Everyone knows that when developing a website, you want to think like a customer, not a marketer. You should build the site from the customers’ perspective, to address their pains, needs, and desires.

But there’s a huge gap between knowing you should do this and knowing how to do it. Here are a few techniques I use to “get into the customer’s head” and help create successful, customer-centered websites.

Imagine you’re a shopper. During the planning stage of your site, try to slip into the mindset of a customer. Think about their needs, rather than your own. Most business owners make the mistake of focusing too heavily on their own product specifications. They want to shove as much info as possible into the site—rather than considering what customers need to see before they can even get interested in a product.

For example, if you have a storefront, your customers’ priority might be as simple as finding out your hours and location. They don’t need a lot of product detail — they’ll come to your store to get that. Or if you’re selling high-end products online, customers might want to see your pricing up front. Only if the price suits their budget will they take the time to learn more about the product.

Get an outside view of your site. Pretending to be a customer is a good start, but realistically, it’s almost impossible to see your own site objectively. You’re too close to it. Start getting input from a third party—an interactive firm, a user research group, or even friends and family.

Often, an objective reviewer can spot gaps in your content or navigation almost immediately. Usually, those gaps represent your own instinctive understanding of the site content — an understanding that outside customers won’t have. In other words, you designed the site, and you “get” how it works — but no one else does.

Check out the competition. To get a fresh perspective on your own site, look at what your competitors are doing. How do they structure their navigation? Where do they place calls to action? How quickly do they introduce pricing—or do they introduce it at all?

Their choice aren’t necessarily the right ones. But seeing their approach can provide valuable insight—and again, help you spot gaps or flaws in your site that you otherwise wouldn’t spot.

If all else fails, remember three basic concerns that all customers have. Is your site easy to navigate? Is it easy to find what you’re looking for? Is it visually stimulating? If you answer “yes” to all three questions, you’ve gone a long way toward creating a customer-friendly site.

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