Today, we are going to take an in-depth look at the topic of user experience and the role it has to play in web design. We think it is fair to say that the importance of user experience in web design really cannot be overestimated: user experience (UX) design principles are at the heart of every successful website on the Internet. If a site is difficult to use, awkward to navigate or just plain ugly, it will always be an uphill struggle to attract visitors in sufficient numbers and, more crucially, to ensure they spend enough time on the website to find out what it’s all about. We’ll start with a definition of UX before moving on to examine the reason it is so vital to master UX design in order to build effective commercial websites.
What Is UX and UX Design?
Whether the aim is to build a commercial site with e-commerce functionality or create an informational resource for research purposes, effective UX design elements need to be employed to ensure a positive and genuinely useful experience for visitors. But what exactly are UX and UX design?
UX, or user experience, is exactly what it sounds like: what a user experiences when visiting a site. UX design is the process that web designers follow when creating new sites, ensuring they are meaningful, relevant and easy to use. The UX design process is normally broken down into a number of individual stages. The exact number and nature of these stages may vary from one organisation to the next but should include the following elements:
- Empathise – Before any real design work can start, it is vital to establish what the website hopes to achieve: what is the primary goal?
- Define – Having identified the primary goal of the website, this goal should now be clearly defined to make sure that every member of the design team is on the same page.
- Ideate – It is now time to start coming up with ideas: potential ways to achieve the goal identified and defined in the previous two stages.
- Prototype – The most promising design ideas can now be prototyped, to see which is the most effective.
- Test – Once the most effective design idea has been identified by creating a working prototype, this design should be thoroughly tested.
- Going Live – Assuming the testing is successful, the final stage is to go live: publish the website online and make it available to visitors from all over the world.
Now that we have a better understanding of what UX and UX design are and how the design process works, let us move on to the meat of the matter; why user experience is so important to the success of a website.
The Importance of User Experience in Web Design
Placing UX at the centre of the web design process helps to ensure that the finished product provides every visitor with a positive and pleasant experience. If the UX design process is followed from start to finish, it should ensure that the website scores well in all of these key areas:
- Usability – First and foremost, a website must be easy for visitors to use. It should not be hard to navigate, rather it should be intuitive. It should also be designed to display well on a wide variety of devices, including desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. A website that is difficult to navigate and counterintuitive will not encourage visitors to spend much time looking for the information they need. In almost all cases, such a website will actively discourage visitors from returning.
- Simplicity – To achieve the above goals, a website should follow a simple and clear design theme. Unnecessarily fussy, busy or otherwise overly complex designs rarely work well, as they only serve to confuse visitors. Those visitors who can find the products or services they need are often so annoyed by the experience, they will still go to another site to make their purchase. Designers should strive to produce layouts that are uncluttered and pleasing to the eye if they wish to provide a positive user experience.
- Consistency – Having created a highly effective, uncluttered design theme that is guaranteed to provide a pleasant and hassle-free user experience to all visitors, it is important to ensure this theme is rolled out across the entire site. Whilst it might be tempting to create different themes for logically different areas of a site, this idea rarely works well in practice. The vast majority of visitors are likely to prefer a consistent and predictable experience when browsing a commercial website: one that makes them feel comfortable and easily able to find everything they need.
- Accessibility – A website should be easily accessible by people with all types of internet-capable devices and by all types of people, including physically, visually and hearing-impaired visitors. Failure to ensure that this is the case may have serious consequences for the future of a new website, especially sites whose target audience includes members of these groups. To ensure that accessibility is not an issue, extensive testing should be carried out before a new site goes live. This testing demographic should include people with disabilities and as many different types of devices as possible.
- Performance – Page loading times are of critical importance when considering the role of user experience in web design. Even the most beautifully designed website, with simple navigation and easy-to-use features, will fail to attract repeat visitors if individual pages take too long to load. Overly large images, and animated content that loads automatically, should be kept to a minimum to avoid this issue, particularly if server resources are limited.
If you would like to have your site created by a web design company that truly understands the importance of user experience in web design, please feel free to contact us.