User experience is all about reducing friction for the end-user
In case you don’t know what User Experience is, it’s the sum of everything that makes up your customer’s interactions with your business on the internet. Designing successful user experiences means putting yourself in the end user’s shoes. And that’s why we, as designers, have to ask ourselves these kinds of questions. “Is this experience enjoyable?”, and “is this easy to use?”. Of course, knowing the right way to answer those questions is anything but easy.
User experience is a really deep dive.
There are far too many details, based on a variety of different conditions, to go over everything about UX in one article. But as a whole, the goal for user experience on the web is the same as a customer’s experience at a brick-and-mortar — delighting your customers so that they keep coming back for more.
As in every line of business, satisfying your customers is pivotal to acquiring loyal, repeat visitors who will continue to engage with your business. And since your website is like a 24/7 salesperson that never sleeps, it’s a no-brainer why having a positive user experience on your site is so valuable.
That said, buckle up — because we’re diving right in.
So what defines good user experience?
Naturally, since the audience, objectives, and content of websites will vary in each field and business, there’s no set “golden rule” to follow for optimal user experience in every scenario. Instead, we look at each design objectively and consider if the website layout adheres to the pillars of what makes up good user experience.
The five pillars of user experience are Usability, Design, Usefulness, Interaction, and Performance.
Of course, you want to make sure that your website fulfills each of these categories successfully. We’ve detailed what each pillar is about and included a non-exhaustive list of questions you can ask yourself to determine whether your user experience is working or not.
This is where it all begins. Usability is about making it easy for users to accomplish their goals. We do this by looking at the design from the user’s perspective and create a frictionless experience tailored for them.
- Is it easy to use, and can the user familiarize themselves with your website quickly?
- Can they achieve their goals?
- Is the way it works simple enough so that the next time they come back, they can recall how it works without completely relearning it?
The design refers to the overall aesthetic quality of the website. Good design ensures that your website looks as sharp as your business. If your website looks like it was designed a decade ago… then there’s some catching up to do. Keep in mind, in just half of a second, users evaluate the design of a website.
- What does your website look like?
- Does it evoke an emotional connection?
- Do the graphics and images convey your story?
- Are your visual assets are up to par?
The layout of the website should be designed to be useful for the user. Simply put, there is no point for the user to browse your site if there’s nothing to gain. Whether it be for education, leisure or business, if your design doesn’t get them where they need to go, then something needs to be fixed.
- Does your website tell users what they need to know?
- Do your layouts allow them to navigate your site efficiently?
- Is there a clear path to your contact page?
- Are your links useful to the user? A proper internal linking strategy greatly helps user experience and boosts your SEO.
- Do you have any unnecessary elements that get in the way of the objective?
Interaction in user experience refers to the “tactile” qualities of your website. Essentially, how it feels to engage with it. It involves the animations on your page, what happens when you hover over objects, or even design elements that change what happens to the page, like a lightbox effect.
- How does your website feel to use? Does it evoke delight?
- Are aspects of your design intruding on their browsing experience?
- Does your site have subtleties like animations for design objects? Does your page build in or is it largely static? Which makes more sense for the user?
Performance is all about your website working, and working well. You can have a gorgeous website, but you need to make sure it also functions properly. It’s like having a Porsche with no engine—sure, it may look nice on the outside, but what’s the point if you can’t get anywhere with it?
- Does your site work as intended?
- Is your website fast, or is it clunky and slow? Keep in mind, people will leave slow websites without hesitation.
- Are your images properly optimized for the web?
How do I delight my customers with good user experience?
A widely used quote of the design world is “good design is invisible”. Of course, this also applies to good design in user experience. If your user’s interaction is so seamless that they can get from point A to B on autopilot, then you’ve got some great user experience. As we mentioned briefly in “Usability” — this is what creating less friction for your users’ means.
One of the best examples of a frictionless experience is, of course, Google’s search engine. It comes as no surprise that user experience is something Google cares about greatly since they take it into consideration when ranking your website.
When you land on Google’s homepage, you have a clear objective. To use the search bar. You type in your search, hit enter, and everything you want to know is at your fingertips. 1-2-3, done. In just a few simple steps, you’ve used their service and done what you needed to do. Despite the fact that the search algorithm behind Google’s engine is so incredibly complex, your user experience is straightforward and simple.
