How to Design a Better User Experience
The user experience (UX) refers to the overall experience of a person navigating a user interface (UI). Websites, games and apps are all great examples of user interfaces, but ‘user experience’ is a bit more of a broad umbrella term. UX is not simply a layout or graphic design – it’s the sum of all parts – branding, load time, accessibility, SEO, images, animations and more.
Why does it matter? Because good user experiences build trust. They are a reflection of how developed your business is – and how in touch you are with the reality of the information age.
Building a decent user experience for your brand is no easy task, however – so I’ve compiled these handy tips to help you along your great journey.
Plan Early & Test Often
Excellent user experiences have well documented planning phases – flows, wireframes, white boards, people in beanies with dry-erase markers…you’ve seen the stock photos.
According to UX Planet, fixing a problem in development costs 10 times as much as fixing it during design, and 100 times as much if you’re trying to fix something that’s already been released. Yikes!
One of the best ways to avoid these problems is through testing. The general consensus is that a small team of 5 users is enough to detect about 85% of your UX issues. Even if you’re a small to medium sized business without the budget for a dedicated testing team, it’s worth asking friends & family for feedback – as users, their feedback is just as valuable.
What’s Good for the User is Good for You
Google’s search engine is a great example of this design philosophy in action. Their algorithms take into account decades of data from users, websites & how the two interact to help users find what they’re looking for faster than you can say ‘shut up, nerd’.
From that data, they’ve learned a lot. For example – if a site isn’t mobile friendly, 50% of users will use it less, even if they like the business. Google takes factors like this into consideration when ranking sites for their search engine or ad network, and you should be pleased to know that sites who fail to meet these basic UX standards score poorly.
This isn’t a case of big tech dumping on small businesses, though – unlike fine art, where beauty is subjective from person to person, a well designed UX is objective, and can be measured. Therefore, a good user experience doesn’t just benefit the user – or Google – it benefits you directly.
So, how do you determine what a ‘good UX’ looks like?
Think Like a User
When designing a UX, consider the needs of your average user. Who’s using your site (app, game etc) and why? What are they looking for? How can they find it in the quickest way possible? All of these are important questions you should be figuring out in the early design phases.
Companies often only consider what they want the user to see – not what the user is likely to be looking for. This can often lead to clouded judgement and poor design choices – don’t let something like an overly aggressive sales motive get in the way of what’s actually important to your users.
Keep it Simple, Stupid
Have you ever done something that makes sense to you, but no one else? This is unfortunately how some people design “websites”.
An avant garde, thought-provoking experience certainly has its place if you’re an artist trying to push the boundaries of a medium – but if you’re a brick & mortar company that sells physical products, an overly complex UX will likely scare away users. There’s always room for innovation and creativity, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for design elements users already understand – like the humble hamburger menu.
“Any product that needs a manual to make it work is broken.”
– Elon Musk
Credit: Gal Shir on Dribbble
If you don’t already have one, create brand guidelines. What colors do you use? What fonts? Your presentation across all platforms should be consistent to help users know what to expect, and to build a repertoire with them. If your email marketing has a tonal disconnect from your website or social media, the whole brand suddenly feels disingenuous.
It’s important to keep in mind that we say ‘consistent’, not stagnant. Try to keep things fresh while staying true to your brand guidelines. It’s also worth considering that many businesses will rebrand themselves after a few years to stay up to date with modern design trends, or to distance themselves from bad PR / negative public image.
Let’s take a look at how Google’s branding has evolved over the years:
While rebranding can be helpful, don’t go overboard – leading us into our next point.
Implement Changes Strategically
Think back to the last time your social media network of choice updated its website. Did it spark joy?
People hate change. This applies doubly so on the internet, for better or for worse. Pushing updates that impact how users perceive / interact with you is a very tricky thing, and should be done slowly in most cases, when possible.
Remember, though – consistent, not stagnant. Maybe your 2.0 update is on the horizon, bringing new features that users have been asking for. Take advantage of this opportunity to promote all your hard work – simultaneously building hype while giving users notice and context for the upcoming changes.
It’s not hard to come across businesses on the web (social media in particular) whose tones are impersonal or bureaucratic. You know the type – lots of marketing jargon, shameless self-promotion & low engagement rates. Posts from these kinds of businesses read as white noise to most users, even if they already follow you or work with your brand.
Users should feel like your brand is accessible – like they can reach out to you any time – even if that’s completely unrealistic for your business. A simple gesture like asking users a question at the end of a post (ex: ‘What’s your favorite flavor of Skittles? Leave a comment below!’) can dramatically increase your engagement on social media.
This concept goes further than just Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, though. Have you ever received a ‘Happy Birthday!’ email from a company addressing you directly? This is a great example of how you can use email marketing to get personal with users.
Stay Flexible & Embrace Feedback
Always be ready to adapt to whatever life & tech throws at you. Algorithms change constantly, and you need to position yourself in a place of constant growth and learning if you want to keep ahead of the curve.
Don’t let your ego get in the way of progress, and don’t ever be afraid to ask for help – test internally and get feedback from your users when possible. Survey incentives are also a great way to collect data and encourage conversions.
We hope these tips help you design a better experience for your users. Leave a comment below telling us about your favorite (or least favorite) UX/UI, and how you would improve it!