If you work for (or own) a business, odds are that your company has a website. And if you work in management, sales, or marketing for that company, you probably care a lot about how users experience the website. After all, creating a positive user experience can make all the difference between a happy customer and a crabby Google review.
User experience, or UX as the cool kids call it, is simply the practice of making a website easy to use and eliciting a positive emotional response from site visitors. It encompasses features like a streamlined design, straightforward navigation, and clear calls to action. UX applies outside the web world (after all, someone designed the chair you’re sitting on and the device you’re using to read this), but our discussion today is specific to websites and user experience design. It's about first impressions and happy customers.
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At the same time, designers receive requests like “make it pop!” (referring to virtually every element on the website). So, they have the daunting task of trying to please the client while also creating a design that results in great UX. In recent years, UX has been expanded to include accessibility, so it’s more important than ever. Building an accessible site requires knowledge of the requirements inherent in that, like creating appropriate color contrasts for site visitors who are visually impaired or colorblind. There’s a lot to think about!
BAD UX: YOU KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT
What does bad UX look like?
Well, you’ve probably run into it at some point. Have you ever visited a site and clicked on an icon that appeared to be clickable . . . and it went nowhere? That’s an oversight, probably, but it also creates a bad user experience. Or at least a minor annoyance! Maybe you’ve also visited sites that were so cluttered that you didn’t know where to look first. Again, it’s a poor user experience. Don’t even get me started on mile-long forms that no one wants to fill out. If you’re going after that coveted demographic known as millennials, studies show that this group does not favor brand loyalty as much as the generations that came before it. In other words, it doesn’t take much to lose a customer these days.
UX VS. UI
A good designer will use best practices to make sure these snags don’t occur. You might also hear about another acronym: UI. UI stands for User Interface. UX and UI go hand in hand. While UX design is concerned with creating a website that is easy to navigate and very user-friendly, UI design takes it to a more granular level. For example, a website design might include a call-to-action in a specific spot. The actual user interface dictates what color that call-to-action is, how it is styled, and any other aesthetic elements needed. UX and UI work together to create a site that’s user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
LIKE BIG BROTHER, BUT IN A GOOD WAY
Most of what we know about how people browse websites is driven by solid data and user experience research. For example, Eye Tracking studies show us how people tend to absorb a website (and where their eyes are drawn). Tools like Hotjar provide analytics and heat maps based on visitor recordings. You can see what they clicked and in what order, for example. Many times, it’s possible to pick up on natural usage patterns that can, in turn, drive the design over time. Did you know that most shoppers enter a department store and naturally turn to the right? Retailers know this and organize their stores accordingly. Websites are really no different.
HOW'S YOUR STUFF LOOKIN'?
How do you know if your current site has UX issues? Well, your more vocal site visitors will probably let you know - either directly or via reviews on Google, Facebook, etc. A less obvious (but still important) clue might be the lack of conversions. It’s a rare site that is so flawless that it leaves no room for improvement. Agencies like Leighton Interactive offer website evaluations (often at no charge) to let you know if your site has any UX/UI shortcomings and what types of improvements can be made.
So there you have it - a whirlwind tour of the world of UX when it comes to websites. Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at how your site stacks up?
A deep love of art and design drives me as I navigate the ever-changing waters of marketing. I am constantly looking for new and better ways to give the inbound marketing methodology the beautiful face it deserves. As the Art Director, I ensure that all of the design work we produce is top notch and designed with a purpose. When I’m not trying to solve creative problems, my life revolves around my family and friends, my passion for music, and my addiction to stories.