What’s the most important thing to consider when developing a website?
Is it the design, how fast it loads on mobile, or how customers navigate your site?
With user experience (UX), you can take all three into consideration!
Some digital marketers don’t consider the user experience they offer their visitors. However, a reliable and user-friendly experience means your customers don’t just find what they are looking for but come back time and time again.
If you’re asking the question “what is UX?” this detailed guide will explain everything you need to know. I’ll share the key elements of UX design, how to develop a user experience strategy for your business, and how to measure your success.
Let’s get started!
What Is UX?
What is user experience? User experience, or UX, is the process of designing a website that your prospective customers find easy to use.
Imagine you’re shopping online for a present for a friend. The site takes ages to load, the navigation isn’t taking you to the page you want and pop-ups are bombarding you everywhere you click. Chances are that you’ll give up and take your business elsewhere.
This is bad UX in action.
UX design is the perfect combination of research, strategy, and design. You’re not just creating a website or product that customers love, but investigating how you can solve their problems.
UX design focuses on everything from the branding of your website to the navigation. Even the little things like the words you use in your call-to-actions, can have a significant impact.
I’ll focus on website UX in this guide as it’s such an integral part of website design. However, you can evaluate UX for mobile apps, SaaS platforms, as well as online and offline products and services too.
How User Experience Impacts Digital Marketing
When you’re a digital marketer, UX may feel like a low priority.
After all, when you have content to write, paid media campaigns to create, and social media profiles to look after, user experience doesn’t matter too much, right? People will find what they need in their own time.
However, dedicating time to your website UX can help make your life a lot easier.
Good user experience translates to:
- Improved brand loyalty. One-third of customers will leave the brand after one bad experience. The better your UX, the more likely they are to stick around.
- A higher chance of customers supporting your brand. Happy customers are more likely to leave good reviews and tell others about your business.
- Increased revenue. When customers can find what they need, they’re more likely to buy.
- Higher conversion rates. Creating content and navigation with your users in mind means they’re more likely to carry out certain tasks and click on call-to-actions.
- Better search engine optimization (SEO). Improved UX can boost the SEO of your website. Reducing page loading times and making your site more mobile-responsive improves user experience and rankings in search. When your site has better UX, users stay on your site for longer, which also has a positive effect on SEO.
- More trust. A high-quality, responsive site leads to a positive customer experience, which in turn, generates trust in your business. This means users are more likely to have confidence in your products and services. In the current climate, trust is more important than ever, with it being the most important consideration when people buy from businesses.
Key Elements of User Experience Design
So where should your focus be when it comes to user experience design?
The honest answer is that it depends. Different businesses will want to prioritize different elements of their products and services. For example, if you operate an e-commerce website, you may want to prioritize the user experience of the checkout process. If you own a mobile app, you want to ensure it loads quickly and that users can complete tasks in as few taps as possible.
In my experience though, there are a few key elements that all businesses should consider when looking at the user experience they provide to customers.
The number-one rule when it comes to user experience design? Design your product or service in line with the needs and wants of your target audience—not your own requirements.
Take the Apple website, for example. It’s clean, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to find what you’re looking for. From a user-centric approach, it’s one of the best sites out there.
However, this isn’t just a coincidence. Apple has spent a lot of time and resources ensuring that the user experience is top-notch and that users are involved right at the start of the process.
To get your user experience design right, it’s important to understand your target audience. What do they want to achieve, what are their pain points, and how can you help them achieve their goals?
You can ask your target audience directly or examine their online behavior, for example, through heat maps or scroll maps. We’ll look at heat maps in more detail at the end of this article.
Did you know that one in four adults in the U.S. have some type of disability? This doesn’t just impact how people live their lives but how they access websites too.
Out of all people in the U.S. who consider themselves disabled:
- 12.1 percent have a mobility problem
- 12.8 percent have issues with cognition
- 7.2 percent struggle with independent living
- 6.1 percent are hearing impaired
- 4.8 percent are visually impaired
- 3.6 percent have difficulties with self-care, for example, dressing or bathing
It’s vital to ensure everyone can use your website. Different countries have different legislation to be aware of, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act in the U.S. or the Equality Act in the U.K.
