The Importance of User Experience Design

May 15th 2015

The web is a dynamic platform.  Not only are the technologies constantly changing but so are the devices we use to access the web.  On top of these challenges people designing for the web must make sure their product is easy for users to interact with.  This is the backbone of user experience design.  In short user experience design is making it easy for users to understand and navigate your site.  Making this a reality however is not a simple process.  Designing a site that is both intuitive and aesthetically pleasing is an extensive process. These are some basic ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Know Your Goal

    A sense of direction is important.  Is the goal to get users to submit a contact form?  Do you want them to purchase something through your site using E-Commerce?  Knowing the underlying goal or idea for the site is paramount for a good user experience.  Based off of this knowledge you can then optimize your site to accomplish exactly what is most important.

  2. Less Is More

    Clutter is the mortal enemy of a usable site.  Once you know the primary goal of a website everything else you do from that point should be with your goal in mind.  This problem is often exacerbated on older sites that have tons of content.  There becomes so much disorder and it can take away from the sites core goals.  Keep everything focused for a more functional site.

  3. Different User Types

    Not everyone uses websites for the same purpose or in the same manner.  For example if your site has return users they need to be able to navigate to the content they are returning for.  At the same time users coming to your website for the first time should be drawn in and given a reason to stay.  Designing a home page that accomplishes both of these goals is one of the largest challenges when designing a site with great usability.

  4. Communication

    If you are working with a team to develop a site it is important to have good communication between all parties involved.  Once again this goes back to having a clear sense of direction.  Collaborating on a website can bring in unique ideas and a better end product, yet it can lead to a lack of singularity about the sites main goals.  Good communication alleviates this problem.

  5. Have Others Analyze Your Work

    If you are creating web sites there is a good chance you spend a lot of time on the internet and reading about things happening around the web.  The people who are using the sites you are designing may not be as up to date with all of the new trends as you are.  Because of this it is hugely important to have other people examine your work and give you feedback.  When designing a site’s usability one must cater to the average user, if you are developing a web site you probably are not the average user.

These are all great steps toward achieving a good user experience on your site.  Often just avoiding bad practices can make a site much more accessible.  These are a few of the most common issues that sites have when it comes to user experience:
  1. Making it Hard to Sign Up

    Users are lazy.  People do not want to take the time to fill out the forms if they don’t have to.  If a site does require the use of forms the simpler the better.  A good example of a site with a very unobtrusive login form is  Reddit allows users to navigate everything on their site without having to log on.  If you do want to vote on content or add to a conversation you are required to login.  When you create an account with them it is not mandatory to fill out email address.  If you want the capability to recover lost passwords or receive email updates than you can fill out the email field, if you don’t care about those features then you can get started without it.  Users can choose to be as involved or uninvolved as they would like, this is one of the many reasons Reddit has so many loyal users.

  2. Redundancy

    The space used on your site is valuable and should be utilized precisely to meet your goals.  When a site has multiple pages with very similar information it is more difficult for users to remember where the pertinent information is located.  Less clutter and more relevant information leads to more usable sites.

  3. Not Knowing Your User

    People come to a website for a reason.  The users that are coming to a web site generally share some defining attributes.  Knowing a bit about the average user that navigates on your website can go a long ways toward improving a sites usability.

  4. Being Too Unique

    Being different is good!  It helps you stand apart from your competition.  When it comes to user experience though being too original can actually be a hindrance.  Internet users are used to seeing similar format on most of the websites they use.  A good example of this is the navigation bar.  Navigation bars are present at the top of most websites and internet users are very comfortable using them because they interact with them constantly.  Nav bars on the left or right side of the page can work really well, but to users who have never dealt with them before they can sometimes be confusing.

User experience design is all about understanding the user and being hypercritical of every aspect of a website.  But the payoff is big.  Sites with a great user experience see more traffic, receive more referrals, and make more money than those without.  The web is changing faster than ever before, and sites with great user experiences are rising above the rest of the pack.