You may have heard the term ‘UX Design’ or seen someone advertising themselves as a ‘UX Designer’ and thought to yourself: ‘what the hell is this now?’
Well, I’ll tell you… ‘UX’ stands for ‘User Experience’.
The OCD part of me screams every time I say it because obviously it should be ‘UE’ design, but that aside, UX design is actually incredibly important and not as pretentious as it sounds.
When I first heard the term, I imagined that a UX designer was one of those new made-up job titles like anything with the word ‘strategic’ in, or most job titles containing the phrase ‘social media’. I also wondered if a UX designer was simply a more trendy term for web designer.
I was wrong on both counts. Having now completed a course on UX design, I can tell you that a UX designer is something all web designers should be, and some unintentionally are, but most are not.
So what does a UX designer do?
A UX designer designs with the user in mind, with a focus on making things easy and simple for them to get around and get what they want out of the site. In many cases, this means putting aside what you the designer want to do, as well as what your client wants, and instead concentrating on what your client’s customers want. This is key because if you, the designer, and your client can put away your egos, it means a greater income for your client, and in turn, more likely that your client will continue using your services.
To get inside the mind of your client’s customers, you need to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself the following questions:
If I were a customer…
- Does the site have what I need?
For example, if the site is Telkom, is there a way to report a fault on the site? If the site is Eskom, does it have a load shedding schedule? …because let’s be honest, nobody visits those sites to read about their ‘sustainable development’ and ‘investor relations’.
- Does the site work properly or is it slow/broken in some way?
If the site doesn’t look the same on all the major current browsers (usually a sign of validation errors) or is dead slow (poor coding and zero image optimisation), or has broken links (perfunctory maintenance), it creates an impression that the service or product may be shoddy or of poor quality as well.
- How easy is it for me to efficiently get what I want out of this site?
As a customer, I’m never going to a website looking to be entertained by animated gifs and flashy effects. I’m going there to get information or buy something, or both. If your navigation or site structure is confusing, you may just end up losing a potential customer.
- Does the site contain enough information and/or motivation for me to buy something from you / contact you / create a conversion in some way?
If your site doesn’t have pictures or pricing of the product you’re selling or enough information about the product specifications, I may visit your competitor and buy it there instead.
- Is the site aesthetically pleasing?
As a human being, I am going to have an emotional reaction to the site. It may be good, neutral or bad. Not only should the site generally look good, but the aesthetic choices need to suit the industry. You, the designer, need to create the right ambience that will invoke a feeling of safety and familiarity. If the site is a fortune 500 company, I don’t want to see comic sans. Actually, I don’t want to see comic sans, full stop. If the site is a takeaway restaurant, I want pictures of the food it sells, not clip-art of two businessmen shaking hands.
UX design tips
Here is a brief list of a few of the more obvious UX design strategies…
- Don’t go crazy with animation and effects, unless it’s pertinent to your business (for example if you’re a 2D animator)
- If you have a slideshow, give your user control to advance slides or view previous slides.
- Make sure that hyperlinks are obviously clickable and things that aren’t links shouldn’t give the impression that they are clickable.
- Be obvious when naming your menu items so the customer knows what to expect before clicking.
- Be consistent with hyperlinks throughout the site so that, where possible, they all have the same colour, mouseover state, etc.
- Link the company logo to home page
- Provide breadcrumbs or indication of where the customer is within the site
- Provide tooltips for anything not obvious
- Add a value proposition (why should I buy here?), or better still a unique selling point (why should I buy here instead of a competitor?) on the first page
- Be clear on each page what you are offering. Don’t leave it to guesswork.
- Have about/contact/testimonials or other trust building factors in plain view
- Use pictures, fonts and colours to create a feeling that matches the industry the website represents
…And lastly, and most importantly: wherever possible test your site on your target market before going live and ask for feedback. Then make changes according to that feedback.
Article by Roxane Lapa of .COZA Web Design