Here are some easy ways to ensure you provide an inclusive user experience to everyone:
- Keep your language simple and concise.
- Provide contextual alternative text (or alt tags) for images and captions for videos.
- Ensure there is high contrast between the foreground and background of your website.
- Make sure your site is responsive across all screen sizes and devices.
- Ensure any elements like images and call-to-action buttons are easy to click.
- Don’t use tables as placeholders for content.
- Add keyboard navigation for people who don’t use a mouse to access your site.
- Test your site with assistive technologies like screen readers.
Consistent Design and Functionality
We all like consistency in our lives. Waking up at the same time each day, knowing what we’ll have for lunch, what meetings we have in our calendars at work.
The same logic applies to UX too. A website with the same consistent navigation and branding across all pages (and all devices) is a lot more usable than one that is wildly unpredictable.
Developing a user experience strategy can help you achieve this, which we’ll look at in more detail later.
It’s also essential to ensure your web design aligns with what people expect from other websites they visit. Jakob’s Law states that because people spend most of their time on websites that aren’t yours, they bring their expectations to your site.
This means ensuring consistency with other sites can lead to an improved user experience. So look at other websites that your target audience visits and take the style and navigation into consideration.
Hierarchy of Information
What is the average time customers spend on a web page before getting bored and moving on?
It depends on the type of content, the industry you’re in, and the purpose of your page. For example, visitors may be happy to spend five minutes reading your latest blog post but won’t spend more than 30 seconds finding what they need on a product page.
However, the sooner web users can access the information they need to convert, the better.
This is what the hierarchy of information, often referred to as the user experience in website architecture, is all about. It ensures that the information most relevant to your target audience is easy to find.
Let’s say you have a product page on an e-commerce site. It’s important to ensure that all the information your target customer wants to see is front and center. This could be the price, the sizes, the product specification or the reviews—perhaps even all four.
Let’s look at the hierarchy of info for this Amazon product. 95 percent of Amazon customers read product reviews before making a purchase, so naturally, the ratings are at the top of the page.
Next comes the price—which is so important, it’s featured twice! As there is so much competition on Amazon, shoppers are always keen to find the best deals. Featuring the price prominently is a significant factor in encouraging customers to part with their cash.
Don’t forget the shipping! With 27 percent of shoppers happy to abandon a shopping cart because free shipping didn’t come as standard, it’s important to highlight how much shipping will cost the customer.
Context is critical in user experience design as it allows you to understand the expectations of your ideal customer. This means you can provide content and information tailored to their needs.
For example, an international site like Airbnb will look different depending on which country or state you access it from. It will show you prices in your national currency, as well as products or services specific to the area you live in. If you’ve used Airbnb before, it will show you properties based on your previous history that it thinks you might like.
Personalization is critical when it comes to UX. 56 percent of customers say they’ll buy again if a business offers an experience personalized to their specific requirements.
Understanding UX vs UI
Many people use UX and UI interchangeably when talking about website design. However, they are two different concepts. Let’s take a closer look at user interface vs user experience.
UX is all about how your site functions and the overall experience your web visitors have.
UI, or user interface, refers to the graphical elements on your website and how your web visitors interact with them. By “graphical elements,” I mean:
- Call-to-action buttons
- Color scheme
- Website layout
So as you can see, UX is about the bigger picture, while UI is about the smaller details. Think of it like a meal in a restaurant: UX is all about finding the high-quality ingredients and how the dish is prepped and served, while UI focuses on how the food tastes.
While UX and UI focus on different elements of your site, they both have the same goal; to encourage people to stay on your website and convert.
You can use both to your advantage when developing your website, meaning it doesn’t have to be a choice between UX vs UI!
The Process of User Experience Design
UX design needs to be a holistic approach. This means you must consider the whole user experience, from the first click on your website to the final conversion.
