We all know what a bad online experience feels like. Those clicks through extra web pages that leave us wondering why. Or the confusing bits of content that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the page. Or that all-too-common search for store operating hours hidden so well under layers of web pages, you could swear you’re being sent on a treasure hunt.

Businesses today are well aware how important it is to apply a great user experience (UX) on their products and websites. But in the long and winding journey that is the design process, hurdles like technical limitations and tight deadlines can sometimes derail teams from creating the best experiences they can for their customers.

Staying focused on a few principles of design will help avoid the pitfalls of uninspiring user experiences. Do it right and you just may even find yourself in that elusive sweet spot right in the middle of utility and delight.

Defining UX

First, what is UX exactly? User Experience is a pretty broad term that speaks to the heart of how businesses should think about the customer’s experience from beginning to end.

According to the Oxford Journal Interacting With Computers: “The goal of user experience design in industry is to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.” For businesses with a web presence, it means planning out and designing your user’s interaction with your website and products in a way that is useful, easy, and delightful.

There are a few ways businesses can do this with their product and web presence.

Make your message clear

Cut down on clutter and make it clear what your business has to offer. Make sure that within 5 seconds of landing on your website, the user can get a good sense of what your business is all about.

Apply a clear visual hierarchy to information. Help users digest content faster by utilising a number of visual cues like colour, size, position, contrast, shape, proximity to like items, etc. Think of it like showing courtesy to a guest to your home. You wouldn’t want to clutter it with a distracting and unsightly mess on the floor. Pick it up, make it look nice.

You can read more about how to present your business online here.

Put in the effort to make it seamless and easy

You already run the business so that it looks seamless to the customer. You can extend this principle to the world of UX by making it easier for the user to interact with your business online. For example, using clear signposts at the top of the page during the checkout process will help customers understand how much longer they have to go. Or giving them the option to save credit card information for later will help customers fill out less information the next time they shop.

The point is to reduce a customer’s interaction with your business into the most simplified and transparent process possible. Do this exceptionally well and you’re entering into the territory of surprising and delighting and they’ll forget about the web process altogether.

Get in the user’s head by diversifying your own

The key to successful UX is to empathise with the user. But since we can't yet read each other’s minds, we’ll need to revert to the next best thing of testing out design ideas on other co-workers and guinea pigs. And it's important to bring people with diverse perspectives together. Because no matter how skilled a designer is, getting exposure to different points of view can still be of benefit.

“When we listen to people who don’t think the same as we do, it starts a conversation which pushes us to think different and ultimately grow,” Senior manager of Digital UX for DISCOVER, Melissa Douros, told Forbes.

 

The stakes of better UX are clear. Bad design is confusing and frustrating for users and ultimately lead to abandoned shopping carts and negative sentiments about the brand. On the opposite side, great UX not only avoids getting in the user’s way, it shows them you care. Keep some basic principles in mind throughout the design process to stay on track to deliver a great experience. And while you're designing just keep asking yourself, would you click to the next page for more?

About the author

Mark Dunn is a leading web designer and developer with over 10 years experience in the industry. With a background in software development and cyber security, Mark brings a unique perspective to his articles to ensure an enjoyable and informative read.