Good User Experience: Vital +++

Webdesigndom’s current knowledge base article series addresses users’ (= website visitors’) needs. Part One (this part) highlights the necessity of good user experience; Part Two lists some of the vital parts of a user-friendly website. Part Three will discuss something much less obvious but nonetheless very important: why does Google rank sites with good user experience higher in search results?

Let’s jump straight into Part One.

It’s pretty logical, really. Imagine Jimmy Brown has a brick and mortar store selling, say, jewelry. The store has a decent location in a respectable area, with a fair amount of potential walk-in clientele. Yet imagine that the large glass storefront is dusty, the entrance door is difficult to push open, and the inside of the store is badly lit, with 4 of the 6 large lights irritatingly blinking, or on the blink (pun intended).

To add insult to injury, selection is inadequate, merchandise is not displayed attractively, the sales staff lacks expertise and enthusiasm, or is unfriendly. The quality of items is not trust-inspiring. To top it all off, compared to his competitors, Jimmy’s prices “suck” (as do all or most of his above-mentioned infrastructure).

Well, our friend Jimmy has a major problem. The reason is bad user experience, the problem is bad sales, and the result will be a closed and shuttered store pretty soon unless he does a U-turn of attitude.

True, we greatly exaggerated. Sorry. Such a heap of negative qualities is almost unheard of. But as an illustrative example, it’ll do. And it can be applied to the ultimate “non-brick-and-mortar-store”, namely a web site. Because on websites, many of those serious flaws can actually be found.

Dusty and badly lit = unattractive graphic design.
Door difficult to open = illogical site navigation.
Merchandise issues = badly presented photography, silly search logic, inaccurate descriptions.
Sloppy service = no reply to calls or e-mails.
And so on.

The problem is that (as opposed to physical stores where blatant flaws are very obvious to all and will hopefully be fixed quickly), many websites don’t get fixed. Unattractive design? C’mon, my daughter did it, and she got an 80 in her arts exam. Site navigation? This can’t be a problem – my visitors aren’t stupid. Clarity and accuracy? Hey, my English is good!

Again, we are exaggerating. But in the case of websites, not by much. And we think the message is clear:

Good user experience is vital +++. Again: vital +++. The visitor wants to feel good. Not only about the merchandise or service she’s buying, but also about herself. She wants to be sure to have made the right choice. And even before buying, browsing can be a pleasant, classy, feel-good experience – or an unpleasant one. Just like in a physical store.

The difference is that to exit a website is even easier than leaving a physical store. So, if she’s not happy with what she sees, or is confused or frustrated, the visitor is gone. With a single click.

Good bye, Jimmy’s site. Click or tap.

And it’s also much easier and faster to find a better website than a better physical store. Within seconds. No running, no driving, no parking. Just a few clicks or taps.

Tap-tap-tap. Hello, user-friendly website. Hello, Jimmy’s competitor.

All this is perfectly logical; plain old common sense. Yet not everybody bears it in mind.

Part Two of this article will list some of the vital parts of user experience. What makes a site user-friendly ? We already hinted at a few points, but that’s not the whole story.

So, for the whole story, read Part 2: 9 Vital Signs of Great User Experience.

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