13/04/10

Paul Boag

This week: How to be the worlds worst project manager and how to alienate visitors. Also, why FAQs are failing and why page weight still matters.

How to be the world’s worst project manager

Project management is a thankless job. Most of us undertake it reluctantly and yet moan about those who do it as a full time job.

At Headscape we have 3 project managers for a company of 18. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? However, we have learnt that setting our designers and developers free from the burden of project management does wonders for their productivity and having somebody constantly available for our clients makes a dramatic difference to customer satisfaction.

Unfortunately smaller agencies or freelancers do not have project managers. This shifts the burden of project management onto the client or the person actually building the website. The problem is that these people often do not have much experience or training on how to run projects smoothly.

Fortunately Sitepoint has a bit of advice for those of you who are landed with managing projects. Entitled “14 Ways to Be the World’s Worst Web Project Manager” the post outlines a number of ways you can improve how you manage projects. It does this by highlighting 14 ways things can go wrong and explaining how to avoid these pitfalls.

Whether you are a website owner running a project or a freelancer dealing with clients this article is a good read.


Infrequently asked questions

Does your website have an FAQ section? Chances are it does. Most websites seem to have them these days.

The question is why? Do we have FAQs because users find them invaluable or do we have them as a sales tool or dumping area for stuff we don’t know where else to put?

image of question mark

Stephen Gracey certainly doesn’t have much time for them. He writes on A List Apart

FAQs often read like a fictitious back-and-forth conversation between the eager, inexperienced user and the wise, venerable expert, covering all the basics from the beginning, and urging purchase at every step:

Q: What is this product?
A: It’s a widget. It’s the best widget you’ll ever find. You should buy one.

Q: Is it hard to use?
A: NO! It’s the easiest widget on the market. You should buy one…

On the whole, FAQs like these patronize users.

Personally I tend to agree. For a long time I built websites with FAQ sections. However I have seen them abused so many times, that I have lost faith in them.

In his post Stephen goes on to ask if FAQs are ever appropriate and if so how they should be used.

Despite his negative attitude to FAQs he actually writes a constructive article that suggests the best ways FAQs can be used and outlines scenarios where they are actually appropriate.

If your website has an FAQ section or you are considering adding one, please read this post.

Loses some weight

You work out everyday and eat a healthy diet. However you could really do with losing some weight.

No I am not encouraging anorexia, I am referring to your website.

fat stomach

For fear of sounding old, I remember the days when websites had to be under 50k to be usable. Anything larger would take too long to download.

However todays websites have become fat and bloated. What made us suddenly think this is acceptable?

Sure, most of us have broadband and so speed is not as big an issue. However as Sitepoint explains in “minimising page weight matters” there are still 3 good reasons for keeping your website lean…

  • 10% of users in western countries still use dialup.
  • Internet use in Asia and Africa is exploding. However their connection speed is typically slower.
  • Mobile devices are quickly becoming a major method of accessing the web and yet have slower connections than their PC cousin.

Personally I would add a couple more reasons to the list…

  • Google is considering making performance a factor in how they rank websites.
  • Jacob Nielsen reports that speed considerably impacts a sites usability.

Fortunately there are loads of things you can do to make your website faster. For a start you can read my post ‘5 ways to give your site a speed boost in less than 30 minutes‘.

How not to alienate visitors

Engagement is the ‘in’ phrase at the moment. We should all be ‘engaging’ with our users. Marketeers and website owners are particularly enthusiastic about the idea and not surprisingly. Talking to your users provides a lot of benefits…

  • It can improve your product and site
  • It can reduce costs
  • It can encourage users to promote your brand
  • It improves customer satisfaction

The list goes on.

However, despite this enthusiasm among marketeers and website owners many seem to continually put barriers in the way of that engagement. From hiding phone numbers to overly demanding forms, it would seem that many are actively trying to discourage their users from talking to them.

Sample feedback form

In his post for boagworld, Andy Wickes looks at the problem and suggests a number of ways you can make yourself more accessible to your users. In particular he looks like…

  • Social networks
  • The telephone
  • Contact forms
  • Asking questions
  • Thanking users

If you are struggling to engage with users this may be a useful starting point for identifying what is going wrong.