By: Brad Koyak of Spectre Graphics
In this series, we have taken an in-depth look into what is big data and the ethical dilemmas that surround the collection, storage, and use of big data. In my final blog in this series, we will take a look at how web designers and developers use big data to make sites more user-friendly and intuitive.
Data Collection and UX
There are many ways that data collection helps users to better navigate the web. Site searching, for instance, lets websites track what visitors are looking for on our site. As a result, web designers can better organize a site to improve the user experience (UX).
In most cases just having a search box helps websites track what their customers need. Tracking this information can be critical because when users don’t find what they are searching for on your website they will leave and find it elsewhere. Having a search box not only increases UX but also helps companies stay on top of current trends and customer needs. Website owners can change their products and services or introduce new items based on their observation.
Another very common practice is traffic analysis. By analyzing site traffic companies can learn vital information about their site.
- Which areas receive relatively no traffic
- Which pages need more work or better design solutions
- What pages better map the customer journey.
Companies get to know the useful and driving elements of their site and can emphasize those areas.
At some point in your internet browsing, you have probably come across a product suggestion that just happens to be exactly what you are looking for. This is because using the data collected by your browser companies can determine products and services that fit you. We discuss this use of big data extensively in our Digital Marketing series.
Thanks to big data website and app development are faster than ever. With the help of advanced analytical tools, web designers are given the ability to analyze enormous volumes of data, obtaining more precise recommendations on certain web functions and features. Learning what users prefer most permits web designers to speed the entire web development process up. The demands of users are ever-changing. Big data will allow you to stay on top of those demands.
The investment the average business used to make in website design and development was much higher a few years back. If your business, for example, primarily manufactures and stocks products, being aware of when and how much new stock is required will prevent you from dealing with potential waste while still meeting customer demands.
As a result, the overall cost of running an e-commerce store has been drastically reduced. Also, inventory doesn’t need to be as deep when companies know exactly what customers want in advance. Reduced shelf life alone is what created the number one eCommerce company in the world, Amazon.
By remembering user preferences, websites can deliver a truly personalized experience to each user. This can work as a sort of virtual assistant by putting the features you use most directly in front of you.
While few regulations govern how companies collect data and what they do with it, there have been recent implementations that every web designer needs to follow. For instance, California’s Online Protection Privacy Act (CalOPPA) requires websites to provide explicit rights statements and allows users to know how their information will be used in the future. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which went into effect in January 2020 further gives consumers more control over their personal information. A new law called the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) passed in November 2020 comes into effect in 2023.
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) affects the E.U. and countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), by creating a new regulation for privacy in the digital age. The law has far-reaching effects because it not only affects organizations within the E.U., but also applies to organizations offering goods or services to people residing in the E.U.
Companies outside of the E.U. that have E.U. clientele are affected by the GDPR even though the organization is not headquartered or does not have offices in E.U. member states.
How can web designers user big data ethically?
One way web designers can ethically use big data is by making the collection and transmission of personally identifiable information more visible at the interface. In addition, they can specify functionality to minimize the amount of personal data collected. Designers can also act as persuasive advocates throughout the design process, helping steer decision-makers and keeping them informed of the uncertainties surrounding the data.
When informing site users of what data will be collected and how it will be used and stored we can take more creative approaches than a wall of small print. For instance, web designers can use images, videos, or infographics. We have also seen websites start to give users more options by letting them consent or opt-out of some or all uses of their data that are not required for the provision of the product or service.
There are great uses for big data being employed every day to increase not just user experience but also accessibility and usability. Big data provides small businesses with the ability to compete with big-box stores by helping them define exactly who their customers are and what their needs are. This helps by reducing the overall cost to operate.
However, in that usage, there is a large margin of error allowing for even accidental unethical practices. As web designers, it falls on us to make sure we are not only compliant but informative. Web Designers can act not just as advisors but as vocal advocates for ethical and moral practices.
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