This might sound complicated, but the good news is that with some planning and preparation, the UX design process doesn’t have to be challenging.
Here’s how to get started.
Customer Persona and Journey Mapping
All digital marketing strategies involve identifying a customer persona; user experience design is no exception.
A customer persona is a fictional representation of a member of your target audience. By giving this persona a name, a photo, and a backstory, it makes it easier to empathize with them and put yourself in their shoes. You can have as many customer personas as you need for your business.
So when you’re going through your website, you can think: “Would Frank find this useful?” or “How can I make it easier for Frank to get to the content he wants?”
This brings me nicely onto journey mapping.
With a journey map, you identify the typical route each customer persona takes on your website. Where do they start, where do they finish, and where do they go in between?
You can also consider the other touchpoints your persona has with your brand, like whether they reach out to you through social media or customer support.
For example, let’s say you run an e-commerce website, and you use customer journey mapping to see how your target customers interact with your store.
You’re finding that although shoppers are finding the products they want, they’re hesitant to make a purchase. After some research, you find that this is because shoppers don’t like having to open an account. As a result, you implement a guest checkout option, and see an uplift in sales.
Customer personas and journey mapping make it easier to understand how your target audience uses your website and what you can do to simplify their journey.
Wireframing and Prototyping
When designing a website and determining the best layout to use, you don’t want to dive straight into your CMS and start building.
A wireframe or prototype can help you lay out your content and determine the optimal customer journey.
A wireframe is a basic, often static, outline of the structure and layout of a webpage or mobile app. This helps you understand how visitors will access your site, where specific elements will go, and how they’ll move through different pages.
A prototype is more advanced and functional, for example, a simplified version of your website or app. This allows you to interact with the different elements and carry out basic tasks. You can even give it to users and ask for their feedback.
The benefit of wireframes and prototypes is that they let you visualize the structure of your website and how your visitors will use it. This means you have a user-friendly structure in mind before you start building your site. Plus, as wireframes and prototypes are easy and cost-effective to create, there’s no harm done if you need to go back to the drawing board.
There are plenty of online tools you can use to create a wireframe or prototype, including Figma, Balsamiq, and Photoshop. If you want to go old-school, you can even put together a wireframe using paper and a pen!
Earlier on, we talked about user interface versus user experience. While graphical elements fall under UI, the overall visual design is part of the UX umbrella.
While your website needs to be functional and fast loading, it’s also crucial that it looks good and is aligned with your overall branding. If given a choice, 59 percent of people would rather look at something with a beautiful design than something simple and plain!
Here are some of my top tips when it comes to combining UX and visual design:
- Stick to a set number of fonts, colors, and sizes. Three of each is ideal. While multiple styles can be great for establishing a visual hierarchy, too many can make your site feel cluttered.
- Ensure your website design looks good on both desktop and mobile.
- Use white space between design elements to help make your pages easier to read and provide balance.
- Make sure there is consistency between not just the pages on your website, but all your other marketing materials.
- Test your visual design to ensure your target audience responds well to it.
How to Monitor and Optimize UX
UX isn’t something you do once and forget about—it’s important to regularly revisit and see what’s working.
If the conversion rate on your website is starting to drop, re-optimizing the user experience can be a great way to bring it back up again.
Here are more of my top tips regarding user experience monitoring and optimization.
Create a UX Strategy That Aligns With Business Goals
A solid and well-thought-out user experience strategy is essential when optimizing your website. It will help you identify your ultimate vision, determine your priorities, and ensure you develop your site from a user-centric standpoint.
If you have many people involved in the UX process, like web developers, project managers, content creators, and third-party agencies, a user experience strategy ensures consistency.
Here’s what you need to include to make sure your UX strategy is on point:
- Understand your objectives and goals. What do you want your UX strategy to help you achieve? For example, making more sales, improving customer loyalty, or reducing phone calls and emails.
- Look at the people who use your site. Primary market research, like asking users to carry out tasks online, can be a valuable way of identifying their pain points.
