dih header View categories >

Story | Tuesday, 07th July 2015

Optimizing Website Design For Better User Experience

Written by David Attard

Last week we covered Brand and how this is one of the pivotal points in your road to becoming human. Now we’re delving into the world of Storytelling and the importance of having a story. Without a story you have no direction and nothing to communicate.

We’ll be getting into the nitty gritty of storytelling in our next lesson, but for now here’s a very important note on designing your website for an ideal user experience – because it’s useless having an amazing story if people can’t stand using your website!

Over to David.

User Experience has been a bit of a buzzword in the last few years – but in reality, User Experience is exactly what it sounds like – how a user feels when using a product. In this lesson we’ll be speaking about how your web design can be optimized so that the website’s visitor can have a good experience.

Wesbsite Design for user experience

Just as in the meme above – there is one very simple concept one needs to keep in mind when focusing on user experience.

Don’t make users think

Just like the joke – users must instantly get it. Particularly on a website, users must instantly “get” what they need to do. The information they need must be presented when they need it and what they need to do next should be instantly accessible. Having to “think” about what to do next detracts from a positive user experience the user should be having. On the web, users have very very short attention spans and are always looking for instant gratification. If they can’t figure out what they need to do, the likelihood is that they will press the back button and go to the link which is able to get their attention faster and keep it for longer.

Wesbsite Design for user experience

Use contemporary web design trends

Given that we don’t want to make users think, when going for a specific web design, go for a design which conforms to existing web design trends. This is because, contemporary design trends are going to be common, and users will be familiar with them. They won’t have to think and try to figure out how to navigate and use your website.

This principle makes use of what is called the baby duck syndrome. This is the tendency to stick to the first designs which people learn. More than that, people tend to judge other designs against the designs they know.

Wesbsite Design for user experience

If your website design is not following a familiar trend or design, your website is going to instantly get disliked.
The baby duck syndrome is also a fundamental problem of website redesigns and should be seriously considered when undertaking the redesign of a website.

Given the above – we would suggest going for a ready made template, or an existing web design trend. Not only will you be saving lots of money on redefining something from scratch, you’ll be certain your end users will have a positive and familiar user experience.

Should I never ever buck a trend? Well, never say never, but it’s a risk. Make sure that you’ve tested your new design on your target demographic enough to know that it’s going to work for you.

Improve usability by addressing certain expectations

Continuing on the concept of not making our users think, we want to make sure that we give our users what they expect. Since User Experience has become a specialisation, lots of research has been ongoing so as to discover certain problems. This is to ensure that they can be eliminated.

This research has discovered a number of common things you should do which will significantly improve the user experience of a a visitor.

Whilst designing and developing your website, you should follow these guidelines.

Our reference when it comes to these guidelines is Userium – which is essentially a checklist of what needs to be done for your website to ensure that these guidelines and recommendations have been met. Where relevant, ensure that your website has followed these recommendations.

A website which adapts to different devices (responsive web design)

Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the biggest improvements for website design is the incorporation of a website design which “responds” to the device being used by the visitor – whether it is a desktop, a phone, a tablet or any other device. This response is that the content is adapted to suit the device on which it is currently being viewed – this is the essence of responsive web design.

Using this concept – a user’s experience will be greatly enhanced if the content which they are seeing has been specially adapted to suit, let’s say, their phone. On the contrary – if a user is trying to see the content of a website which was designed for a desktop on a small phone – their user experience is not going to be very good.

Although this is the standard in new websites nowadays, one must make sure that older websites have been updated to this new standard.

Wesbsite Design for user experience

Ensure your website is a fast website

Making a website fast is another essential in website design, and although large beautiful photos and videos may make your site look great – they have a drawback – they make your website slow to load. Given that we’ve said that users have a very short attention span on the web, and that we don’t want to make them think “Did I click? Is this website working? Why does it take so long for this website to load?”, we want to make sure the website loads really fast.

A fast website which loads in about 2 seconds for ANY action is essential to provide an ideal user experience.
Go beyond that – and users will start to “think” – something we’ve determined we’d like to avoid 😉

Wesbsite Design for user experience

Test early, test often

Testing your website’s design on your target audience is another essential for a final good user experience. You might think you know what your users want and need – but your inbuilt, invisible bias is always going to work against you, so there is nothing better than actual real testing as early and as often as possible.

At a place I used to work, one of the executives always had this to say – “Everybody has an opinion – show me the actual data”. Essentially, what he was saying is that one may be able to postulate lots of reasons for why something is not giving the intended results – however, if you can see actual data from actual tests and experiments – then you can base your judgements on facts rather than opinions.

Why early? The earlier one identifies a potential issue, the easier and cheaper it is to fix it. It would be better, easier and cheaper to test a design on one person (and fix an issue) at the beginning of a project, than testing the flawed web design on 50 people at the end of project.

The concept of test often builds on test early. If you test often, you are unlikely to veer off in an “incorrect” direction. Just make sure that you are using people in your target demographic to test your site. Also remember that you can never “unsee” what you have seen – so a fresh pair of eyes is always best to get the most accurate test of user experience.

Listen to your users

User feedback is the ultimate measure of a good user experience. There are many ways of listening to your users’ feedback. A good rule of thumb I like to use is that for every one user who has “commented” about something – there are probably another 10 (or more) who felt the same way but didn’t bother to get back to you (remember the short attention span and the back button). Every little piece of feedback should be given the importance it deserves. There are various ways which your users will give you feedback

  • Vocal feedback – you meet or call your client and they pass a comment about your website
  • Sending an email or reaching out to you via your contact form
  • Reaching out on your social network pages. Alternatively, they simply comment on their own social networks – whether this is a positive or a negative comment, this is definitely feedback you should be listening to
  • Reaching your website’s goals. If the goals you have set for your website are being reached, then this is good feedback of a positive user experience. The rate at which the goals are being reached is of course something which should be analysed in it’s own content.
  • No feedback at all. This is feedback in and of itself. If your website is reaching its goals then no feedback at all should not be a problem. On the other hand if the goals of your website are not being achieved at all – it’s probably a good indicator that the website is performing so abysmally that users have completely lost faith that the situation can ever improve.

The above has been a little bit of an introduction of the basics of user experience one should keep in mind when designing a website for optimal user experience. We could dig much deeper on each of the topics but for today we only wanted to touch upon the essentials. Just make sure your users don’t have to think!

Next lesson we’ll be covering the ins and outs of storytelling and how this will help you go from zero to hero!

David Attard

a little more about

David Attard,

David has been fascinated by, and actively using, the Interwebs since going online involved 28k modems. With an extensive background in software and web development, and still very much interested in anything web related, David today manages new SaaS products for Switch Digital after previously managing a web filtering product for an international software company.