What is UX – an overview?
UX or User Experience is the idea behind how someone feels (the experience) when they interact with a physical or digital product.
The term user experience came out of the early days of computer graphic user interfaces in the early 90’s. A good UX would produce a positive response while a bad UX would lead to frustration and negative responses.
UX goes far beyond producing a good product or website. Good UX means knowing what a customer wants and providing that experience. Excellent UX goes beyond what someone says they want from product and actually provides a deeper and richer experience that can provide more than the user thought they wanted.
When it comes to building a website you are creating a digital product that exists to perform tasks like building relationship, getting enquiries or selling goods. UX goes deeper and understands that in order to achieve those end results you have to break down barriers a user might have before they complete a contact form or make their purchase.
There is a journey that every visitor to a site will go through before they will send you an enquiry or buy that product you’re selling. The journey will look different to different users and for different websites but ultimately it is somewhere on the scale of getting a person from being a casual visitor that stumbles on your site, to getting them interested, to making a decision to interact or purchase and then finally to actually complete the task of interacting with the site beyond browsing.
When you understand the journey a user takes you can start to see that if you focus on a single goal you might be missing an opportunity. If the final goal is to sell a product you might miss the opportunity to promote return customers or even worse, you might just focus on your product page and ignore that the blog posts you have could be a way to direct someone to the shop page in case they land there.
The idea here is that you understand your website involved people and needs to be tested with people in mind. This specific approach to design is an ongoing or iterative process where you design, get users to test and then redesign based on what you learn. The process can take longer but ultimately you can gain some incredible insights into how people use your product and create journeys that are far more efficient than if you just built something using assumptions.
How does UX relate to website design?
When designing a website you want to make the journey for a customer as simple and enjoyable as possible. Remember, you’re not just selling a product but creating an experience that is enjoyable. This can lead to better sales, improved return customers and greater loyalty.
There are lots of parts to a website so let’s look at some areas of web design that can benefit from good UX.
Making interactions simple and removing barriers to conversion
Few things are more infuriating to a web user than complicated websites that don’t make sense, have unnecessarily long processes in order to checkout or even unexpected barriers that prevent you achieving your goal.
Think about how a customer is going to get to your contact form or product from every part of your site. Think about how they might get to your site other than from the homepage and create strong links back to the core purpose of what you do. Use a call to action or write articles that encourage someone to get in contact. Have a clear route to your contact page or even promote specific products on the page in order to get their attention without even clicking to go somewhere else first.
Avoid complicated processes because you don’t want to find that later lots of user were leaving because they were interested in buying from you but couldn’t figure out how to visit your product page or how to pay.
Fewest possible steps vs. Best interaction to get conversion
Often you will hear web designers and developers talk about creating the fewest possible steps to get to your product or contact form. This is often true but is only one side of the story. When you think about UX you understand that you want to create an enjoyable experience first. This might often involve an additional step that creates a better experience for customers.
Shops are a great example. Think about the checkout process. The simplest way to sell a product would be to have a button on each product that allows you to click and pay for it there and then. But what if the customer wants to purchase multiple products? They would have to make a purchase for every item they want. This is an example of too few steps being a bad thing. By adding a basket or cart you allow a customer to add multiple items and purchase them at the same time.
This thinking is behind allowing shop users to sign up for an account so that they can come back and look at past orders or reorder an item. If you don’t allow this then you might be missing an opportunity to create an experience that the customer didn’t even know they wanted and could increase revenue and customer satisfaction.
Flow of information through a page
A customer journey isn’t just about how a user moves through multiple pages on your website but also how they interact with individual pages.
Why do websites have a homepage? Usually it is a central point that links together everything you have to offer. A homepage with good UX isn’t just a dumping ground of content so that no matter who lands on a page there is something for them. This may sound like a good plan but what if it is too cluttered to read? What if the page is so long that nobody scrolls down to the content they are interested in?
When you think about the flow of information on a page you are thinking about how someone interacts with a site. Usually they will start at the top and scroll through the page. Consider what information is more useful to your users first and what will guide them to the next part of your site that they are interested in. Perhaps they want to see all of your membership packages before buying. Perhaps they are more interested in what you are doing for the community to see if they want to support you.
You can’t account for everything but get to know your users and use this information to guide your decision-making.
Having a clear idea of why you are building a site a certain way
The most important part of having long-term success with a website is to have a plan. You wouldn’t buy a shop with no clue about how to decorate or the layout of the items you want to sell.
The key is to know why you are doing something with your site. If you are adding content or features to your website without information then it is a gamble. What if you spend money on that and it doesn’t work? It is usually better to have a plan based on how you know people use your site or spend the money on a designer to take a look at this for you. You will usually end up with a better design in the end and are less likely to see a failed attempt because you already knew what your users respond to.
Ensuring a smooth and efficient customer journey
When creating a great customer journey there is a lot to think about. Having a designer who understands UX can really help work these details out. A good designer will quickly pay for their work through improved conversion and reduced stress on your part. Here are some key areas that you might see when working with a UX designer.
Know customers and users first
As we said before, knowing your customer and users is one of the most important steps to successful website design. Your UX designer will often be interested in what you know about your users. Spend the time to share your experience and knowledge so that they are best equipped to provide the best service possible.
Understand what a successful conversion looks like
A UX designer understands that a successful conversion is not always a sale or clear concept. Your website should consistently take each user one step closer to the final goal. This means that whether your user has just landed for the first time on the homepage or blog article, or has been browsing your products for years that each time they are being encouraged one step closer to the first or next sale.
A successful conversion may be signing up to a newsletter so that you have a way of engaging them on a regular basis until they eventually think “I know, I am ready to buy that!”.
It might be adding an item to a wish list so that they have time to think about their purchase.
It might be clicking the button at the bottom of a blog post to read more related articles and creating a user who gets more and more hooked on your content.
It is important to understand all the different goals so that you have areas to think about while improving the website. This also has a direct affect on the next part of successful UX.
Once you know what success looks like, it really helps to know if you are hitting the mark. If you implement a feature on your site, how do you know if it was worth the money spent on adding that feature if you can’t measure whether anyone is even using it?
A good designer will be able to draw on their experience to come up with original and inspired ideas for how to improve your site. Even still, not every idea will succeed. You need to know if something was worthwhile before spending further money on improving that feature you’ve always wanted!
There are many ways to measure success. Some of this will look like using analytics to look at increased traffic to your site or a specific page. Sometimes, you will need more detailed information about an element on the page. Setting up events that trigger when someone clicks a button or fills in a form is a great way to see exactly what is happening on your site. If you track a button click you could see if that simple gradient you added to the button improved the number of times it gets clicked. Small changes can make big differences.
There is so much more to UX than we can share in an article. Ultimately you want to be striving to create the best experience for your users as possible. You want them to use your site, buy your products and fill in your forms but more importantly you want them to be happy when they are doing it.
Good UX takes your site from functional to exceptional. If you’re interested in how to improve the user experience on your site why not get in contact?