- Analyze your competitors’ websites. What do they do well from a UX standpoint, and how can you stand out from them?
- Map out the user journey. How do your customers currently get to where they need to go on your website, and how can you improve the process?
- Identify who will be involved in the UX process. For example, who will create wireframes and prototypes, who will enhance the website, and who will analyze the results?
- Define how you will test to identify whether your UX strategy is successful. For example, will you use A/B testing or ask web users for feedback?
Make sure you regularly review your user experience strategy. Your target audience and product offering may change over time, as will the technology available to you.
By keeping up to date with the latest developments and trends, you can consistently offer a high-quality user experience.
Identify Key Metrics to Track User Experience
Testing your website UX is vital to make sure your target audience responds well to it. If your conversions drop off or your bounce rate skyrockets, it’s a sign that you might need to revisit your strategy.
Good quantitative metrics to measure include:
- Time spent on a page. A high or low time could indicate that the content on the page doesn’t help your user.
- Number of pages visited. If you’ve identified the typical customer journey, this metric can show you how far they get before leaving your site.
- Conversion rate. A high conversion rate indicates that your customers are successfully navigating your site.
As well as quantitative metrics, it’s good to measure qualitative data, including:
- Customer feedback. Surveys, interviews, and forms will show you what customers think of the UX of your site.
- Usability testing. Asking customers to carry out tasks lets you see how they go about accessing your website and any roadblocks they encounter.
Heat mapping, or eye-tracking falls between qualitative and quantitative data. This method of tracking UX shows what part of a webpage users engage with, meaning you can see which elements customers interact with are most popular.
Let’s take a look at the two images above. In the first advert, people are looking at the baby, but not looking at the copy. However, in the second version of the advert, the baby is looking directly at the copy, nudging people to look too!
Heat mapping is a fantastic way of seeing what elements of your site web visitors like and what changes you can make to improve UX even further.
Conduct A/B Testing
When designing a website with UX in mind, you might have two great ideas for an intuitive webpage. However, how can you tell which one your web visitors prefer the most?
This is when A/B testing comes in. A/B testing, or split testing, is a fantastic way to identify which page statistically performs better. The great thing is that you can use it at any stage of the UX process.
Here’s how to carry out A/B testing:
- Create two versions of the same page, both identical apart from the variable you want to test. For example, this could be a different page heading, or a call-to-action at the top of the page rather than the bottom.
- Send half your users to one page, and the other half to the other.
- Look at your user feedback or page statistics to see which variant won.
- Repeat the process with a different variable.
You’re one step closer to understanding the design features your prospective customers want to see.
UX design is the process of developing a product or service that customers find easy to use.
For example, let’s say you’re creating a website. UX design would involve carrying out research to see what customers like, developing an intuitive structure, and testing it when it goes live to ensure it’s usable.
UX and UI (user interface) are two different concepts that you can use to create a website, app, or product that functions well and looks fantastic.
UX concerns the user’s overall experience, while UI concentrates on the graphical elements like the color scheme, typography, and layout.
UX vs UI? Both are equally important when it comes to creating a high-quality product.
Not quite. UX focuses on how people interact with your website, app, or product, while customer experience considers all the interactions people have with your business.
So a customer interacting with your brand on social media or over the phone would count as customer experience rather than user experience.
What is UX strategy?
A user experience strategy is your blueprint for implementing UX-based changes on your website or app. The main features of your UX strategy will include:
- Your objectives and goals
- What you know about how people use your site
- The changes you’ll make to improve user experience
- How you’ll monitor and measure results
UX may not be the first thing you think of when developing or updating your website. However, it’s critical if you want to drive conversions and stay one step ahead of your competitors.
The key to the user experience is to be thorough and plan ahead. Understand your target audience and know what they want to achieve when they visit your website—their goals may be entirely different to yours!
If you want to build strong bonds with customers and encourage their loyalty, UX is the way forward.
How do you enhance the user experience for your website?
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