User experience (UX) in web design refers to the experiences that users have while they interact with your website, and includes the emotions and attitudes they feel towards it. The goal of UX is to meet the needs of users in a way that leaves them satisfied.
A few key website elements that fall under the user experience umbrella include the obvious pieces like the design elements on your website or the content on each page. It also includes the less tangible elements of a website, like the time it takes for a page to load and its level of accessibility for all types of users.
Keeping UX in mind throughout the website design process can make a difference in the success of a website for your clients, customers, and prospects.
Here are a few UX elements to consider, and some tips for optimizing your website to make it the best possible experience when it comes to human/website interaction.
UX elements You Should Consider When Designing Your Website
1. Website & Page Structure
The way your website is organized can have a significant impact on how the user interacts with it. If your website is complex, logically difficult to understand, and the content structure does not follow a proper hierarchy of information, users may be quick to dismiss your site and look for one that is more streamlined and easier to use.
When users are pursuing a solution, they tend to prefer websites with a simple structure that makes sense to navigate and displays the information they wish to see in an organized manner. According to Jacob’s Law, users also prefer websites that work similarly to those they have used before.
For instance, if a service page displays pricing content at the very top and not a description of the product, users might feel confused and overwhelmed. This may cause them to leave the page immediately because this architectural choice goes against how they anticipate the information to be organized.
On the flip side, if the page begins with a description of the service which is then followed by pricing, users will understand the flow of information and will find the page helpful and informative rather than confusing.
2. Menu Structure
An organized menu can help improve user navigation. The heuristic of naïve diversification outlines that people make what can essentially be described as “worse” decisions when they are presented with too many options. This is because they choose to diversify rather than weighing all options and their outcomes to determine the best one. To reduce confusion for your users, structure your menu options based on your ideal customer to present them with the key information they need. This can cut down on any confusion and will guide users directly to the choices they want to make, and that you want them to make.
Just because a menu is simple and organized, this doesn’t mean it can’t include more than one level of information; it simply means that it should be set up in a way that is logical for users to digest. Grouping similar subjects together under one category of a drop down menu is an example of organizing the content of an extensive menu in a way that is easy to understand.
An extremely important aspect of user experience is to ensure that a website, product, software, system, etc. is entirely accessible for those with different abilities. Inclusivity is not an option when it comes to websites. People who are differently abled may utilize various tools to help them navigate through a website and consume its content, and ensuring that your site follows the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines will help those users experience your website in a positive and pleasant way.
A few elements to improve the accessibility of your website can include:
- adding descriptive captions to images and video,
- ensuring users can navigate the site using keyboard strokes rather than a mouse,
- including proper visual contrast for text and design elements,
- utilizing more than one indicator for important visual elements, such as including both text and color on a button so users do not have to rely on just one indicator, and
- creating a responsive website so users who increase elements like font size or use the site on a mobile device can still have a positive interaction with the site.
4. Loading speed
Users have come to expect that modern websites will load quickly. Generally, every second that it takes for your website to load will result in the loss of about 7% of your visitors. If your page takes three seconds to load, that's about one of every five potential customers lost.
In some instances, the amount of time it takes for your website to load in a user’s browser window may be out of your control, such as when users are on a slow network. However, there are some elements that you do have control over which affect your website’s speed.
You can begin improving the speed of your site by minimizing the amount of data used. For example, configuring your website to display a mobile-sized version of each graphic or image you use that is scaled down on your end will reduce the file size.
The quicker a user can get to and move through your website, the happier they will be. In today’s digital age, everyone has come to expect immediate results. When something comes along that does not meet their expectations, they won’t wait around because they know there are other options out there.
5. Design elements
One of the more obvious (and in my opinion, one of the most fun!) aspects of what determines a positive user experience is the design of your site and the visual elements that are involved.
Keeping the design of your website relatively streamlined is one of the best ways to ensure that users will be able to find the information they need and will have a satisfactory interaction with the site.
On a typical computer screen, the size of the area that a person can typically focus on is about the size of a dime. With users digesting such small amounts of information at any given moment, a website that is too full of content, images, videos, and buttons can be exasperating, overwhelming, and not worth the time required for users to decipher extreme amounts of information.
These are a few tips to focus on when designing for a positive user experience:
- Clear the clutter—less is more!
- Remove distractions so users can focus on what is most important.
- Employ animations sparingly, as they can be distracting.
- Utilize signifiers—these are elements that indicate users can or should take an action, like buttons, sliders, icons, hyperlinks, images, thumbnails, and more.
A few important things to keep in mind are:
- User Experience ≄ Usability
- UX ≄ UI (user interface)
These terms are often intermingled and used interchangeably, but the reality is that they are different pieces of a puzzle and all go hand in hand. In order to have a positive user experience, a website must be usable. And a great user interface can contribute to increased usability and a positive user experience by including slick design details like a hover effect, particular color selection of a button, or the motion of a card flip when it is clicked.
Another thing to keep in mind is that not all website designs seek to emulate one another. The user experience discipline primarily focuses on developing streamlined processes to pave easy and positive interactions between humans and websites, software, products, systems, or services. Some websites may be designed to be out of the ordinary, unexpected, and shocking for the sake of art, because an unexpected experience is still an experience. This is absolutely fine to do if it is your ultimate goal.
The way a system is designed is always up to whoever is in charge of its image, whether it be the CEO of a software company, the purveyor of a small local business, or an out-of-the-box artist who seeks to stretch the boundaries of their artistic medium.
User experience is an endlessly interesting and constantly evolving field that involves research, testing, surveys, data collection, and adjustments. It is a continuous process that designers are always working on in order to keep up with user demands, expectations, and desires, all in the pursuit of creating a great interactive experience for all humans.
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