If you’ve ever been involved in a website project you may have come across the term User Experience. But what exactly is User Experience and why is it becoming so crucial in the modern digital landscape?
In its simplest form, User Experience or UX is about making your website or app usable and ensuring the intended target audience can find relevant content easily. But good UX goes much further than just making sure a website has good navigation and content architecture.
With all the SEO and Social media buzz in recent years there’s been an explosion of companies offering their expertise in these fields. You’d be forgiven if you started to think this is where all the focus should be in order for a website to be a success. We’ve been led to believe by some in the industry that you sprinkle some SEO and Social magic and your users will be happy. In reality, this is only half the battle, as these methods, done well, will help to increase engagement and create improved visibility for your product or service. All of this hard work however, can quickly be undone if a potential customer eventually reaches your site and finds it doesn’t meet their needs on a functional or emotional level.
It’s worth noting that Google also states clearly in its webmaster guide documents that you should create content for users and not the Google bot. So, focusing solely on how to get users to your site and neglecting the experience once they arrive is a very bad idea. So, ultimately SEO and Social Media activities actually need to work in unison with UX to succeed.
User Experience is more than just SEO and Social Media
If you’ve been involved with a website project from the ground up, did you take the time to thoroughly think about your end user? At the start of a project it’s easy to get caught up with the details important to your business, such as visual design or what you want to say, but considering details from a user’s perspective is equally important. The size of your company logo in a header may be important to you but I guarantee it will be one of the least important factors for visitors successfully engaging with your site.
Taking things a step further, how can you be sure that your product or service is meeting the needs of your users without really understanding them and how they interact with your business. This is where the role of good UX techniques really helps to focus your efforts to your end users and find what works for them. This can be achieved by;
- Interviewing existing customers
- Creating personas of your core audience
- Running preference tests
- Mapping user journeys
- And more
After all your users will be the decision makers.
Website Design for Emotion
An important aspect of successful UX is tapping in to user emotion, and, when applied correctly, it is a powerful tool.
The hierarchy of human needs above translates to emotional design. In web terms the basic needs of functionality, reliability and usability need to happen before the top layer can be applied successfully. In our case, pleasure being the creative emotional design aspects we layer in.
As much as the words functional and functionality can sound sterile to clients and us designers at the start of an exciting new website project, the job of a good website or app interface is to ultimately be functional first. That’s why it’s important that we always give ourselves a solid foundation, thinking about the key functional aspects that will allow our user to have a functional experience first before designing in the emotional hooks.
Working on projects I’ve often come across the issue of businesses who simply want to take an offline brochure and make a website from it. The problem with this is a brochure is a one way information exchange and doesn’t require a user to perform any further actions; therefore the brochure designer doesn’t need to worry about what the user will do once they’ve digested the message(s). So whilst there might be valuable content to be taken from the brochure, we really need to consider how it translates to a web interface, considering the questions and next steps in the journey.
So ultimately this is what User Experience is all about, making sure all the components or layers work together to offer a positive experience. If a user finds a solution usable, the experience will generally be good but if a user finds something pleasurable it will likely surpass their expectations and offer a much more pleasing and memorable experience. That, for me, is where a digital team with appreciation for UX design makes the difference, surpassing expectation, adding in those details, and creating the unexpected that take it from usable to a great experience.