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Website Design and Ensuring a Quality User Experience

Website Design and Ensuring a Quality User Experience

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Presentation from Dr. Novadean Watson-Stone, Program Director, School of STEM, American Public University, Dr. Jack Galvan, Faculty Director, and Professor Shawn Aker, Assistant Professor

Disclaimer: This presentation was used for instructional purposes at American Public University.

In website design, it is essential to create well-organized, compliant and user-friendly websites in order to ensure that visitors have a good user experience, whether they view a website on a desktop computer or a mobile device. However, website designers should take numerous factors into consideration, including responsive design and web analytics.

Recently, STEM faculty members Dr. Novadean Watson Stone and Professor Shawn Aker interviewed Dr. Jack Galvan about the elements of good website design and what website designers must consider to ensure that visitors to have a good user experience. The following article is a transcript of that video presentation, which was created for classroom use.

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Transcript

Dr. Novadean Watson-Stone: Well, good morning, and welcome, class. We get an opportunity to have yet another professional who has been in the industry and has seen and gained some insights that will benefit us and benefit and contribute to your learning.

And so we get a chance to talk with Dr. Jackie Galvan today. Again, I am Dr. Novadean Watson-Stone, the program director for IT and IT-related courses. And we also have with us Professor Shawn Aker. If you would, share a little bit about yourself.

Dr. Jack Galvan: Hi, everyone, and hi, everybody, and welcome to my office. My name is Dr. Jack Galvan, as Novadean said. And I am the faculty director in STEM IT and an instructor with American Public University. I have been with American Public University now since 2011.

And in my former career many years ago, I was the IT director and then CEO for a market research firm in Florida for six years. And one of my primary jobs and responsibilities was to develop and design a company public-facing website and work with the web analytics, applications, and tools.

Dr. Novadean Watson-Stone: All right, well, we’re certainly glad to have you, Dr. Galvan. We also have with us Professor Shawn Aker. And she’s just going to highlight a little bit about herself as well.

Professor Shawn Aker: Yes, hello. I’m once again Shawn Aker. And I’ve been with the university since about 2007. Prior to that, I worked with NASA, Johnson Space Center here in Houston for several years as a software engineer. Basically, I enjoy working with you all. And I look forward to helping each and every one of you. And the best to you all. Thank you.

Dr. Novadean Watson-Stone: Well, thank you. We certainly appreciate that. And we’re delighted to have our guests with us today. Dr. Galvan, what are key factors associated with web design?

Dr. Jack Galvan: Oh, what a great question. So the key factors to keep in mind when designing a website. These are very important. And I just have a few. I think I have eight or nine I can go through the top of my head here. So it must be cost-effective, must be convenient, and offer a service to the site visitors, must be accessible from different devices such as mobile, desktop, smartphones.

And you also want to explore some of the latest web technologies such as responsive web design and also bootstrap design techniques. And it must be marketable and compliant with SEO or search engine optimization, must be credible and consistency with ensuring that branding and uniformity on all the pages within the site. And taking that extra step for SSL or HTTPS and securing any sales transactions and data collection for the site users and visitors.

You must offer real-time information to your site visitors, keep that information fresh, because you want to remember that your website is a living document. And it should change as new information is offered to the users and visitors.

You should go above and beyond for customer service and user service. You must honor and respond quickly to any opt out requests for any newsletters or sales ads that you offer. Be sure that you follow that.

Be sure that you get to know and understand your site visitors. And that is to use web analytics tools, which will help you understand the trends and patterns that your site visitors have when they come to your website.

Offer unique information or services that your competition does not. You want to be unique. I have to remember this.

One of the great courses to take here at American Public University is WEBD 122, which is Introduction to Web Analytics. And check that out in the course catalog.

And then lastly, be patient in the site design. You want to do it right the first time.

Professor Shawn Aker: Well, thank you, Dr. Galvan. That’s some very insightful information. So tell us, how is the users factored into developing a site?

Dr. Jack Galvan: Oh, wow. Another great question — important question, as well, too. So remember, a satisfied site user or visitor is a returning or loyal visitor. So the user is a key component when developing your website. The user experience to your site is paramount for success. So your site design must be simple, user friendly, easy to navigate.

Some of the basic proven design elements and components such as taglines can be used — intuitive and easy-to-find navigation, consistent and concise content, strategic usage of graphics. And most of all, you want to avoid confusing features such as flashing fonts, for example.

Novadean Watson-Stone: Excellent point. In addition to that, what would be some key skills needed to become an effective web designer?

Dr. Jack Galvan: Oh, wow. I hope we have enough time here because there’s going to be a few. So another great question. So as a web designer, you will need the proper tools. And that’s going to help you and assist you in building and designing sites that look, feel, and function well. And here’s a couple of things you want to consider.

