Regardless of whether we’re talking about a product, a mobile app, a website, or anything else, user experience plays an essential role in its success. Some may find that obvious, but there are still a lot of misconceptions about UX floating around and since it’s something so important, it’s good to know what’s what when designing your product/website/anything.
Getting your UX design right can be the difference between making or breaking a business, so for starters we’re going to look over a few general tips to improve your UX design and make the right design choices for your target audience.
1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
UX design focuses on engaging with your audience, and engagement is crucial. As such, doing what is best for your audience may not always align with the concept in your mind.
The reason why so many websites or mobile apps are structured similarly or share certain elements is because they work and because people are used to things being the way they are.
People don’t always like change, and you can look at Facebook for a clear example of this. Every few years when Facebook makes significant changes to its interface, a lot of people are in uproar over them. It doesn’t matter that Facebook doesn’t do this willy-nilly but based on actual research and intense testing to ensure usability and user experience are improved.
Most people don’t notice how exactly their experience is different and won’t know that it’s an improvement once that small window of adjustment passes. All they’ll know is that it’s different, they potentially have to relearn a few things (even though they are likely easier now), and they get upset. Time goes by, they get used to it, it’s easier to use, and the next time a redesign comes around they will defend the design they previously hated with fervor.
However, this doesn’t mean it will necessarily apply to you and your website, regardless of all the research and testing you’ve done showing your way is better than the norm. That’s because you’re not a platform with hundreds of millions of users who have no choice but to adapt to your changes. You have a website among thousands of websites and if you don’t conform to the design norms, you will likely frustrate users. Note that I’m not suggesting you don’t do anything special or out of the ordinary, far from it, go nuts. I’m just saying that some things need to be handled more carefully than others and they should adhere more closely to convention than others.
2. Don’t overdo it
A major issue often seen in the UX design process is when designers unnecessarily complicate things.
Getting to a page and finding it packed with tons of elements, colors, and typography, will more often than not result in the visitor “bouncing” (exiting the page without interacting with it). That’s why you need to keep everything user-friendly. After all, your goal is to keep users on your page, so they get what they came there for. Distracting them from their goal leads to you not achieving yours.
Here’s a quick look at what keeping things simple means:
- have a single and specific purpose for each page – the contact page, for example, should only contain contact details and maybe a form, not links to service pages or articles. Similarly, the checkout page should only contain what is necessary for the checkout process, and so on.
- ensuring visitors are immediately familiar with each page and its purpose – users shouldn’t need instructions on using your website. It should be easy to navigate and the users’ expectations need to be met.
- move less important stuff toward to the bottom – if something isn’t essential, like article suggestions, move that information toward the bottom, in this case below the article.
3. Know what your target audience needs and wants
This one might seem obvious, but trust me, it’s worth still mentioning. You need to know what your audience needs and expects from you in order to figure out the right UX design scheme to use.
This is problematic because some designers might feel that because they are operating in the market segment, they understand what their audience needs and wants without making efforts to study it. These two steps can help you get this important user experience information right during the design process:
- use surveys to gather feedback from your users
- observe how your product or similar products are being used, be it in person or remotely
This is the type of information you may get out of it:
- who your users are (demographically) – men, women, young adults, tech novices, etc.
- what their needs are and how you can provide them with solutions for those needs
- how the correlation between their needs and the value you are offering manifests in your interface design
4. Make different elements visually distinct from one another
Visually distinct page layouts are an important goal for UX designers as they maintain fluid user journeys and engaging user experiences.
Simply put, if users don’t have to think about how to do or find something and they can just do it, that’s a very good thing.
Here are a few tips for keeping this in mind during the design process:
- emphasize the most important information on the page – in the case of a blog post, for example, a clear-cut headline followed by subheadings delving into the subject matter
- ensure visitors know where they are – navigation needs to always be at hand and different elements need to be where they are expected to be (e.g. related content at the bottom of a blog post)
- emphasize action buttons and ensure visitors know exactly what they do – e.g. an email field with a subscribe button
- have a visually distinct search field – typically includes the word “search,” a looking glass, and is positioned in the upper right corner
Also be aware that:
- background colors should typically be muted
- links should be blue
- red typically signifies alerts or errors
- calls to action generally have an exclusive color to stand out from everything else
5. Maintain a consistent flow throughout visitors’ journeys
A particularly important aspect of the user experience design is the so-called “flow,” which describes the user journey’s consistent continuity.
Flow describes a user’s seamless journey from one section of the website to another while serving its ultimate goal - delivering value to the visitor.
