Four Things to Think About When Designing for User Experience
User Experience Design Is Often the Differentiating Factor Between Websites that Convert and Those that Don’t
At efelle creative, we place user experience concerns at the center of everything we do. From creating our initial design mockups to launching newly developed websites, our process demands considering and reconsidering everything involved in crafting an optimal user journey.
Thoughtful implementation of UX principles inspires action and, as such, is a marketing lifeline for any business with an online presence. Below, we dig into why UX is an important consideration in the realm of online marketing and how following UX best practices can help grow your business.
User Experience (UX) versus User Interface (UI) and How it All Relates to Conversions
The aim of any good website is to “convert” users; in other words, your website should inspire visitors to complete a desired action, whether that’s filling out a form, clicking on a link, or purchasing a product.
Throughout both design and development processes, we’re constantly asking ourselves, “What is the desired action for this website and how can we encourage users to go from landing on a page to completing that action?”
User experience principles play a big part in the answer to that question. But first, let’s break down what, exactly, UX refers to and how it differs from UI.
User experience design (UX) is often confused with user interface design (UI); while these are complementary concepts, they are by no means interchangeable. UI refers to the aesthetics and visual presentation—in its simplest definition, it is how things (or websites, in our case) look.
UX, on the other hand, refers to the feelings generated by the interactions a user may have with a website site or product. When we build websites, we ask questions like the following:
- How easy is it to use this website?
- Does the design and organization of this website gel with the established behaviors of its users?
- How accessible is the content?
- Does the user walk away from the experience feeling satisfied or frustrated?
In essence, UX design on the web is all about the features and functions on your website that inspire emotion and help steer a user’s journey based on their anticipated behavior. It requires a deep understanding of who your customer or client is and the kinds of things that move them to engage with your brand. It answers the questions Who, What, and Why, and respects existing—versus aspirational—behavior. You may want your customer to perform a certain action, but if you cannot streamline their path toward completing that action based on their present habits, they’re likely to bounce before they move forward.
Let’s be clear—UI can be important when it comes to converting users, as well. A lot of us are sight-centric creatures that tend to be drawn to eye-catching items and visually stirring content. We like when things look good, sound good, and are pleasant to touch.
But sacrificing the ease of the user journey in the name of aesthetics is likely going to hurt conversions, regardless of how beautiful the website in question is. It’s in our nature, after all, to look for a workaround if we do not find a process useful or valuable. Your customer’s workarounds may land them directly on the doorstep of your competitor.
A good UX-focused design, on the other hand, meets users where they are—not where you want them to be—and can inspire conversions even with the plainest of designs.
Of course, at efelle, we aspire to include the best of both worlds in our designs and believe that doing our research ahead of time and designing with intention yields results that are not just beautiful, they’re also engaging and effective.
(For more on UX versus UI, read our recent post, UX and UI—Do You Know the Difference?)
How to Build UX-Friendly Websites Like a Pro
1. Do Your Research
Before you even get started on a web design project, have you discovered, researched, strategized and mapped out the best user experience journey? If not, how can you ensure the outcome of your new design will succeed in its original mission?
Try this: Visit a competitor’s website and gauge how easy it is to purchase a product or find a contact form to fill out. How many clicks did you have to make before your “conversion”? Then, think about how you can replicate the good aspects of the journey and avoid the pitfalls on your own website.
A good user journey should be the foundation on which your website’s strategy is built; even simple elements can have a big impact on guiding users where you want them to go...or accidentally steering them down the wrong path (or off your site altogether). And on that note...
2. Become Obsessed with Navigation
Think of your website like a treasure map (with conversions being the “treasure chest” found at the end of the journey). While some customers might come to your site just to check out what you have to offer and meander around the different areas, others will show up looking for the straightest path to the finish line.
Your website should do two things to this end: One, it should supply the customer with specific directions in how to complete the desired action (call-to-action buttons and informational blocks are key here); two, it should have a main navigation menu always within reach—this is almost always the fastest route from point A to point B on any website.
This navigation menu might be a sticky header that remains visible as the user scrolls and that features drop-down link items to all the primary pages a visitor might want to discover. Or, it could come in the form of a collapsed hamburger menu available to users via a single click. (Note: Typically, hamburger menus are available in the top-right corner of websites; as such, users expect menu access to be available in this area. Because of this established expectation, it’s never a bad idea to follow the same standard).
