Is your website design inadvertently turning away buyers? Your website features lovely graphics, stylish fonts, and sleek menus. It practically screams professionalism. It’s so ‘pretty’ that you feel a swell of pride each time you log on. That’s nice. But is it easy to use?
Visual aesthetics are important, of course. They tell your visitors that you take what you do seriously. An attractive site inspires confidence by letting your audience know you have invested time and effort in its design.
But a good website must be more than attractive. It must also be highly functional. It should anticipate your users’ needs and make things easy to find. It should be both easy and intuitive to use.
In other words, it should take into account the user experience.
What is User Experience (UX)?
According to the Nielsen Norman UX consulting group, UX “encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
Customer needs must be met as quickly and easily as possible. Marketing, engineering, graphic design, and industrial design must all combine seamlessly to provide a smooth experience for the user.
However, businesses should be careful not to confuse UX with user interface (UI). Nielsen Norman explains: “Consider a website with movie reviews. Even if the UI for finding a film is perfect, the UX will be poor for a user who wants information about a small independent release if the underlying database only contains movies from the major studios.”
UX, in other words, is a holistic approach to customer interactions that makes the shopping and buying experience flawless, intuitive, and as satisfactory as possible.
The top seven steps you can take to incorporate UX into your website design include the following:
- Define your users
- Make it easy for them to do or learn what they want
- Provide unique content
- Reduce frustration areas
- Encourage users to stay connected
- Simplify processes
- Balance design and functionality
#1. Define Your Users
The first step to improving your website design with user experience is to define your users. Answer the following questions:
- Who are our website’s users?
- Why are they coming to our site?
- What do they want to do or learn here?
- What actions do they want to take?
Once you have figured out who they are and what they want to do or learn, consult your site’s analytics to determine how well you are addressing visitor needs. Find out which pages have the largest exit numbers. Ask yourself why that is. These might be spots where your visitors are getting confused or frustrated.
#2. Make it Easy for Users to Learn or Do What They Want
Once you know who your visitors are and what they want from your site, make sure you provide a clear roadmap to show them how to get it.
Provide clearly labeled buttons that give direct access to the content users want. Images should be attractive and inviting, adding to the value of the surrounding content. Written content should be engaging and intriguing enough that users want to learn more.
#3. Make Sure Your Content is Unique
Even after you’ve gotten visitors to click through, you are only halfway home. Next, you must make sure the content you provide satisfies their needs. In other words, don’t just offer the same, boring, reworked content or inventory that visitors can find on every other website in your niche.
It doesn’t matter what type of site you run. Whatever you offer should have a positive influence on your users. Your content should help users answer their questions and help them learn more about the industry, the product or the services they’re interested in.
If you run a blog or magazine, your written content should be unique, detailed, information rich, and engaging. Include specific examples and interesting data. Use little known statistics. Be specific, and avoid generalities.
If you run an e-commerce store, your inventory should contain unique, one-of-a-kind goods that your customers cannot find elsewhere.
#4. Reduce Frustration Areas
Website analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, provide “insights into how visitors find and use your site, and how to keep them coming back.” Analytics tools show you where your visitors are leaving your site, and such spots should be ground zero for your improvement efforts. It is quite possible that these “exit” pages are confusing, frustrating, or boring enough that your visitors simply leave the site without purchasing, signing up to your list, or otherwise performing the actions you want from them.
Focus on improving these areas and find ways to engage users where they’re least interested. Add better, more engaging content. Add enticing photos. Develop clearer calls to action.
If the problem seems to be confusion, add a help box where users can ask questions and contact employees to help them find the information or products they want. If you are able to implement it, a live chat function can increase sales, reduce customer support expenses, and give businesses an edge over their competition.
Reducing frustration areas can go a long way in improving user experience, your website design and your conversion rates.
#5. Encourage Users to Stay Connected
By providing great content and unique inventory, you engage your customers this time. To keep them connected to you, encourage them to follow you on social media or to sign up for your monthly newsletter.
Again, these types of actions should be as simple as possible. Don’t require visitors to fill out a ten-line form, provide birth records and personal references, and have their request form notarized. The more difficult you make it for them the sign up, the worse your results will be.
Kissmetrics offers two questions to ask yourself when designing a sign-up page:
- Does this make it easier to sign up?
- Does this give a better reason to sign up?
If you can answer yes to both of these, then you have a good sign-up system.
Also, don’t annoy your users with constant popups and requests to sign up for your email newsletter. When you interfere with their experience on your site by nagging them to join your list, they will not stay engaged in your content. Moreover, you will be pushing visitors away if they constantly have to exit out of a signup box on every page they visit.
#6. Simplify User Processes
The next step to take to improve user experience is to simplify all user processes. In other words, make it as easy as possible for visitors to accomplish what they came to your site to do.
Your menu structure should be clearly labeled and intuitive. Don’t fall into the habit of using high-tech or trendy language that sacrifices clarity for style.
Make certain visitors can sign up to your list or your social media feeds easily, and preferably from any page. Your calls to action (CTAs) should be clear, simple, and easy to find. Avoid using “too cool” language in your CTAs that ends up being vague or unclear:
- Keep in touch
- Like our page
- Stay current
- Learn what’s up
Instead, choose CTAs that are explicit and easy for any visitor to understand:
- Sign up for our monthly email newsletter
- Join our mailing list to stay updated
- Follow us on Facebook
- Follow our Twitter feed
If you simplify user processes, you improve conversions, as well.
#7. Maintain a Balance of Design and Function
Your site should be both pleasant to look at and easy to use. If it lacks either of these components, your visitors will probably leave dissatisfied, at least to some degree.
What they want from you is a unique and engaging experience that represents your brand, but without having to sacrifice ease of use and simplicity of function. For instance, a golf resort should offer more than a white page with functional, black text.
Users expect an experience. They want a golf site to feature a backdrop of lush, rolling greens, flags billowing from pins, and happy, smiling golfers celebrating an eagle on the 18th green.
But if they cannot find their way to your signup page, your lovely graphics and designs all come to naught.
Thus, you must figure out what your users want, and make their journey through your site both simple and memorable.
Remember that just because your site looks great does not mean it is providing a satisfying user experience. If you neglect functionality, you are probably leaving money on the table. There are always capable web designers that can help you find that balance between attractive design and practical functionality. Whether hiring professional help or diving into improvement tasks yourself, by addressing user experience you can progress your website design.
In review, first define who your users are and figure out what they want from you. Then, make it easy to learn or do what they came to your site to accomplish. To keep them engaged, provide unique content they cannot find elsewhere. To keep them from abandoning ship prematurely, tune up any areas that might cause your visitors confusion or frustration. Make it easy for them to stay connected through email or social media. Simplify other processes as well and make sure to balance form with function.
Users want a good-looking site that is easy and intuitive to use. Give them that, and you will boost your conversion rate into overdrive.
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