So how do we actually create less friction for our users?
We’ve outlined a few actionable steps that improve user experience, and of course, common mistakes to avoid when designing.
1. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel
One of the biggest problems we’ve seen with websites is when people try to design their own versions of established best practices on the web. We follow these conventions in web design for a reason—because we want to meet the intuitive expectations of the user.
For example, you shouldn’t label primary menu items anything that might potentially confuse users. Keeping it simple and direct is always in your best interest. For example, your portfolio page shouldn’t have ambiguous terms like “what we do”, because that could imply a variety of different pages—that could be an about page, or a services page, and so on. Users clicking on “portfolio” for a portfolio page know what the expect.
Users don’t really think about conventions on the web until they are broken—and that’s how it should be. The last thing you want is for your users to be frustrated because they can’t find where the primary navigation for your site is. Remember, good user experience is invisible.
2. Performance is key
A website that takes way too long to load is almost the same thing as not having a website at all. And this is no exaggeration. A staggering 40% of web users will abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
This is because people browsing the web have become very efficient. They want to close in on what they’re looking for as soon as quickly as possible. And if your site is too slow, then it’s very likely that they’ll just bounce and look somewhere else. So it’s important to make sure that your website is properly optimized to keep users on-site as long as possible.
And let’s not forget about your mobile speed. Google has reported that 53% of users on a mobile device will abandon a site that takes more than just 3 seconds to load. So as you can tell, users are even less forgiving on mobile than they are on a desktop. Your website on mobile is no longer ignorable, especially when 60% of all searches made on Google are from mobile devices.
3. Make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices
As you can see from the previous point, your mobile experiences matter just as much as your desktop experience. If your website isn’t even responsive for mobile devices, then your website is way too many years behind the rest of the game.
In a study conducted by Bizrate Insight, they showed that the most frustrating element for a user for mobile devices was when they had to enlarge a mobile screen to touch a link or button. Of course, this problem only occurs when your website isn’t formatted for web use.
It helps to think to your own experiences on mobile devices. Have you ever landed on a page with incredibly tiny text on the screen and thought, “wow, this isn’t annoying at all!” Chances are, probably not. These sort of interactions have become increasingly more important in the past few years, with mobile devices accounting for 52% of website traffic worldwide.
Not to mention, this number is just going to keep increasing. This is why when we design websites at Mighty Fine, we practice responsive design so your website will look great on any device and at any size. When it comes to web design, it appears size really does matter.
4. Never underestimate typography
This cannot be overstated enough. Remember—your text is, after all, one of the main ways you communicate information to customers. If your text is hard to read, too small, or poorly spaced, you create additional friction between you and your customer.
Most of the content on the web is scanned, so it will only benefit you to have good typography, and a clear hierarchy of text throughout your website.
Of course, as we mentioned before, this also extends to mobile.
5. The less surprises, the better
Don’t make things a chore for your end users to access. Your site should have a cohesive and consistent design so that users aren’t guessing “can I click on this?”, or “where does this lead to?”. Remember, consistency reinforces predictability on your website, which improves how easy it is to learn.
For example, your buttons should all be formatted similarly, so users understand that what they’re seeing is, in fact, a button. And of course, this applies to every aspect of design on your website. This is the reason why we recommend having a design system in place when creating your website.
Never keep your visitor’s guessing, or thinking “where’s this link or button taking me?”. Your anchor text should set the expectation of what they’re clicking on, and your internal linking structure should be optimized to promote the best user experience possible.
As we’ve said before, people navigate the web efficiently and don’t want to waste time wondering if a lead will get them to what they need. If it seems to like too much effort to figure out, they will automatically assume it’s a fruitless endeavor and bounce. Surprises are for children’s birthday parties—not for user experience.
As you can see, there’s a reason why user experience is such a deep dive, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. We hope that you’ve learned that there’s so much more than just considering aesthetic qualities when creating a website.
This is why we always recommend for clients to hire a professional design agency when creating a new website—of course, making a website look beautiful is one thing, but making one beautiful that’s also optimized for your customers and clients is a whole different level of design.
So, what do you think?