What Is UX Design, and How Does It Benefit Your Website?
Why User-Experience Design?
Do you ever wonder why some things work better than others? Take an everyday object, like your coffee cup, for instance. Does it look good? Is it functional? What is more important to you? And why? I teach UX design, and these are the first questions I ask new students. Let’s take a look at how user-experience design relates to your website.
Basically, user experience, or UX for short, is all about how we perceive, use and remember any object. No matter how great an object looks, if it is impossible or even inconvenient to use it will not be successful. That is true for your coffee cup, your smartphone, and your website.
No matter how great something looks, if it does not work as intended it is not very usable, is it? Unfortunately, in today’s world we have become overly focused on cool gadgets, not all of which actually provide a great user experience. And for gadgets that may be acceptable.
But when it comes to the online portal of your business or product brand failures in user-experience design quickly go from being simply annoying to costing you online engagement and conversions, and potentially your business. So today I want to give you the UX design basics you need to understand and show you how to apply these essentials of user-experience design.
UX Design Basics
The Connection Between Usability and UX
In a recent post I discussed how usability relates to having a user-friendly website. To refresh your memory, in web design usability refers to how easy it is for visitors to interact with your website. User-experience, or UX for short, is how visitors feel about interacting with your website. Usability is about functionality, and UX is about the experience.
While the two are not the same, they are closely related. In most cases, bad usability leads to a poor user-experience. User-experience design is simply combining usability design and web design to create an online presence that looks and functions well across all devices and screen sizes.
What is User-Experience?
What exactly does user-experience mean? It is literally how website visitors feel and react when they interact with a digital product, such as a website or mobile app. Great UX is when using a website intuitively makes sense to the user. Intuitive user-experience design creates a positive user-experience, which in turn leads to higher website engagement and conversions. Your website visitors need to have a seamless experience while they click away, research products or services, make purchases, and fill out contact forms.
When done correctly, UX is not necessarily something you notice. Your website simply works for visitors by meeting their user expectations. But bad user-experience design results in reactions ranging from slightly annoyed to complete confusion, which in turn leads to website abandonment.
Psychology and UX Design
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as universal user-experience design. Your UX design ultimately needs to be based on the user expectations of your target audience. You need to understand your visitors’ motivation for visiting and interacting with your website or e-commerce store.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
- Who is using your website?
- Why are they using your website?
- How are they using your website?
- When are they using your website?
- Where are they using your website?
- What are they trying to achieve on your website?
- Which alternatives do they have?
Once you have the answers for, or at least a better understanding of, the above you are ready to apply that knowledge to your website UX. Effective UX design anticipates problems that your website visitors may experience and helps you to provide solutions and therefore deliver a better overall user-experience.
The Benefits of Better UX Design
User-experience design is a relatively new concept in web design. A few years ago, when we asked clients about the user-experience they envisioned for their website we mainly got blank stares. But in 2019 more and more businesses are realizing that the user-experience on their website is crucial for their online engagement, and therefore their bottom-line.
Basically, your website UX design must to be flawless or engagement and conversions will decline. The trick is looking for the sweet spot that overlaps your business needs and your users’ expectations and requirements. That will determine the balance between visual design aesthetics and user functionality. The less effort for website visitors to interact with your website, the better the user-experience.
Here are some direct benefits for your business when you integrate UX design into the development process of your website:
- Increased sales
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Reduced development time and costs
- Reduced maintenance cost
- Increased productivity
- Decreased training and support costs
The Fundamentals of User-Experience Design
Now that I have covered some of the basics of user-experience design you have a better idea of how and why UX Design is so important for your website or e-commerce store. This means you can start improving the user-experience design of your online presence as needed.
Once again, there is simply no one-size-fits-all approach to UX design. It all comes down to common sense and determining which UX elements will provide the most benefits for your specific target audience. In my experience the following have provided the best results for improving your website’s UX and usability.
A Simple UX Design Checklist
As the name implies, user-experience design focuses on those aspects of your website that have the biggest impact on usability and user expectations. As I mentioned already, good UX design means your website visitors will have a better experience, which in turn will increase the time they spend on your site, and how often they will return.
Here is a simple checklist of user-experience design elements you must prioritize on your website:
- Website Menu to help visitors locate and access your content:
- About Us to explain to visitors who you are
- Services / Products to tell consumers what you offer
- Case Studies to tell visitors how you help
- Product or Project Galleries to show visitors your work
- Contact Information including phone number, email and location
- CTA or Opt-In to prompt visitors to act, get information, or opt-in
- Footer to display additional relevant links and information
- Search Functionality to help visitors find additional information
- Mobile First-Design to provide the best possible mobile user-experience
- Page Load Speed of 3 seconds or less to meet user expectations
- Web Design Elements including:
- White Space for better web flow and readability
- Content that is concise and relevant to your audience
- Color Scheme that matches brand identity
- Typography for better readability
- Visual Content to visually capture attention and draw users to your site
- Micro Interactions to convey information and engage your audience
Common UX Design Elements
Let me elaborate a bit on some of the above user-experience design elements and explain what they are, and how they will benefit your online presence. Please note that these UX design elements are focused on an average business website. E-commerce stores and other specialized sites have other user-experience design consideration that I am not covering in this post.
