Translating user needs into web experiences

Most of the Epinova blog entries are of a technological nature in the field of EPiServer and .NET programming, Windows server etc - which is not strange considering these are our most prominent areas of expertise.

But a few of us don’t speak C#. Some are very skilled in XHTML and CSS. And a couple of unfortunate people don’t even speak these languages.

Still, we’re in the translation business - the translation of user needs and business strategy into efficient and well-formed web experiences. This involves the whole plethora of competences and tools in the field of interaction design and information architecture, but also in business development, sales and marketing. Since all Epinova employees will contribute with blog entries on a regular basis, these other disciplins will also be represented from time to time.

Learning from the Oslo Opera House

This week’s blog entry is directed at our customers' work with budget planning. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet the director Tom Remlov of the new Oslo Opera House. As you may know, this building was opened last year and is the new main tourist attraction of Oslo. It's amongst the most brilliant examples of Norwegian architecture together with the Urnes stave church and Oslo airport. But an Opera House is more than a magnificent building. More important is the quality of the music, theatre and dancing which can be experienced inside. For the fiscal year 2009 their budget will be 386 mill. NOK, and additional 40 mill. compared to 2008.

The interesting point for us here is Remlovs explanation of the economic dynamics of an opera house. The building is extremely complex and expensive just to keep open: Some 600 people are employed in a total of more than 50 different trades and professions. Most of the budget is needed for regular operation. The last few millions on the budget can make a lot of difference in terms of spectacular stage productions – the projects that the audience and press will talk about.

Focus on building, but plan for the unexpected 

It occurred to me – this is really how web projects should be planned as well. Clients should set aside the largest portion of the budget for the ”building”, that is the most fundamental components for establishing a new web site: Concept development, web design, technical implementation and content production.

But a smaller amount should be reserved for ”new and brilliant ideas”. My experience is that a successful planning phase, preceding the building phase, always brings forward new ideas that no one thought of before.

Especially if user testing is involved – user testing always give the project team surprises and ideas for better solutions. These solutions could turn out to be the real success factors of a new site.