Consistent design schemes are important because they help visitors get what they need and want in an effortless manner. If things are consistent, it will perpetuate usage, and to keep everything consistent, you need to put yourself in the user’s shoes and go through their journey step by step.
Let’s say the visitor starts their journey on the homepage, or even a blog post. The first thing you need to do is consider where that entry point will lead to. It could be to another blog post that goes into further details on the subject, or it could be a page detailing your services or products.
One thing you should avoid are dead-end pages, meaning pages that don’t lead anywhere else. Every page should lead somewhere else, with very few exceptions, such as the contact page.
Naturally, every flow has an end goal, and that is where visitors’ needs as well as your website’s goals meet. For example, if visitors are looking for useful content and you provide that content, then the end goal will likely be a subscribe button.
Now that we’ve gone over these general tips, let’s dive into some specifics and see what other things you can do to ensure a good user experience on your website.
1. Optimize page speed
This is key to ensuring visitors aren’t frustrated with your website.
Waiting for pages to load is one of the most frustrating things users can experience on the web. With most traffic to your site likely coming from mobile devices, it’s more important than ever to ensure visitors have quick access to everything on your website, or else you risk losing them.
While it may not seem like much, a mere couple of seconds of loading time can have a huge impact on your bounce rate.
Fortunately, Google has a tool called PageSpeed Insights which scans your website and gives you suggestions on improvements you can make to ensure your site loads as fast as possible.
2. Optimize your website for mobile devices
Mobile optimization essentially means two things: decreasing page load times and ensuring websites display correctly on mobile devices and are well designed from a usability standpoint.
Google goes so far as penalizing websites that aren’t well optimized and pushing them further down the search engine results pages (SERPs), which makes it all the more important to make sure your website is in tip-top shape for mobile devices.
Google also has a tool that tests mobile-friendliness, but keep in mind that just because it says your site is mobile friendly, then your work is done. There are still many tweaks to be done to ensure it performs as best as possible.
3. Keep pages consistent
This shouldn’t be too difficult, but do take care to ensure everything matches, such as heading sizes, colors, button styles, illustration styles, and so on. Your design should be coherent across your whole website.
In order for visitors to have a good experience navigating your website, they shouldn’t ever wonder if they left your site when simply going to another page on it. That’s why a consistent design is important, or else you risk confusing your visitors and potentially alienating them.
4. Use white space
While some might think white space is unused space that can house more content, it’s actually an essential part of good design.
White space works toward making your content more legible, while also directing visitors’ focus to the elements surrounding the text. It makes a page feel more open and cleaner, as opposed to stuffing as much content on it as you can. If you absolutely have to add more content to it, better to just make it taller than cram too much stuff together.
5. Use photos – but not stock photos
If you can and it is relevant to your business, definitely include photos of people on your website. However, stay away from stock photos.
People are getting savvier and are far better at judging a company’s website before deciding if they want to continue browsing it. Photos of people have been shown to improve conversions, but stock photos are typically easily identified by visitors and they are not a good look for your site. They make it feel generic and fake, which may very well carry over to their opinion of your company.
While stock photos do look good since they are shot by professionals who do this for a living, they are not good at connecting you with your audience. As such, use your own photos of your own people and place them strategically in a way that supports the content around them and gives visitors a visual break from the text on your page.
6. Use well-written headings
The headings and content on your page should of course be driven by what potential customers are looking for. Keywords in titles are also important for targeting your message and ensuring you attract the right audience.
Headings are key to guiding visitors around your site, making it easier for them to scan through your content and find what they are looking for. Not only that, but search engines will also give headings more weight than other content, so using keywords and making them as relevant as possible will work toward your site’s searchability.
7. Use bullet points to segment information
Bullet points are a great way for users to quickly skim through information and get everything they want to know. They are extremely useful for isolating the key points you are trying to make without going into much detail.
Keep in mind to position the most important elements of a list either at the beginning or at the end of a list, because that’s where users typically focus their attention.
8. Be on the lookout for nonexistent pages
You can probably relate to this as I’m sure you’ve stumbled on a 404 page once or twice when visiting a company’s website. Remember that feeling you got and how it immediately shook your trust in that company? Yeah, you’ll want to avoid that with your visitors.
Thankfully, there are several tools available that will crawl your site and find any broken links. One such tool is this one.
We’ve reached the end and hopefully you’ll have found a lot of valuable information in this article and are now way more prepared to offer your website’s visitors a great experience.
In the end, a well-designed user experience means ensuring your visitors get what they need from your website without any hassle or pointless distractions.