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Maybe Nothing

December 17th, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

What’s one thing we can do to make our site better? Maybe nothing at all!

Our websites keep getting bigger and bigger! When we have a team with so many exciting ideas and such interesting technology, it can be easy to get swept up and not as easy to prioritize all those ideas.  

However, there are only so many hours in a day, only so many resources, and only so much our visitors want in an interface without their focus being lost. How do we balance it all?

There are many prioritization tools out there. Recently, my favorite has been to ask yourself (and/or your team) when deciding to add something new to your site: What happens if I don’t do this right now? 

When we add new things to our site, sometimes we jump right into the weeds and discuss:

  • KPIs/OKRs: What kind of return will this feature have?
  • Performance: Will this new code help or hurt our performance metrics?
  • Accessibility: Will all of our customers be able to utilize this new feature?
  • Maintenance: Do we have the resources to maintain this new component?
  • User Experience: How will this affect our visitors?

Conversations around these factors can be necessary, but overwhelming sometimes. Before we even dig too deep into any of these areas, first asking what happens if we don’t do it, can help us really determine the priority and necessity of the task. 

Let’s say we brainstorm three ways to improve our modals:

Example 1: Lazy load our modal content

What happens if we don’t remove our modals from the initial page load right now? Our visitors are downloading content they might not ever request, perhaps even blocking other critical content. We should add this to our priorities and investigate paths forward.

Example 2:  Add an animation on modal close

What happens if we don’t add this animation right now? The close experience might be a bit jarring for our customers without an animation, but maybe not? Will it change conversion? Will it make our readers not come back to our site? Probably not. Let’s keep our priority hats on and move this to our non-urgent/non-important column and revisit someday if we have the bandwidth. 

Example 3: Our close buttons are missing aria-labels and we don’t retain keyboard focus within the modal. 

What happens if we don’t address this right now? Um, what are you doing here? Stop reading this article and go do it! 

There are many ways to plan your website roadmap and improve our current experiences. This is just one question to ask upfront to help drive discussions around priorities and focus.

Bonus: Audit your site and ask: what happens if we don’t keep this component? Does this SVG animation really spark joy? (That’s a trap… of course, it does!)

This is by no means an invitation to say “no” to every ask that comes in. If we didn’t iterate and try new things, our websites would grow stale, slow, and outdated. But it’s another way to open communication with your team (or your inner monologue) and explore the impact of new code on your beautiful, fast, accessible site. 

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