Well-designed websites are all around us, and May 31st marks Web Designer Day, which is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the importance of this sometimes underestimated job role.
Web designers around the globe contribute to modern-day society more than we perhaps give credit for. After all, who carefully develops the sites we absentmindedly land on and makes it so effortless for us to shop, do business, watch videos or even play games, all accessed within the click of a few buttons?
You’re reading this blog on a website right now, yet have you stopped to consider how it was created and how you’re receiving this content?
Well-designed websites can essentially be split into two key areas: user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). You could be forgiven for feeling confused about the differences between them, as they work closely together and are often used interchangeably; yet they actually mean two very different things. Put simply:
- UI is all about an interface’s visuals – the look, presentation and interactivity of a product or service. It combines creative use of colours and typography to help make a website look aesthetically appealing and responsive.
- UX, on the other hand, is essentially the feel of the experience – functionality and usability are key. It is connected to the user’s overall journey and how they perceive, use and remember the website. In the case of well-designed websites we should be looking at the complete digital experience, from start to finish.
As you can see, UI and UX inherently complement one another, and in today’s competitive market it’s crucial to get both aspects right. On the face of it, it can be all too easy to get hung up on the aesthetics of website design, but here at Loqate we pride ourselves on working with businesses to aid them in creating a user experience that builds on trust with their customers, and uniquely removes the friction when their visitors take action.
In light of this, Elke Bretz, Loqate’s resident UX designer, is here to share her insider knowledge and valuable tips for great user experience design. Read on to find out about five of the essential components.
The first step of the process for a well-designed website is to research the audience of the website – a sound understanding of your target audience is fundamental to creating an exceptional online experience.
Creating user personas helps you understand the expectations, motivations and concerns of your intended audience. Your website needs to accommodate the needs of your users in order to be a success – and applying user empathy goes a long way.
2) Content and Visual Hierarchy
When it comes to content, a quality-over-quantity approach is fundamental. Make your brand’s tone of voice natural, purposeful and consistent throughout your website, as this helps to bolster the strength in your branding.
Additionally, adding a live chat to your site gives a more human aspect – a "voice" – enabling you to address people’s concerns on the spot.
As for visual hierarchy, this entails arranging and organising page content so that visitors naturally gravitate toward the most important elements first. This is done either by size, colour, imagery, contrast, typography, white space, texture or style.
Remember that websites are scanned, not read, and so it goes without saying that your content should follow natural eye movement patterns. It is important to understand how your audience processes information before adopting a hierarchy pattern:
- The Z pattern of eye scanning is common (scanning from the top left to top right, then glancing down through the content (following a diagonal) to the bottom left, before moving to the bottom right);
- Whereas the F-shaped layout mimics our natural pattern of reading in the West (left to right and top to bottom), which is used on websites that include text-heavy content.
Something further to note is that a well-designed website with effective user experience incorporates the principles of psychology. Mental models prevent us from having to learn (or relearn) from scratch every time we have a new experience.
By applying mental models you make design choices that will be intuitive and engaging for the user. When it comes to optimising for usability and UX, the end goal is to lead visitors to complete the desired action – in such a way that feels intuitive and natural to the user.
More and more people are using their phones or other devices to browse the web, as opposed to a traditional desktop.
A well-designed website starts with a responsive layout, ensuring your interface can adjust to different screens, across a multitude of devices, otherwise, you may miss out on leads and, ultimately, sales.
Ideally, the layout should allow for legible text without the need to zoom and where you are not required to scroll horizontally. A responsive website will have a fluid and flexible layout, offering an optimised browsing experience.
4) Those Little Moments
Sometimes it’s the little things that matter, such as micro-interactions. Micro-interactions are small moments where the user and design interact and are a great opportunity to surprise and delight your users – an example might be where you simply tap on a button in a mobile app to access a dropdown list.
Well-designed websites that offer micro-interactions can give users visual feedback, help prevent errors, or display system changes more clearly and creates those little ‘aha’ moments.
In a similar vein, micro-copy (short sentences that provide context, address user concerns or give instructions to the user) can also add delight and greatly influence the overall user experience. However, don’t get too carried away with these – find a sweet spot so as not to sacrifice the credibility you’re aiming to convey and the trust you are striving to build on your website.
5) Usability Testing
Conduct ongoing user testing, gather feedback and make changes based on what you have learned to improve the design of your site.
Being customer-obsessed means paying attention to what users do, not just what they say. Consider usability testing as a decisive part of your design process, which is made up of five components: learnability, efficiency, memorability, error and satisfaction.
The key to a well-designed website is that the design is never complete; it is continually evolving. Businesses that take the time to listen to the feedback loop from customers, users or visitors, are always one step ahead of their competitors.
We believe that the optimum product experience starts with UX. We are proud to offer a range of solutions to help you take your website from ‘just a website’ into the realms of a well-designed website. Our solutions help businesses enhance their own user experience, allowing users to check out with exceptional efficiency and confidence each time. Our mission is simple: we work to help every business in the world reach every customer in the world – achieved with sense and simplicity.
There is no single or simple definition of what makes for ‘good’ user experience in the world of good website design, but from working through the top five elements that come into play in this complex and fascinating design process, you can quickly evolve and adapt to meet the ever-changing needs of users. UI can be likened to the bridge that gets us where we want to go, whereas UX could be said to be the feeling we get when we arrive. And, let’s face it, we never forget how a product makes us feel.
1 Don Norman, a cognitive scientist and co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group Design Consultancy, is credited with coining the term “user experience” in the late 1990s.