Tackling Complex Web Terms

We’re less than a week away from #SEMC2016 in Charlotte, NC! Sean’s gearing up to present his talk, Tackling Complex Web Projects, a how-to session that discusses methods to kick off any web project with confidence. Whether you’re already working on your website, have your RFP ready to go or haven’t even thought about starting a new web project, this session will give you tips and tools to create consensus and build momentum when the time comes for the actual web project.

Every person working on a web design project on the museum side brings different skills to the table, and if your background isn’t in web design you may hear a few unfamiliar terms referenced in Sean’s presentation. We’ve compiled a list of prerequisite terms you can use for reference before, during and after the talk. And hey, you may know all of these terms (you rock!), but other people on your team may not. This blog post is great to share among your team and internal stakeholders so no one feels out of the loop during your project.

These terms are only the map points. Let Sean help you connect the dots in Tackling Complex Web Projects on Tuesday at 3:30 pm in Governor’s 5 session room.

Important Terms


Cardsorting is a great tool for brainstorming, organizing and prioritizing content with a group of internal stakeholders. It helps you visualize how information can be arranged on the site; if you don’t like the position of something, you can quickly move, reorganize it in a different location or remove it altogether without a lot of hassle.


Discovery is a term we use for the research phase at the beginning of every web design project. The Discovery phase is made up of many of the exercises discussed in this post. At the end of Discovery your goals will be solidified with clear north stars to guide the project forward through design and development.


Websites don’t exist in a vacuum—they are one organism in a diverse ecosystem of touchpoints you have with your visitors Others include your physical location, blog and social media properties. Your website is also part of your larger data ecosystem, and should interface with things like ticketing, membership and donor management platform. Keeping these ecosystems in mind early in a project process can help everyone understand the current context of your website and plan for potential future connections and integrations.

Heuristic Evaluation

A User Experience (UX) designer’s evaluation of your site’s adherence to best practices in and adherence to usability standards (also known as the site’s heuristics).

Information Architecture (IA)

Much like a map of your physical space, IA is the art and science of arranging and labeling digital content to set, organize and create content hierarchy. It also creates the structure for your site’s interface.


A persona is not an actual person, but instead an archetype built from research and information gathered about a segment of your audience. Rather than looking at your audience as one nebulous group, personas help you break down and understand a specific segment’s goals,  motivations, attitudes, constraints, aversions and more. They act as catalysts for empathy, and allow you to step into their shoes—seeing what they’ll think, feel and do as they move through your website—so you can plan for and tailor their interactions.

Project Roadmap

Document compiled at the end of the Discovery (research) process that lays the foundation for the remainder of the project; recaps insights uncovered and decisions made to guide the remainder of the project through site launch.


Prototyping is anything used to quickly explore a website’s new layout, information hierarchy or initial direction during a redesign. Cardsorting (discussed above) can be sued as one example of prototyping called Lo-fi Page Prototyping. Wireframes (below) are another example.

Spectrum Polling

Spectrum polling is the practice of getting feedback from a group of people by asking them to relate their response on a scale between two endpoints. An example is asking people to mark how they perceive a museum on a line between “Not Friendly” and “Welcoming.” Spectrum polls are good exercises for audience or stakeholder workshops to come to a consensus regarding aspects of how the website and/or organization is viewed.

Stakeholder Workshop

A meeting with stakeholders to go through consensus-building exercises like cardsorting or spectrum polling.


Usability is about making interfaces easy to learn, it’s about preventing errors and reducing the time to get things done, and it’s even about making an experience more satisfying and delightful. Jeff Sauro measuringu.com/blog/fundamental-usability.php

User Flows

Maps of a user’s experience as they interact with a system and attempt to accomplish their goals, designed to sense-check the effectiveness of the system by illuminating potential frustrations and friction-points. Can include everything from route-mapping (diagramming a user’s physical path through a system) to journey-mapping (plotting a user’s emotions as they take steps to accomplish a task).

User Experience (UX)

All aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company and its services, and its products. The first requirement for exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want or providing checklist features. Source: Nielsen-Norman Group


Wireframes serve as a blueprint for a web page that illustrate page functionality and content hierarchy as it will be organized on the final webpage.


Key Distinctions

We think these terms are important to see next to each other as they are easy to mix up.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative:

Both are categories that data can fall into. Here’s how they’re different:

Qualitative Data

Information about something that cannot be measured using numbers. For example when you’re rating visitor experience with an open-ended question and people respond with “it was great,” or “fine, except I didn’t like the sandwich in the cafe.” You know these visitors (mostly) enjoyed their experience, but you couldn’t quantify it or come back and analyze for a change in enjoyment over time.

Quantitative Data

Something that can be measured, like numbers or statistics. If you’re measuring the number of visitors you receive each month, you could quantify that visitor attendance increased over the summer based on the increase of numbers you see.

Content Maps vs. Sitemaps:

Both are hierarchical representations of how content can be arranged on a site. Here’s how they’re different:

Content Maps

Content maps show the relationships between content, without trying to tie that content down to concrete pages.


Sitemaps solidify content into pages and show the relationships between those pages.

Now you’ve got the information you need to walk into Tackling Complex Web Projects with confidence! Connect with us on Twitter @Cuberis if you’re heading to SEMC.