What Is UX?
Before we get into UX strategy, let’s talk definitions. UX, or user experience, is a term that Don Norman coined in the early 1990s, when he was VP of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple. He defines user experience as encompassing all aspects of the end user’s interaction “with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual.” For the purposes of this post, we’ll be discussing UX as it pertains to websites.
When it comes to web design, UX is about taking a human-centered and data-informed approach to understanding how people engage with technology and – with that knowledge and plenty of testing – building the best website experiences possible.
Finally, UX is not UI (user interface), though the terms are often confused or conflated. The UI is made up of specific elements on a webpage, while UX refers to the ways visitors interact with the UI elements. As expressed in The Daily Egg, UX is an umbrella term, while UI is just one of its spokes.
Why Is UX Important?
It’s OK, you’re allowed to ask. Why should you care about UX? Why do we care about it so much at Oneupweb? Simply put, if a website visitor has a less-than-optimal experience, they’ll leave and most likely go to a competitor’s website to purchase their goods and services.
So you lose profits from that initial bad impression, and – worse – you probably won’t get another chance with that same user. According to Econsultancy, 88 percent of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. Having great UX is essential to surviving as a business that relies on digital marketing efforts.
Additionally, good UX speaks for itself! It communicates that you care about your customers having a good time and interacting with your brand. Your website is a direct reflection of your business – the quality of products and services you offer – and the way you creatively display those offerings, and your brand identity as a whole, can naturally move users down the sales funnel. In a study by Missouri University of Science and Technology, it was determined that 94 percent of users’ first impressions are design-related.
UX Strategy: 10 Best Practices
Want to boost your UX strategy? Begin with these ten tips to optimize your visitors’ website experience.
1.) Improve page load speed – You can test your mobile and desktop website page load speeds with Google PageSpeed Insights. Google will give your site a score, along with speed optimization suggestions to pass along to your development partner. A recent Google study confirmed that you should shoot for a page load speed of fewer than 3 seconds. Abandonment increases exponentially if load speed is any longer than this. If your site is slow, take a look at these items:
- Are your images optimized (sized correctly and saved for web usage)?
- Are you pre-loading content? This is a means of letting the browser know, before the page actually displays to the user, which important font, script or other resources the page will need.
- Have you minified your code? As defined by Google, this is a process of removing all unnecessary characters and white space from code without changing its functionality.
2.) Ensure ease of navigation site-wide – Does your site architecture make sense to the user? Start with these basics:
- Place the logo in the upper-left corner. Users expect to see it there and to be able to click on it to get back to the homepage anytime.
- Keep utility items like the search bar, a phone number and a contact button in the upper-right corner. A user will expect these as well. Don’t make them too hard!
- Take a look at the sitemap. It should read logically, like a tiered outline. If it doesn’t, fix it. This is beneficial for SEO as well.
- Make sure the main navigation and sub-navigation hierarchy make logical sense.
3.) Establish proper information hierarchy (content design) on each page – Pay special attention to the pages that are on the ideal path to conversion. These are some top considerations:
- Place the most important content at the top of the page.
- Provide a clear call to action (CTA), and place it above the fold. Ideally, the user should be able to access the information they want with no more than three clicks.
- White space is your friend. Don’t clutter the page, and make sure there’s enough unused space around different elements.
- Make the content scannable in an F or Z pattern. A user’s typical eye scanning pattern occurs in these patterns.
- Write with a conversational tone.
- Speak in layman’s terms whenever possible, and avoid using technical jargon without providing ample context.
- At the fold, visually indicate that there is more content to scroll down to view.
4.) Speak directly to your audience with specific content and usable design.
- Instantly communicate your offerings and value propositions on each page. Your visitors should know the basics within a few seconds.
- Focus on being useful in both design and content. What’s in it for the users?
- Creating personas will help you identify (and speak directly to) your users and their specific desires.
- Identifying use cases and playing out scenarios from those perspectives will also help you discover your website’s shortcomings in terms of usability.
- The navigation, design, content and CTAs must all work together to communicate that what you offer is what the visitor is looking for.
5.) Make forms approachable.
- Minimize the number of form fields. (If you need to ask for more information sometime after the user has engaged positively with you, you’ll have those opportunities.)
- Be clear about which form fields are required.
- Put requests for information in a logical order.
- Group related information.
- One column is more user-friendly than two.
- Label every form field. Our designers often opt for a floating label, which saves space while assuring the user that they filled out the correct field. A floating label is a form field label that moves up above the field after the user focuses on the form field or enters a value.
6.) Test for errors.
- Be sure to test your website thoroughly before it goes live or after any major changes are made. This includes a technical audit for broken links and other errors, as well as usability testing for mobile and desktop.
- Ask people from various backgrounds to test-complete certain tasks. A developer might uncover different errors than, say, your non-techie friend.
7.) Use mobile-first design – Google is implementing mobile-first indexing. Learn more about it on our blog, and follow these basic guidelines:
- Make your site responsive or dynamic for different screen sizes.
- Consider if some of your CTAs, forms or other elements are difficult to use on a phone (because of big fingers, visibility, etc.)
- Consider implementing accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for even better mobile UX.
8.) Use multimedia – Video and audio get phenomenal results on landing pages. Just make sure all the media you use contributes to a visually harmonious feel that subtly reinforces your brand.
- Auto-play can make users feel out of control, and other features may have the same effect. You’ll want to test any multimedia you place.
- Include CTAs that tell visitors what to do next. It’s not enough to include a cool video!
- Experiment with the length of videos. People online have little tolerance for irrelevant communication.
9.) Avoid homepage carousels, or sliders (with some exceptions).
- Avoid these unless you have the resources to do extensive testing on the effectiveness of your content and the CTAs inside the carousel. In a usability testing scenario, users often find that the content advances before they’re able to read it all.
- A static image with a strong CTA (or rotating images behind a strong, static CTA) often performs better.
10.) Avoid pop-ups (with some exceptions).
- Users often find pop-ups annoying, so if you must use them, make sure you have the resources to do extensive testing.
- If you do use a pop-up, delay its appearance – and ideally don’t make it very large – so the visitor can view the webpage content before the pop-up appears.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of ways to boost your UX strategy, but following these guidelines will get you off to a great start.