So you’re building a new website? Or maybe you’re looking to revamp your current site with a fresh design and some new custom features? Regardless of all the new bells and whistles out there to consider, there’s one thing that never goes out of style when it comes to designing a website: a good user experience.
And let’s be honest, sometimes the best user experiences are those that are the least memorable–because that means your site delivered exactly what the user needed without requiring any second thoughts or unnecessary effort. Read on to learn more about the user experience and how to design for the best possible outcome when it comes to your site.
According to Wikipedia, user experience pertains to a person’s emotions and perceptions about a (website) experience, from the navigability and ease of use to the design and visual elements. While we always strive to build websites that are aesthetically pleasing, there is far more below the surface that impacts the user experience. For instance, is the site designed in a way to improve engagement, increase conversions and/or drive key performance indicators? Does the site provide what the visitor is looking for and does it anticipate and deliver against those needs? Is the experience intuitive? Does it load quickly and does it render well across all devices? These are all components that factor in to the holistic user experience.
When it comes to providing a superior user experience, here are a few key trends:
Have you ever noticed on some sites that it’s near impossible to find a phone number? Sometimes you just want to pick up the phone to call customer service about your airline reservation or your appliance warranty, but when you go to the company site, it’s nowhere to be found. Even with the most superior and thoughtfully designed sites, there are always going to be people that still want to get on the phone and discuss with a real-live person. Being up front and providing your site visitors with this type of information right from the start goes a long way towards providing a superior user experience.
Anticipating Customer Needs
In that same vein, what other needs can you anticipate and proactively provide your visitors? If you have a lead form, will your user have questions about how to input data into entry fields (do I use dashes to enter my phone number or parentheses? Do I enter a two-year digit for my birth year or four? And what the heck is a CVC code?) Remember: every question a user has to ask themselves during the process is another reason for them not to complete it. As you design your site, think through the questions and needs a visitor may have, and provide answers before that visitor ever has a chance to ask them.
Providing Data Driven Content
We’ve all heard it a million times: content is King. And this is no less true when it comes to a website experience. When considering your site design and architecture, are you including all the necessary content that a user may be seeking? Using site analytics to look at trends with our current content and tools and social listening to what conversational themes surround your industry are great ways to determine the types of content that should be included on your site. Are you looking at raw search queries within your internal site search? If you own a bakery and you notice that there is an increase in searches for “cronuts,” that could be an indication that you should include content about this increasingly popular pastry. Maybe you don’t currently offer cronuts, but having content about them on your site is a great way to be part of the conversation and make suggestions for other similar bakery items that you do serve.
Enhanced Value Adds
A great user experience doesn’t have to be flashy. Sometimes simple is better. Think of Google: when search engines first took off, Google stood apart because of one small feature–anytime a user visited their site, their cursor was immediately placed in the entry field for the user to begin typing. Such a simple differentiator, but such a huge breath of efficiency for the user. What other value adds can you provide with your site that save steps for the user or delight and empower them in a way they didn’t expect? Maybe it’s a custom 404 page designed with your company’s personality in mind, or maybe it’s the ability to sign up for a text alert so the user doesn’t need to log in daily. The ways in which you can offer a customer-friendly experience are nearly endless and don’t need to break the bank or require complicated design processes.
As with anything digital, and especially when designing a new site, it’s important to measure and refine. Fundamentally, we need to know if the site we just launched is working and there are several ways to evaluate this. Site analytics provide a great foundation from which to measure user experience metrics such as time on site, pages per visit, average page views, bounce rates and key performance indicator completions. You can also measure the user experience through real-time performance alerts such as site downtimes, errors or software updates. Lastly, you can layer in management tool or campaign data to measure conversions, ROI and campaign efficiency. Don’t forget, just because the site has been built and is live doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to be done to improve the user experience.
Regardless of the industry in which you work, the need for a superior user experience is always present. Designing your new site or site refresh with these considerations in mind will put you steps ahead when it comes to providing an experience that is simple, helpful, and never goes out of style.
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[By Lori Terrell]
[This post originally appeared on AskingSmarterQuestions and is republished with permission.]