4 Vital Signs of Great User Experience
In Part One of our User Experience article we were all over poor Jimmy Brown for having a very user-unfriendly store and / or website.
In this Part 2 we’ll go easier (and more positive) on him, with tips how to make his website more user-friendly for visitors. In other words, how to provide good user experience (today increasingly referred to as UX).
Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly, most UX dos and don’ts are common sense. Physical stores devote a lot of time and money to be user-friendly, so that window shoppers turn into visitors, and visitors into customers. They can spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more …) to create a great image and lure visitors inside.
The same basic logic and psychology applies to websites (of course with some very important twists that apply to online behaviour and preferences).
So we are giving you the distilled essence of our knowledge and have assembled the 9 vital points for a good UX. And to make reading them a better user experience for you [ :) ], we split them in 2 parts … 4 key must-haves in this part, 5 more in the next.
Here, then, are the first 4 key user experience guidelines.
1. A short, clear message.
According to internal research and surveys by us at Webdesigndom, this is, at least initially, extremely important for user-friendliness. Really? Would great photos and graphic design not grab a visitor’s attention first? Isn’t a picture is worth more than a thousand words?
True. Visuals attract. But on the other hand, we are all used to seeing online slogans and messages all the time. Plus, regrettably, our attention span has shortened substantially over the years. The rule “you have 3 – 5 seconds to get the user’s attention” is valid. A user wants to know pretty much instantly what your site is all about, and whether she can benefit from it.
That’s why a short, clear and meaningful message will initially grab your visitors’ attention more than a nice image which doesn’t necessarily convey a clear message. It’ll increase the chances that she’ll stay on the website (assuming, of course, that the message is relevant to her needs and strikes a chord).
That said, exceptions apply. An image can be a message on its own. Just look at those juicy steaks and pizza slices on restaurant websites. But images that can effectively convey messages without the help of words are not all that frequent (unless they show an already well known brand or item). Also, they wouldn’t be meaningful in service industries where usually all that’s shown is a group of geeks around a computer, or two people pretending to be happy shaking hands. (That said, there are of course exceptions to these exceptions, too …).
2. Clean, uncluttered layout + design.
This is very important for great user experience. But it’s not the same as beautiful graphic design. It’s more about what you’d call “comfort level”. Think of it as a simple but bright house that’s immaculately tidy. There is just the right amount of clean and functional furniture, nicely arranged, and plenty of airy and comfortable space to move around. A pleasure, isn’t it?
Compare that to a gorgeous but overbearing home cluttered with an overkill of unfriendly furniture into which you bump all the time and which makes you feel claustrophobic. Boooooh!
As an aside, Google’s earlier site layouts used to be a paragon of uncluttered (albeit graphically highly unappealing) layout. Even today, many Google pages are designed this way, and have found imitators.
3. Clear, intuitive navigation.
This is vital for good user experience. As mentioned above, website visitors’ attention span is super short. A user wants quick gratification, and a pleasant, smooth journey through the website. Just with the help of traffic signs (so to speak), but without the need to ask for directions … There is even a psychological angle to this: subconsciously speaking, he doesn’t want to feel stupid, or even web illiterate. If he can’t find his way fast, he’s gone in a flash.
Navigation doesn’t have to be minimalist. But it should be logical, clear and, well, intuitive. If necessary, some very brief guidance, sometimes as mouse-overs, can help. In this respect, we have to dilute the compliment we gave Google re. uncluttered design; some of Google’s pages, such as Google Drive or Gmail, are not at all very logical to get around. And there are millions of websites out there (many of them belonging to large corporations with big web design budgets) which are frustrating to navigate.
Therefore, businesses (even smaller ones!) which provide a great, user-friendly navigating experience on their website, can gain a definite edge. A good web designer can make all the difference.
4. Beautiful graphic design.
Finally! Yes, of course great visual appeal is vital, too. A smart web designer will be able to create not just beautiful images but the atmosphere and the visual message appropriate for a particular website. Sharp photos, naïve drawings, abstract art or blurry fantasies, hi-tech, trendy or retro – all these, and more, have their place in graphic design, as long as they intelligently convey and complement the underlying message. And, obviously, as long as it’s beautifully done and put together.
We hope you found this article useful. Did we leave anything out?
Questions? Comments? Challenges? Reach out to us. We’re here to help.
>>> Read 5 More Vital Signs of Great User Experience
>>> Read the other 2 parts of this User Experience series:
Part 1: Why User-Friendliness is a Must Part 3: Google Strikes Back
>>> Access All Knowledge base articles.