In 2019, I launched a site called The Completist.
The idea behind Completist was to compile all the things people do to make their websites feel more 'complete' into a single, helpful resource.
After only adding entries myself for a time, the Completist went the way of the dodo. But this idea of a site being 'complete' is something I think about often. How do we know when to put down our pencils and kick up our feet?
When, if ever, is a website done?
The answer, of course, is never. There will never be a site that could not be improved in one way or another (that's more or less why UX Designers have jobs). I often refer to Google.com as the perfect example of this.
Since its launch in 1998, the Google homepage hasn't changed much. The logo is still there, and the colors are still more or less the same. Hell, even "I'm feeling lucky" has stuck it out. And yet, Google has continuously improved this site, changing fonts to be more modern, adding URLs, and further integrating their products into the experience.
Why, though? The site works; hell, it's probably the most functional web UI that exists.
The answer is time. In time, trends change, technology evolves, and products rise and fall. With these changes, experiences are forced to change or face irrelevancy. You probably wouldn't still be using Google if it still looked like it did in 1998.
However, just because time will erode away any experience we build doesn't mean that we must always be improving, right? Here are five metrics to help us know we can take an update siesta:
The metric that keeps all UX Designers' lights on, usability is a consideration that must be at the forefront of all design. And beneath the more broad usability umbrella are sub-sections to also take into account:
There are many more usability considerations, and as such many more reasons to continue refining your work. And if you think your work here is truly done, running a quick usability test will help set that straight.
Once the testing has been done over and over and users are finding less and less to say about your website (other than how beautiful and easy to use it is), it might be time to pause and reflect.
Staying relevant is most likely the son that websites are updated and improved. In the Google example, their updates reflect changes in branding, which were probably crafted to help the brand remain pertinent. It's like they say, "If you don't like change, you will hate irrelevance more."
The difficulty with relevance is gauging when you are 100% relevant. Are your fonts in vogue? Do your images and content resonate with as many users as possible? If not, there is likely more work to be done.
The next metric, and probably the most obvious, is conversion. Whatever your goals for your site are, if you aren't getting those results you definitely have more to do.
If you're not sure what your goals are, or aren't tracking the success or failure of these goals, you're doing your site a disservice. Google Analytics, FullStory, and many other products exist to help understand how your site is performing. Leverage them.
Polish is the metric the Completist focused on most. You can create micro-interactions to accentuate your UI until the cows come home (do people still say that anymore?) But at some point, these additions may start to distract and weigh down your user experience.
As such, the polish metric is more a line to toe; you need enough of it for your experiences to feel finished, but not too many for the risk of detracting from your value propositions.
When I say performance, I'm specifically referring to page load, speed, and best practices as they relate to how search engines see your experiences. If you aren't familiar with the Google Lighthouse or web.dev, a quick test on your site might enlighten you as to why your site is currently 5 pages deep on Google.
More often than not, performance is the easiest metric to remedy; compressing images, lazy loading, and making sure content has alt tags will help dramatically increase your score. Or, if your score isn't improving as much as you'd like, it might be time to consider lighter UX alternatives. Even once your scores are starting to all be in the green, performance will always be something you'll need to keep an eye on; all it takes is one 5MB image to throw a wrench in the gears.
If you're reading this, you're probably starting to wonder why I wrote this article. Heck, I believe so strongly that a website is never done that I'm currently featuring this concept heroically on my homepage.
The reason, my friends, is to remind you that though perfection in web design is a fallacy, we can get close. This website you're on now is certainly not perfect. But after three sets of comprehensive redesigns and updates, is it done?
I think so. At least, for now.