AEA Chicago 2009: A Site Redesign

Jeffrey Zeldman presented the first session of An Event Apart Chicago 2009, discussing the process of redesigning a website and demonstrating the process of redesigning his own site and the An Event Apart website.

Client services: in-house, agency/freelance

  • Make sure you’re solving a problem solving (not just “time for redesign”)
  • Don’t redesign just because it’s tired/you’re tired of it (amazon, apple haven’t changed much over the years)
  • Public isn’t as tired of it as I am
  • is the difference b/w art and design. Designers are problem solvers, not artists.
  • yields achievable goals
  • makes you a credible partner
Business goals & user needs
  • corporate market research != user needs
  • usually no budget for user needs testing
    • informal, casual interview – ask for 5 minutes
    • don’t ask about website, general info about subject
    • develop customer profiles (composite of people talked to)
Content Strategy
  • start with content, design with real copy
  • no lorem ipsum
Dealing with Clients (internal/external)
  • Alzheimer’s method
    • back up and refresh their memory, remind them what you discussed before
    • like backing up a movie a couple scenes to get the flow
  • Translate
    • don’t just answer their question, client may be being nice/tactful
    • ask questions to get down to the real issue
  • “Sell ideas, not pixels”
    • Have discussions about the meaning of the design, then ask if the design supports that meaning.
    • Some objections & responses:
      “That color is UGLY”
      go back to research, focus on the user
      “That button is too big”
      we did this because research shows users weren’t seeing it
    • Find out the real problem and respond to it.
      • if it’s a problem, fix it
      • if it’s not a problem, use the research to calm the client
      • don’t try to calm the client without the research; if you do, you may come across as a know-it-all


Competitive Audit : Client Services :: Inspiration : Homegrown


Homegrown – Zeldman’s redesign
  • problem: invite people to read the writing
  • design around the content in the browser with CSS
  • designed the nav last interesting
  • navigation as content
  • there is no fold
  • fewer shapes allows more flexibility (recombine the layout later)
Business site – An Event Apart redesign
  • problem: needed to show value (economic downturn)
  • old site was brand over content
  • need persuasive content
  • What do we have?
    • great sites
    • great speakers (in action)


How do you sell info architecture to someone who doesn’t want it and doesn’t have the money?
expensive to change coded site, less expensive to build it right (faster, cheaper to change napkin drawing than coded site)