It is impossible to have an intelligent conversation about your website without discussing user experience (UX). Today, users are in charge of their own online experience (or at least has the perception that they are). So, any strategy for your website should include some planning for the user’s experience.
So, what is User Experience exactly? Wikipedia defines it in the following way:
In this case the system is your website. Now you might be thinking “how they feel??? who cares!” or something along those lines. But consider this: if someone gets to your website, how do you think they need to feel in order for your site to convert them from a user into a client? Let’s break this into warm and fuzzies and eww gross…
Warm and Fuzzies – A Positive User Reaction
- Comfortable, Safe – these are feelings that you want the user to have. You want them to feel comfortable that your site is the place where they will find what they are looking for (even if you want to scare the crap out of them, you want them to feel that you are the one that will make everything OK).
- Validated – there is something rather satisfying about knowing you’ve made the right decision. Well, if you’ve chosen to go to a site from a list of search engine results and the site you go to has what you need, you will feel validated in your choice to click.
- Eager – if the user has the two previous feelings, then they will most likely be eager to poke around on your site. This is good, because once you get users to visit your site and find information they want, they are invested and more likely to buy/join/download/whatever.
Eww, Gross – Bad Site, Head for the Hills!
- Uncertainty – is this site for real? Can I trust this site with my information? Is the owner of this site a real person who actually cares? If someone is asking themselves these questions and is unsure of the answers they hear in their head, then they probably feel that they’re not in the right place and will want to get the heck out of there.
- Lost – if they get there and have some initial comfort but then feel lost or confused after a minute or two, then frustration sets in and they are gone!
- A Bit like Dorothy – when the wizard came out from behind the curtain, we were all a little disappointed. If the users feel there is something shady going on behind the scenes, they will bolt. They are bombarded with spam, etc. and don’t want to do business with anyone they think has a hidden agenda.
Of course, User Experience goes deeper than just initial reactions to a website, but this stuff is very important. Consider your own web surfing experience. How do you react to different types of websites? The users want a positive experience and they want it without having to think.
So, how does this happen? How can you design and develop a website that gives a user the warm and fuzzies? Here are some quick tips that will help you get there:
Comfortable, Safe User Experience
A user will feel comfortable and safe for a number of reasons and most are well within your control…
- Good design – let’s face it, first impressions still count and visuals make up a lot of that. If your design is appropriate without being distracting, then the user will not even notice it, or if they do, they will like it. The key is to not let your design get in the way of the user interacting with the site. This goes for users who are visually impaired; design and code matters a great deal here as well.
- Clear message and direction – no one likes to wander around aimlessly looking for information. They want it and they want it yesterday. Use your copy and your design to make sure they can find what they want and quickly (knowing what they want helps too!).
- Knowing real people are behind what they see – if the user knows that the people responsible for this site are real and even accessible, then the comfort level goes way up. If all they can find is email@example.com and a PO Box, then their willingness to give anything beyond a quick glance is going to be minimal. Make sure they can easily figure out who is in charge.
Once a user feels comfort and safety, they will then be looking for validation. They want to know they’re making a good choice by being on your site. They want to feel that their choice to click on your listing was a good one. Knowing them is really the key to this one…
- What do they want – if you know your audience and what they want, then you can give it to them. Placing this information in the obvious areas of the design will mean that they will find what they want quickly. This lets them know that they are in EXACTLY the right place.
- Other users agreed with their choice – adding things like user ratings for products or client testimonials will also help the user feel that they are in the right place because other people with similar needs are telling them so.
So, if the user is comfortable with your site and they feel validated in choosing to visit, then what’s next? They want to do something. Think about it: if you get to a store, it looks nice, you feel good about being there and your buddies told you it was a great place, you are going to want to go shopping right away. Users are going to be in a mad rush to get more. Don’t get in their way…
- Make your CTAs (call to action) obvious – people need to be guided through an experience. Your CTA needs to be obvious without being obnoxious. Place the useful qualifying information on your site followed by a clear call to action (what you want and expect them to do next: call, email, buy, etc.).
- Don’t over-complicate the message – get to the point! No one is going to wade through tons of information to get what they want. They want it now! They want to click once and be there. Do as little as possible to complicate this process.
- Keep the aisles clear from debris – no one likes their shopping experience to be a cluttered one. They want free and easy access to the products they wish to purchase. In the case of a website, this means that they want to find the information they are looking for quickly. You want your site’s navigation and support features (search, help, etc.) to be intuitive and effective. Testing is important here because designers and developers sometimes miss the obvious roadblocks.
Working with your marketing team, web design and development team, and yes, even your clients, you can think through and plan for the user experience from start to finish. If you build this site with the user’s experience in mind, you will see better results. If you build the site with only your goals in mind, you will miss some opportunities to convert a user into a client.
Are you looking for a better UX for your website or app?