Think about all your favorite websites and apps.
How do they make your life easier through their design and functionality? What innovative UX decisions (and chances) have they taken?
With sites and apps that can hire a cab, send food to your door, and provide you with credible medical advice on-demand, UX developers are making life-changing decisions every day.
The way a user interacts with you will determine how successful a business will become in 2018. Here are five essential aspects of UX design that you really don't want to get wrong.
Information architecture is a crucial feature of any website or app. You need to make sure that you lay your data foundations correctly. Your site needs to be easy to navigate, but you also need it to have the space to develop in new, creative areas as it grows.
A full content audit must not be overlooked in the UX design process. Use a site mapping tool or draw the site's visual blueprint by hand. Map all of your customer journey paths and print them out. This will help you add notes and visually assess how these paths can be improved.
Pay close attention to the following on each page of your site:
Is there currently more than one way to perform the call to action? How can you cut this down to one interaction?
How does the page fit into your website navigation hierarchy? In nearly all cases, you will want to make sure that visitors are no less than three clicks away from the homepage.
Is it possible to declutter the URLs? Can you cut additional filler terms and categorizations in headings?
Does the text on each page match your requirements for creating rankable content?
There are two primary methods for building up your website's information architecture:
- Top-Down - This is where the main tasks of the site are plotted out as a hierarchical structure beforehand. The content audit adds detail, but ultimately the design will conform to the original structural plans.
- Bottom-Up - This is where you examine the content you have and determine the close relationships between the pages. The idea is to let the audience and content decide the optimal information architecture of the site.
Audience research insights
Understanding the needs of the user is of primary importance. It almost goes without saying in an article about UX that audience research will be crucial to your project's success.
But aside from crunching the numbers and building your audience personas, you will also need to continually check-in with your real user's needs.
It is highly recommended that UX designers take the time to interview real customers in a focus group setting. A small monetary incentive can be enough to encourage brand advocates to attend. The information these sessions provide is invaluable to designers & developers. Try to uncover your user's emotions towards your brand in specific terms. Set up interview questions, and remember that you will never get this level of consumer insight from staring at a computer screen.
Observe the participants behaviors as a group within the session. Look out for elements of disagreement in tasks like card-sorting exercises. What can these insights tell you about the differing needs of customers? How do these issues conflict within the current site design?
During the UX building and testing stage, you will also want to ensure that real people are providing in-depth feedback. You can use a online testing service to offer some guidance as the design develops.
Do bear in mind that you will also need input from your customers post-launch. Repeat the focus group exercise once your design is complete. Use it as a time to pick up on any last design tweaks that need to be made before you launch.
Color & aesthetics
The interface you create will be part of a halo effect when it comes your audience's perception of a brand.
- Our brains are designed to recognize patterns. People prefer website and app environments that feel familiar to them somehow. Think about the apps that feature on your smartphone and the screens you look at every day.
- Icons and clickables appear in rectangular shapes (often with rounded edges). Colors like light gray indicate areas of the screen that cannot be clicked etc. These familiar visual signals should feature in any good web design, as they build positive associations within the user.
- However, you should also look for ways to move away from this default set-up to distinguish your brand from the competition. Use color tools to build a harmonious palette for your page elements. (An example from Coolors.co below).
- Typefaces are another critical area to watch out for. You want to make sure that fonts are easy to read in terms of both font and color.
- Finally, avoid using pure black and instead use very dark grays to prevent eye fatigue. Pay close attention to the kerning of your lettering and break up large chunks of text with subheaders and illustrations.
Customers come from many different online channels when they arrive on your site. Each channel of entry will provide you with a broad set of customer actions. It is the job of your site's UX to present an intuitive flow sequence to capture the visitor's attention and convert them.
For example, if your customer arrives from a targeted Facebook ad sequence offering a free product with every purchase, your customer will immediately want to find out more about the freebie on your site. You would, therefore, present the features and some superb photography, front and center within the landing page design. Ecommerce live-chat can help close the funnel faster.
Similarly, in considering how intuitively your visitors flow from one page to the next, you will also need to go back to your audience research and determine your user's level of product knowledge. For example, if you are running a LinkedIn InMail campaign targeting business leaders with expert experience, you can infer that these people will be familiar with your service and the expectations of your site. In this case, a write-up that can be read in under two minutes will be enough to engage audiences during their busy working day.
Functionality & features
For every action your site performs, look for ways you can improve its functionality by considering the following:
- Eliminating Distracting Elements - Your users should not need to click back and forth to gather the information they need to make a sale.
- Encouraging Further Interaction - Are your users incentivized to go the next stage in your cycle? What elements would motivate them to find out more?
- Relevancy - Is all of the on-page information relevant? Are you missing any crucial data points, for example, shipping times?
In creating opportunities for your brand with mobile apps, look for ways you can gamify, or add considerable value to the user's experience. This is not an easy task and will depend on the industry in question.
The best way to get your creative juices flowing is to look to other sources for inspiration. For example, A.I chat functionality can help solve customer inquiries and provide free informational value to the user.
Careful consideration of UX design can transform your business model. Through careful planning, you should also be able to expand the number of actions your site performs. Use UX as a means to explore new avenues and sales opportunities for your brand.
This is a guest post by Victoria Greene. Victoria is a brand consultant and writer. She blogs for Victoriaecommerce. Her site is dedicated to offering advice on all aspects of website design and marketing.