How to Make Awesome Web


I work on 20Skaters, ThreeFortyNine, Ontario Startup Train and a few others. My vanity site is

The hardest part of creating awesome landing pages, websites etc has nothing to do with html5, css, or python. It’s isn’t about SEO optimization or building your site for the robots. It’s about humans and I’m going to give you the secret right here and now.

Steve Krug wrote a book titled Don’t Make Me Think. Folks in programming, UX, quality assurance generally enjoy Steve’s ideas. Rarely (never) have I met someone outside of those people designing and building the web who know of Steve’s work. That’s disappointing.

The secret I have for you? Read Steve’s book and use his techniques to get humans to tell you how to make your website awesome. Don’t relegate this work to your web developer or your QA person, this is your job! Start running simple, in person user interviews with real people.

They don’t have to be in your demographic or your ideal customer or your personas. Those are all excuses not to talk with a human today. Offer people something, a coffee or a pint, in exchange for 15 minutes of their time. Go to a coffee shop and offer to buy people’s coffee when they walk in. Sit them in front of a computer, turn on audio recording and screencasting, ask them questions and listen.

The hardest part is sitting that human down. If you can’t even do that, come to ThreeFortyNine next week. We’re hosting a public coworking day, at lunch we’re going to test each other’s applications. We have space for ten, register here.

Once you start, the key is listen, listen more, listen more, listen more….. Did I mention that you have to listen! You need to train yourself to not answer questions, correct actions, give instructions. You’re not training them, you’re learning from them! Watch Steve demonstrate it in this video.

“So when you look at this site, what do you think it’s for?”

“Why did you just click that?”

“If you wanted to know who built this, how would you do that?”

“I’m not sure, I’m curious how you would do that? Go for it!”

Shut up, listen, learn. Do that over and over and you’ll know precisely what’s broken with your site and where to focus. Heck you do that once and I guarantee you’ll learn more than days of brainstorming sessions with your team. Make some changes, or have your web dev make them, then talk to more humans.

While everyone should be doing this, this process of speaking to people and learning early and often is more important if you’re not technical. I’m always meeting non-technical folks with websites who express the feeling of helplessness because they’re not technical. Instead of speaking with humans, they rely on the technical people they hired to design their websites. While I’m sure those folks are competent, they shouldn’t be making those decisions. You can make them. You need to make them. Don’t over think it, just get out there and talk to the humans!