User Experience (UX) is a design principle that influences every aspect of a website’s development, from initial prototyping to usability testing. It’s about optimizing the page to create a seamless, positive experience that encourages users to stay on-site, to navigate around the page, and to interact with the brand.
In other words, a good UX experience is the difference between who can delight their users the most and who can send users scrambling to a competitor the fastest.
UX Design: What not to do
To understand the importance UX design, all you have to do is look at those who get it wrong. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another:
- Websites load slowly.
- They’re cluttered with unnecessary elements that obscure navigation.
- Ads are placed in obtrusive locations and make the site feel cheap.
- Mistakes can even be as basic as forgetting to include a progress bar during long waiting periods.
All of these elements discourage users from spending time on the page and, naturally, decrease the odds they’ll enter your marketing pipeline. Research by Forrester found that a well-designed UX can raise website conversion rates by as much as 200 percent. (Incidentally, this is why so many companies work with outsourced design firms to streamline their UX—there’s too much at stake not to.)
Designing with Users in Mind
So, what strategy does a company use to succeed with UX design?
"Websites should be simplifying checkout, menu displays, and most importantly simplifying decision making. Give your users obvious and clear paths to the sites goals." ~ Matt Stewart, Creative Director, The Creative Momentum
As UX design is influenced by how users perceive a page, there is no one-size-fits-all solution—the specifics will depend on the audience itself. However, a few best practices have emerged over the years:
- Consider the visual hierarchy: The stylistic choices that influence how users interpret the content on a page is the visual hierarchy. This involves giving greater visual weight to each page’s most important elements through the use of headings, indenting, or formatting. Elements such as text size, colors, use of whitespace, and location of images all contribute a website’s visual hierarchy.
- Make it mobile: Users are predominantly viewing websites on mobile devices. Businesses need to embrace this shift in usage and design for mobile first.
- Make navigation clear: Nothing is quite as frustrating as trying to navigate around a site that doesn’t have clear wayfinding. To provide clarity without unnecessary clutter, we recommend keeping navigation minimal. Include clear directories on your home page and leverage drop-down menus where appropriate.
- Map adjustments to user intent: This is where the unique element of UX design comes into play. No adjustment should be made on a whim; every change should be mapped to specific user behaviors. For example, sites with large amounts of mobile traffic can leverage the rise of mobile voice search to improve the site’s SEO value with voice-specific, long-tail keywords. This makes it more likely that qualified users will find the site without needing to dig through pages of results. A/B test various options to make sure that each change produces a positive result.
UX is Everything
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the user's experience is the most important aspect of web design. Every design-related decision you make will either directly or indirectly influence how users feel about your site. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and learn which changes will produce the best results.