Number one, choose your design tools or tools. You want to be sure that you’re using some of the best tools to place in your tool box such as Adobe Dreamweaver. You want to be sure that you have a good HTML text editor such as Notepad++. There’s some free ones out there called Brackets and Komodo.

And then number two — have a design layout sent. In other words, do some research. See what other big companies are doing in their site design. This is very important for the web designer to see what competition is doing so you can get a good understanding of the technology being used within that site.

And number three would be UX design or user experience. So prototype and test your site design before going live on the web. Gather as many people as you can, let them take a look at [your] website. See what’s working and what’s not because you want to be sure that that user experience is optimum.

And number four, look at some of the great web technologies out there. For example, responsive web design. Learn how to work with responsive web design because it’s going to help you in your design for developing those sites that are adaptive to the devices that your site visitors are using. And these sites — what’s really great about responsive web design is that it allows you to take a mobile device or a desktop and thinks your site gets auto-resized to accommodate the sites being viewed on.

And also, responsive web design also takes into account HTML5 technologies — CSS, Cascade Style Sheets technologies to make all this happen. And here, you could use some of the free tools out there such as Mobirise Site Designer. And that’s M-O-B-I-R-I-S-E — Mobirise Site Designer. That’s a great tool to use too. And it’s free.

And number five, you must understand graphic design. Graphic design is so important, and it has a huge impact on your website, because well-placed and aesthetically pleasing graphics in your site will increase visual appeal for your site visitors and get them to come back. It also sets you apart from other sites that look homemade.

You want to avoid that homemade look. You want to be professional. And you want to ensure that your site has that professional look so that your site visitors will want to come back and become loyal. And in web design, aesthetics speaks volumes in communication with your site visitors. Wow, that was a lot already.

So let me just recap some of those great things that you should understand when designing a website. So visual design is important — user experience, web design software and tools. Make sure you have the good tools — understanding HTML5 and HTML, hypertext markup language. You want to be sure that you are using Cascade Style Sheets.

And just to refresh — CSS, Cascades Style Sheets, is that code that helps tell the web browser how to interpret and format all those recent great awesome features that you’re designing into your web. You also want to take a look at JavaScript, which is a browser-based language that can take that static element of your site and make it more appealing and functional to your site visitors, such as images and fonts and having that extra interaction, for example, in your site.

And also, you want to be sure that you understand search engine optimization and marketing — have a good working knowledge of this. And you also want to focus on social media. Use social media to your advantage to leverage your website. We want to make sure that your users know that you’re out there, because if they don’t know you’re out there, they won’t go to visit your site.

And then, lastly, understand your site visitors through analytics. Use these tools to help you in finding those trends and patterns to help make those changes to your site to make it better serve your visitors. And I have to mention — a great place to start with web design is to look at the undergraduate learning track in web development at American Public University. Check it out in the course catalog. It’s going to be a great place to start and learn web development.

Dr. Novadean Watson-Stone: Excellent point there that you concluded with, Dr. Galvan. And to add to that, most of those courses are affiliated with CIW, which you can do and work through to obtain certifications and complement your ability to compete.

So, great information. Thank you so much for your contributions. I’m sure you’ve maybe encouraged a student or two to consider that profession and more importantly to pay attention to what makes a web designer strategic and influential — what makes it stand out.

Dr. Jack Galvan: Great. I’ll be happy to answer any questions any student would like to propose. I’ll help them out.

Dr. Novadean Watson-Stone: All right. Thank you very much. And this concludes our podcast.

About the Speakers

Dr. Watson-Stone is currently the Program Director for the undergraduate programs in Information Technology Management and Computer Technology at American Public University. She serves an aggressively growing department and has over 20 years of experience in the information technology field. Dr. Watson-Stone holds an A.A. in Computer Studies and a B.S. in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland University College, a B.S. in Social Science Education from the University of South Florida, an M.A. in General Counseling from Louisiana Tech University, and a D.B.A. in Information Systems from Argosy University. 

Recently, Dr. Watson-Stone presented webinars on Negotiation and Entrepreneurship (Oct 29-30, 2019) for the CompTIA Association of Information Technology Professionals. Previously, she published several blog articles on topics such as collective intelligence and soft skills. She has also co-published several other articles, including “RFID with Real Implications,” “Artificial Intelligence in Information Security” and the “Evolution of Information Security.”

Dr. Jack Galvan is a Faculty Director and Associate Professor with the School of STEM at American Public University. He holds a B.S. degree in Information Technology from American InterContinental University; an M.S. in Information Systems from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and a Ph.D. in Business Administration – Management Information Systems from North Central University.

Professor Shawn Aker is an Assistant Professor in the School of STEM at American Public University and has taught STEM classes for over 12 years. She holds an M.S. in information technology management from Touro University International.

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