User experience, (UX), has become a buzzword when it comes to the design of websites and applications. You must have a great UX to get users. Apple became the evangelist of this years ago, and now everyone has joined in, which is great in my opinion, because the easier it is for a customer to use your product, the better it becomes for them to use and thus more revenue or leads. Your website shouldn’t take any time to figure out. Great UX should be instinctual: if you can have a page where users can get what they want quickly and easily (and can immediately find the search bar), then you are providing great UX.
How to Create a Great UX
A good user experience takes into account both the interests of the users and the company, hopefully weighted in the customers’ favor. There are numerous factors that affect the final result and, therefore, the success of your website. One key to a successful website is undoubtedly an attractive design, which is characterized by great user experience. But there are other aspects that should not be overlooked, such as navigation, color, call to action, user research, and just simple design consistency. For the purposes of keeping this post shorter than a Game of Thrones novel, we will talk about three of the integral components of a great user experience: research, simplicity, and choices.
1. User Research User research enables you to get the right information in front of the right people at the right time. For example, according to Sheena Iyengar in several studies, designers/marketers should focus on presenting the user with fewer choices, rather than more. Finding out what a customer truly cares about can be done by doing user testing with prototypes or existing websites. User testing, especially for new websites, is critical. If you have no previous customer research or feedback to look at, you can hire outside professionals, such as Blinkux (www.blinkux.com) or Userfly (www.userfly.com), to create the right testing and track users. The design should follow the user’s attention span from top to bottom, and not distract the user with too many text boxes on the right and left of the core content. There are of course exceptions to this rule.
2. Clarity and Simplicity Links on a webpage are a great thing, but the old adage “less is more” remains true in website design. Even links to your own content disrupt the flow of reading and can make a site confusing. Your design is of course up to you and how much you think is too much or too little. But in the case of a large majority of homepages that are “designed” by the CEO or non-designer/UX professional, you will see an abundance of choices, which is confusing and reduces conversions. The homepage is a tough to design, but keeping the “less is more” approach to it will most of the time be very helpful. Maintaining a clear message supported by images, color, and text is not easy. This is why design professionals get paid the big bucks, right? A singular focus on a goal for each page can prevent a confusing user experience and allow a user to just “do” rather than thinking too much. So how many focus points should be allowed on each page? That is up to your design team and your philosophy, but I have found that if you can provide some historical behavioral data to designers and decision makers such as work done by George Furnas and Jared Spool, you will be able to win the battle against the “congested homepage” that happens with businesses both big and small.
3. Presentation of Choices Your website’s UX should help customers make decisions. Make sure there is a singular focus on a goal for each page or a call to action. It could be to get them to another page, to download a whitepaper, or to buy a product. Pages that do not have a call to action, goal or fit within the framework of the site are no good. Many times content is the culprit here, be smart in your content strategy and allow your content to support the goal as well. Your design should support the goal of the page as stated previously by including information layout on the page, the hierarchy of concepts, desired user actions, and choices, of course. Yes choices, I have repeatedly discovered over the years that instead of putting three similar products side by side with equal importance, it is more beneficial to emphasize one of them (i.e., Best Value, Most Popular, etc). Barry Schwartz book, “Paradox of Choice”, has also demonstrated that the probability of choosing a particular product decreases when the number of choices increases. This is especially true when you get over three – as choices go up, the ability for decision making goes down. It is the old adage “Paralysis by Analysis”.
In the End…
Creating a great user experience with compelling interactions with your customers is not easy. However, as we get more, C-suite people talking about it, and additional tools are created to help it will be an easier sell. What UX design tools are you using?