User-first, content-first, mobile-first, SEO-first, analytics-first, performance-first, strategy-first. Everyone wants to be first. But great results on the web are achieved when all needs are met. Everything is first. But in a world that requires more and more hierarchy, prioritisation, and speed, where do you put your focus when everything is important? This is the question digital agencies like us must ask when they begin a project. Everything has to be accounted for and then categorised and ordered. It’s a very stoic and academic approach, but necessary so that we can make sense of where we need to go.
Ultimately, though, great results are measured with some indicator or other. In an e-commerce world making more and more sales might be a natural indicator, but not the only one. In the B2B world, those factors are less clear. Multiple indicators will determine whether or not the project met expectations. But across the board, digital agencies believe that one factor is always true: how agreeable was the user’s interaction with the website. We call it the agreeableness factor. It is a constant indicator of how well our efforts are perceived from beginning to end.
Certainly, all of the firsts are important. We can explore several ‘firsts’ to understand:
User-first: this seems logical, draw out your personas, have empathy for your users (prospects, clients, human beings), and focus on UX. UX is about the design experience using the interface as a tool to accomplish objectives. But user-first is not about conceiving a strategy. It is meant to be a check on the strategy - does the strategy put the user first.
Content-first: web agencies, in essence, design content. Good content comes from understanding priorities, but also understanding SEO, understanding analytics, understanding personas. Good content requires a good start, middle, and end. And even then, good content is only as good as it is presented.
Mobile-first: statistics show that mobile use keeps increasing, no doubt. But a good website is all devices-first. You cannot validate a mobile mock-up and stretch it any more than you can design for desktop and shrink it. Responsiveness is a given today - and your website should adapt with fluidity across all resolutions.
SEO-first: we hear it every day, "a great website is nothing if you cannot be found". But let’s not forget that there exist multiple channels to reach your site. SEO is one avenue and often critical. But eventually, according to the competitive nature of your industry, SEO will not be enough. We can reverse the thought and say: "great SEO is nothing if the site is useless".
Analytics-first: some suggest that good results come from analysing the data and improving. This is true in many ways and analytics should not be ignored. But there are too many intangibles involved in projecting future results to rely first and foremost on analytics. Analytics offer a tool to answer many questions, but they do not help you ask the right questions.
Performance-first: the famous maxim "fast is beautiful" is a very agreeable trait. When something loads slowly, we leave. Performance is a key factor, indeed. But performance comes after we know to whom we are speaking and when we know what we want to say. Not everyone can be google with just a search box.
Strategy-first: web and digital agencies will not argue the need to start with a strategy. But in web design, often the strategy becomes a forgotten document or a central message that failed to take into account evolutions. Strategy has its limits unless it’s constantly updated.
From beginning to end
Agreeableness-first is the one indicator that is important from beginning to end and can be achievable for all types of websites.
Being agreableness-first allows you to pinpoint every place of interest on the map of your web site, and it is not dogmatic, but rather adapted to your industry, your target and user habits, your administration needs, your budget. This is not just about UX, but larger. Agreableness-first puts everything into perspective to enable the strategy, the content, the design, the back-office, the performance, the evolutions, all of it, to gel seamlessly together.
Agreableness-first will set the bar of your expectations on all the issues required to give the user the experience they want. And not just your users, but your administrators and according to your organisation’s objectives. Good things come in small details — spacing, borders, colors, links, use of capitalization, load-time, depth of view, content-related links, search efficacy, back-office administration ease of use, accessibility — everything should flow easily and on every device possible and at every corner of the site. It’s a true sign of respect for your customer (or prospect or partner or anyone) more than anything else, which can only contribute to meeting your KPI, whatever that KPI is.
Ask yourself next time you visit a website: "did I enjoy the small details that made my life better?" Hopefully, a positive reaction is reached unconsciously without asking. The experience was just so good you don’t even know why. The transparency of scrolling, clicking, and reading was so good you don’t even recognise the time spent (which is arguably a user’s most important resource given to you). This is nirvana for digital agencies like us. Yes, the experience uber alles.
Agreableness-first recognises that even though all the rational factors must be met to ensure a valuable experience for SEO, mobile, speed, administration, content, etc, the subjectivity of an agreeable relationship with a website can be an emotional achievement that is priceless and can make the difference in generating the results and return on investment you want.