Regardless of how you present navigation options, always ask yourself, is your website helping visitors find buried treasure (ie, convert) or is it setting them loose in the wilderness with a hard-to-read map and a broken compass?
3. Create a Cohesive Narrative Through Content Sectioning
Remember all that talk about conversions? Telling a great story through your website can have a major impact on your site’s conversion rate; it’s important to set up each page (and especially your homepage) to guide the user to your primary call to action in an organic way.
In this sense, mindful placement and ordering of sections and buttons on a page play an important role when designing for an optimal user experience; a well-sectioned layout helps establish a cohesive narrative by guiding users and inspiring desired emotions and behaviors.
Your website is one of your most powerful marketing assets for introducing your brand, products/services, and your company values to new users; perhaps most importantly, it’s a great asset for telling your visitors why and how your offerings are superior to those of your competitors.
Setting up your website as a vessel for sharing your brand story gives users the chance to connect with your brand in a fun, meaningful way; this will help them understand the benefits of choosing to do business with you before they even see a “Buy Now” or “Contact Us” call-to-action button. When you first establish connection through narrative, you increase the likelihood your visitors will be inspired to go through with a desired action.
4. Be Mindful of Shrinking Attention Spans
Studies suggest that our attention spans are shrinking. A 2015 Microsoft survey on media consumption in Canada suggests that the average attention span has fallen to 8 seconds—down from 12 seconds in the year 2000.
Some question that exact figure, but it’s hard to deny that the downward trend is real. More than ever, we are exposed to floods of information, especially with mobile devices becoming increasingly powerful. We are expected to multitask, prioritize, and consume information more efficiently than ever before. Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon called this trend way back in 1969 and wrote the following:
“…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
Philosophy aside, what’s particularly jarring about that eight-second attention span is that it’s technically shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.
What does this all mean for web design? It means we need to capture and convert audiences in an increasingly shorter period of time.
Think of your own habits. Have you ever found yourself browsing a website and not finding what you were looking for within moments of arrival? Did you bounce from that website almost immediately?
Guess what? That website has a UX problem (one that likely drove you straight to its competitors).
Fret not. Here are a few tips on making the most of short attention spans:
- Highlight important features, products, and information “above the fold” (ie, in the top portion of a page) as much as possible. Just make sure you’re not cramming so much in those spaces that your users get overwhelmed and lose sight of what you’re trying to say.
- Be mindful of page load times, especially on smartphones and other mobile devices (this is why we make all our websites mobile responsive and optimize content before uploading it into the client’s CMS).
- Make smart use of your brand colors to help critical elements stand out. This is not just good in terms of UI and brand recognition, it can also steer users to the most important areas of your website (at efelle, we use our signature orange a lot as an accent color to make calls to action pop).
Good UX is the Foundation of Any Project
If you try to integrate UX best practices in a project after it’s already been otherwise completed, it’s unlikely your efforts will prove successful. You need to intentionally set up a user’s journey from the get-go with respect to what you know of their habits and behaviors.
When strategizing on how to better the user journey for your current website, keep these questions in mind:
- What is the desired outcome or action your customers should take on the page? (In other words, what do you consider a “conversion”?) How can you optimize the layout to increase the likelihood of users completing that action?
- Is the navigation intuitive? Can users get to the information they are looking for in three clicks or less?
- Is your website sectioned in a way that tells a story or explains the value of your services/products before asking users to make a purchase or fill out a contact form?
- Is the information on your website clear and uncluttered so users won’t get distracted or overwhelmed?
If you’re not pleased with your answers, it might be time for a website redesign (and you can dig deep into our blog archives for 10 more questions that might help you determine if this is, indeed, the case).
Let Our Team of Web Design and Development Experts Build You a UX-Friendly Website
Is your website not generating the leads or producing the revenue you’re expecting it to? We can help. At efelle creative, we know the ins and outs of good design and factor UX principles into everything we do. As the cherry on top, we’re SEO obsessed and can help your business get found on the web. Increased visibility, stunning visuals, and a better user experience? That’s a slam dunk. If you’re ready to upgrade your website and get the conversions you’ve always dreamed of, reach out to our team at 206.384.4909 or hit us up via our online contact form.