I always feel that in 2019 I should not have to remind my readers of this. But I will, just to drive home this critically important message! Good user-experience design MUST start with mobile-first design. The majority of your website visitors will use a mobile device. This means your website has to provide the usability and user-experience ever more demanding mobile consumers expect.
When visitors first arrive on your website, they really have no idea what to expect. Maybe they found you on Google, or simply by surfing the net on their lunchbreak. Now you need to get them interested enough to explore your site. And good UX design can greatly enhance this on-boarding experience. Therefore, you must provide enough relevant information on your home page to meet your audience expectations. This can include a striking background image or video, a bold minimal design, or interactive elements.
Unless you have a very simple one-page website you will have some sort of navigation menu to allow your visitors to navigate from page to page and find relevant content. A basic principle of good UX design is to keep your website navigation as simple as possible.
The most beautiful and well-designed website will not do you any good if visitors don’t wait around long enough to actually see it. Therefore user-experience design in 2019 has to include your page load speed. According to a recent study, your page load speed should be less than 3 seconds. If yours takes longer than that you will risk losing a greater percentage of your website visitors.
The more content you have the longer it will take your website to load. This includes both text and images. Good UX design focuses on a minimal approach. In the case of content less is definitely more! Be concise and get straight to the point. Don’t stuff your content with industry jargon; nobody will read that. And use visual content to illustrate your message, not to clutter up your design.
Providing a great user-experience means having legible text. Don’t make your audience squint to read tiny text that barely stands out from the background. Good UX design means having legible text and sufficient contrast between the text color and the background. This makes it much easier for your website visitors to find and consume the content on your site.
In 2019 Live Chat has become the norm rather than the exception. Website visitors except immediate answers and support, and in most cases a simple contact form alone will no longer do the trick. Therefore, I recommend you include providing live chat functionality as part of your overall user-experience design.
Another fairly new trend in UX design is the use of micro animations. In short, micro-animations are small functional animations that provide visual feedback and clearly display changes. A common example is the flip-on-hover effect. By using micro animations as part of your user-experience design you can provide a variety of visual clues. Just don’t overdo it!
Uniformity & Variation
This user-experience design element is often overlooked. But especially on large, multi-page sites it comes in very handy. By breaking large sites down into a variety of design styles you can help visitors better locate and navigate your content. A good example are blog pages, which usually look a bit different from the rest of the pages on a site.
Keep in mind that when it comes to variations good UX design means you do need to include some common page elements. Otherwise your website visitors will quickly get confused. I recommend keeping your page headers, navigation, and footers uniform throughout your site. Variations can include background colors and other visual elements specific to certain pages.
The last element I want to mention are pop-ups. I am sure you have noticed them on a number of sites. And yes, most of them are extremely annoying! And generally, pop-ups are considered ass click-bait, and are becoming rapidly outdated. Therefore, using pop-ups needs to be a very careful consideration in your user-experience design.
There are ways to have both good UX design and use pop-ups on your site. This means not to hinder your website visitors, but to provide some measurable benefits. Do not include pop-ups if they are not relevant to the user, and you have no alternative options. And be sure you blend the forms into your website as much as possible.
Final Thoughts on User-Experience Design
Now you have a better understanding about user-experience design, and why it so important for your online presence. If you want your online presence to stand out from your competitors and rise above the digital noise you will need great design, relevant content, and be fun to use. The better the UX design of your website the more your visitors will enjoy the experience of using and interacting with it.
When it comes to website usability and UX design, there are a few essential elements you should keep in mind to provide the best possible results:
- Mobile-First Design: Provide the best possible user-experience for mobile consumers.
- Page Speed: Optimize your site to load in less than 3 seconds for impatient visitors.
- Simplicity: Less is more; focus on the essentials you need to convey your message.
- Clear Navigation: Simple website navigation will enable visitors to find your content.
- Content: Text and images / videos that clearly communicate the benefits you provide
- Readability: Your content should be easy to read, so that it doesn’t confuse or frustrate.
- Search Functionality: Allow your visitors to search for and locate additional information.
- Interactivity: Make using your website a fun experience for your site visitors.
If you follow the basics of UX design, you will create the online presence your business or product brand needs to meet the expectations of ever more sophisticated and demanding mobile consumers. We are here to help.
How Did Improved UX Design Work for You?
Do you have a user-friendly website? Or did you discover some usability shortcomings? If so, how did you fix them? Did better user-experience design improve your online engagement and conversions? Or did you have other problems with your business website? Please feel free to let us know so our audience can benefit as well and grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! And feel free to share our post with your audience!
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!