What is equally as important as getting traffic to your website? Keeping viewers engaged and converting them to customers. Website design needs to go beyond something that is visually appealing and be about providing a positive experience, facilitating interaction with visitors, and offering solutions to problems, all in a manner that showcases an ease of usability.
Optimizing user experience (UX) design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving usability, accessibility, and efficiency. Effective website design answers three questions. What is it? How does it benefit me? What should I do next? Design fails if the user doesn’t understand the purpose. The site must also clearly communicate how a service or product will help a visitor solve a problem or reach a goal. A strong call to action finishes the deal by helping the user understand his next step.
68% of users leave a website because of poor user-centered design and they will only spend about 3 seconds looking for what they want from your page before they leave. If you leverage a greater UX, you will increase engagement and conversion rates. Simple and functional design with intuitive navigation and consistent operation throughout the site will provide an engaging, dynamic UX.
Website design is trending towards inclusivity and accessibility. There is also a focus shift towards Gen Z. A generation that is on their smart phones more than any other device, they are capable of learning by themselves and are more than just consumers. They want to be part of online communities, customizing their experiences as they go. Along with Millennials, Gen Z is putting pressure on designers to take a mobile first approach with responsive design, single touch interaction, and a focus on layout conducive to one hand use.
An optimized, functional, interactive website is a must and UX design is the way to provide it. Here are 15 areas to be considered in that effort:
Load speed affects site traffic. Viewers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less and it’s been found that even a one second delay decreases customer satisfaction by 16%. There are certainly things that can be done to increase load speed such as clearing out bulky plug ins and cookies and optimizing videos and images. That being said, the perception of fast is almost as good as fast and there are ways to avoid frustrating visitors. Perception of load speed is based on a combination of actual load time, waiting times, load behavior and smoothness of animations. To improve the perception of load speed, show a skeleton of the site to communicate the layout while the page is loading and load text first so the user can start reading while everything else fills in.
UX design creates linear journeys from the starting point to the end goal to minimize confusion and distractions. A page should move seamlessly from one section to the next and have undisrupted visual flow (remove the visual clutter). There should be consistency between pages with common patterns and interfaces and no page should take more than three clicks to get to.
Nothing is worse than experiencing wonderful service through an entire meal only to wait 15 minutes for your bill…and the wait is what people remember. Consumers preparing to leave a website by purchasing a product or filling out a form may be strongly persuaded to become a return customer if they experience a smooth process at the end of their visit.
Form labels and corresponding lines should present in a single field for easy scanning and labels should be outside the text field for clarity. Ask only for essential information; the fewer fields, the better. Form errors should show next to the error-causing field and all appear at the same time. Error messages should be concise, helpful, and direct. The first step in check-out has the largest drop-off rate so it is recommended to streamline the check-out process with limited fields and pages. Cart abandonment rates are about 65% for most companies and a streamlined checkout process will help decrease the number of abandoned carts.
There should be a strong visual indication of which direction to scroll or where more content is available. The longer the page, the less likely a reader is to continue scrolling so be sure the additional content adds value to the page.
For positive UX, website hierarchy should not be greater than three to four levels deep. A navigation menu should always be accessible and sticky menus work well on longer pages. If you are mobile focused, consider placing sticky menus on the bottom of the page for easy thumb use. Consistency is essential and breadcrumb navigation allows the user to know where he is on your site at all times. Dropdowns should be vertical and narrower than the page.
Links need to stand out. Common expectations are that blue or underlined text will provide a link. A viewer shouldn’t have to click a link to understand where it goes or what it will provide. Any full URL reference should link to that page and consider turning images into clickable links. It goes without saying that all links, internal and external, should function properly.
Buttons should look clickable and provide enough space to easily tap or click. They should be large and in reachable zones. Use action-oriented labels and a color that contrasts with the background. Provide a visual clue within 0.1 seconds to indicate a button has been successfully pushed for best UX.
Always have a search field. Users have been trained to look for the “little box to type in.” Your search should always look like a text box on the desktop but mobile users have come to expect a spy glass icon to click in order to gain a search box. In both cases, the horizontal field should be wide enough to see the entire search query.
Contrast & Color
It was mentioned earlier that website design is trending towards inclusivity and accessibility. UX design accounts for color blind users, ensuring that the palette translates well into grayscales. In general, warm, bright colors in front and cold, dark colors in the background provide contrast elements to draw a user’s attention. Reserve blue text for links and dedicate one color exclusively to your CTAs.
The site header should be inviting. It should communicate the brand and provide core information. Page headers should be formatted similarly to one another and contain the same verbiage as the link that was clicked to get to the page. All headers can incorporate targeted keywords and should be visually distinct from other text.
The most important content should be most visually prominent with key information showing in the first two to three words at the top left of the page. Use color and size to indicate primary information versus details. Use simple, obvious terms instead of industry jargon and avoid large text blocks by using bulleted points or lists when possible. UX design is becoming more conversational with chatbots and assistants, and aims to be socially aware when representing locations, products and services.
Help & Hints
Many users are reluctant to use help menus so integrate assistance into the content, displaying hints in context. Use wizards or FAQs as other means of providing help.
UX design uses simple, meaningful icons that visually describe their function or purpose. It is best to avoid over use of icons and they should never be used for decoration.
People scan first and read later so make your content easy to scan. Increase line spacing in lists and between paragraphs, using negative space to provide breathing room, especially for mobile. Avoid small or condensed fonts and always scale font size to screen size. Italicized fonts and all capital letters are difficult for some people to read. Traditional capitalization and the use of other grammatical norms present content in a user-friendly manner.
UX design is about convincing a visitor to answer, “yes,” to these questions: Does this website give me value? Is it simple to use? Am I engaged? Does the site navigate me to the right place? Is it enjoyable to use?
Give your site a personality that makes a lasting impression and a design that works across abilities, devices, languages, and cultures. A UX optimized website should result in a significant reduction in the number of user errors and, more importantly, increase the number of return visitors. Enhanced user satisfaction leads to trust, which leads to referrals and sales.
As customers continue to change how they search, standards for website functionality will continue to change. Are you interested in providing website visitors the best UX possible but not sure where to start? Let our expert team of designers help. Contact us today to learn more.