Defining the User's Goals
What is your organization's Mission Statement? How can this be enhanced by various media? Every mediated effort should, in some way, support the ultimate goals of your organization.
Establishing some short-range goals and then some longer-range goals for your website might be a good idea. Develop a way to measure the success of these plans. Business Development, Customer Service, Cost Effectiveness, as well as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are areas that can be measured. Accumulating this information will give you a better picture of the issues and performance of your website. At both the planning stages and as an ongoing effort, regular assessments of progress and issues can lead to new opportunities.
Part of the effort here is to gain a wider vision. In the design process, if the builders are too narrowly focused, chances are that some things will appear obscure to all but the initiated. By involving members of the site's intended audience, a method of "participatory design" can be employed. Throughout the process, case studies, interviews, personas, and even observational techniques can be used in order to create the best possible solutions to the issues raised above and elsewhere.
Jakob Nielsen of Sun Microsystems has addressed some of these heuristic issues examining the usability of a site at a site called Use It. Also, his User Interface Engineering as well as UsableWeb are worth noting. These guidelines can be used with some of the issues brought out above as a part of user testing.
Some other issues in this process can be found at the following sites:
• Improving the User Experience
• Definitions of User Experience and Usability
• Audiences, Outcomes, and Determining User Needs
• The S.M.A.R.T. User Experience Strategy
• NASA Engineering Design Process