Mitch McCasland is an expert in brand strategy. He has worked with the big guns--Proctor & Gamble, Dr. Pepper/Seven-Up, and Verizon/GTE. I recently talked with Mitch about how Account Planning techniques can benefit the way web sites are designed. Here's what Mitch had to say.

Perfetti: Many development teams we work with tell us they want to "know their users" and understand their customers' needs at a deeper level. How can techniques from Account Planning help these designers?

Mitch: Account Planning enables designers to develop an intimate understanding of users' behaviors, attitudes, motivations, and lifestyles. Using techniques from Account Planning, designers can better understand what happens in a user's daily life, as well as the motivational role a web site has in evoking real-world responses by users. This is important in selecting and designing a web site's imagery, content, tonality, functions, and features.

Perfetti: Are there any organizations you've worked with who have successfully gathered customer insights using Account Planning techniques?

Mitch: I worked with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to help them understand their users' needs at a deeper level. The ADA is a wonderful organization. It's the nation's leading nonprofit health organization providing diabetes research, information, and advocacy. The organization's mission is to prevent diabetes, support the search for a cure, and improve the lives of people affected by the disease.

In pursuing this mission, the ADA publishes scientific findings and provides information and services to people with diabetes, their families, health care professionals, and the public. The Diabetes.org web site plays a vital part in disseminating this information to its various audiences.

Perfetti: Why did the ADA get you involved?

Mitch: ADA's site was not organized in a way to support quick access to information. For example, the content concerning Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, was not uniformly written to the layperson's understanding. As a result, parents of children with Type 1 diabetes who came to the site were not able to quickly gather the information they needed. Plus, the site had grown in bits and pieces, patched together over time, and users were having an increasingly difficult time finding the information they needed.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christine Perfetti is a consultant at User Interface Engineering (www.uie.com) in Bradford, Massachusetts. She can be reached at cperfetti@uie.com.