This TravelSmart map of the city of Melbourne, for example, demonstrates information architecture in action as it is designed to assist tourists and public transport users. The attention to detail with the roads, landmarks and public transport routes are all documented with easy-to-read visual references and a legend to tie all of those elements together.
The digital landscape is constantly changing. Emerging technologies on both software and hardware fronts makes for a frenetic marketplace where nothing stays the same for too long. But when you look at UX, though, there is some stability in the form of visual balance or tried and true design principles. Some aspects of business will remain consistent and that is where presenting clear, to-the-point and critical information is quite often the preferred way to go. Great website design allows users to navigate landing pages with ease and essentially allows for a smooth buying journey.
Great UX empowers website visitors and keeps them trawling rather than bouncing – which is what every eCommerce business owner wants. Driving high quality traffic to the right places organically is an achievable goal so long as the UX is in order.
Earlier we hinted at how new tech and brand new devices have a tendency to transform and change how companies do business online. Again, the essential components of what makes for a solid user experience do not necessarily change so much as how they are implemented and executed.
UX designers generally adhere to a series of common methods that ensure consistency and focus.
Firstly, what is the context? What is the purpose of the landing page? Your website visitors need to know where they are on both a macro and a micro level. Think about the sitemap, is the journey from home to products to the online store clearly labelled and easy to understand? Website design that works will always signpost to the user where they are so that they are in control and can move from page to page without getting lost. Effective user interfaces guide rather than hinder end users.
When checkout machines were installed in supermarkets around Australia there was an uproar about job cuts and the elimination of human-to-human interaction when purchasing groceries. Automation in this instance, for many, heralded the dawn of a new era, one that replaces people with drones. And then there are those who take this thinking even further and relate the beeps and repetitive automatic speech messages to something as terrifying as Skynet – you know, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) created by Cyberdyne Systems that gave rise to a relentless army of machines that wiped humanity from the face of the Earth in those Terminator movies. We may laugh at how absurd that science fiction is but remember that its origins are founded in our own fears and anxieties about machines becoming a threat to our existence.
To cut a long story short, people prefer to shop with other people and conduct business with fellow human beings. So, where does UX fit in here? Well, trust is an important part of facilitating online transactions. You need to ensure that your brand is approachable and run by regular folks rather than monotone, boring cyborgs. Just be yourself.
At the beginning of this guide we talked a little about user behaviour. Time is precious. If the average website visitor has under a minute to work out whether they want to stick around or leave, you need to make sure that your business and digital presence is easy enough to locate. Cruisy navigation is also essential. If users have to work too hard to find what they need from you, they will split. So, be findable. Sometimes this is easier said than done though. Feedback from the online community, your colleagues and the experts at Adaptify can help solve any issue with your preferred clients reaching you on a regular basis.
A general rule that never goes astray, keeping it simple. That’s right, be consistent and straightforward in your digital marketing strategies. Trying too hard can often have you confusing the market with convoluted messages. Your customers will thank you for laying out a fun and easy user interface that cuts the noise. You may even notice your competitors doing all sorts of crazy gimmicks to grab attention but if they are getting too sophisticated with their visual aesthetic and communications, it will be all for nought. Just keep it simple, ok.
Take the image below as an example. When there’s too much clutter on the front-end you lose focus. The moment you lose focus, your core messaging loses its potency and will not be as strong as it should be. On a side note, social media campaigns that tackle multiple channels tend to fail spectacularly without the right guidance and consistency in content output and user engagement. This is a great example of taking something, in this instance social media, and focusing on your most important platform instead. UX is relevant here because you’ll most likely have social buttons on your website and in some instances the social media channels can mirror the UX of the parent website. This is just one of many examples of how UX complements other important web design aspects.
UX designers, when in doubt, always fall back on these principles because they are a solid foundation to build from. If something isn’t working or needs improvement, there is a good chance that it will come down to whether the element is missing the context, fails to speak to your fellow human, is not able to be found quickly by your customers or is way too complicated to be of value.
The user experience is commonly hampered by challenges or obstacles that get in the way of what should be a smooth, harmonious journey. So how do you flatten these bumps on the road as it were? Well, it all comes back to the user, put yourself in their shoes. What’s their background? What experiences do they have and how will that influence their on-page decisions? The role of a proficient UX designer is to do a little investigative analysis and try to understand the behaviours of these website visitors. Why do they do what they do? Is there a way to guide them to click somewhere else or make the website more intuitive somehow? It’s not so much about altering behaviours entirely but more about how the web dev team can manipulate the digital environment to coax a more favourable outcome from the users.
So, that sounds simple enough. But how do you do that?
To cut to the chase, interview the very individuals who frequent your website. Ask them about the pages they visit, the products they like to purchase and become familiar with their own journeys. Every little bit will help to unlock the secrets of how consumers navigate your online platforms.
If direct questioning seems puts you off, try setting up some of your customers with a live trial where they are left to peruse your products while your team observes. By watching their keystrokes, queries and use of navigation elements, you should be able to work out pretty quickly if people use your website as intended or if there really are important things missing that should be worked in for a more seamless user experience.
A solution here could be as simple as adjusting a call-to-action message on a landing page or updating your top nav panels with a better priority.
In the event that you’re not able to score any willing participants for testing purposes in-house, consider conducting surveys with targeted questions. To learn more about how to set up a survey or how to refine your UX process, give the digital agency Adaptify a buzz.
With a little user research under your belt you might find it worthwhile to generate user personas – generalised representations of your top customers based on the data you have on-hand. These profiles assist businesses with getting a better understanding of their core clients as well as potential leads. This extra step can be advantageous and extremely powerful for your marketing strategies because it means that when you look at finetuning your products, serves and overall messaging, it will be bang on target.
A typical user persona contains a customer’s primary and secondary goals, their challenges and what a business can do to address their concerns. Here is an example of what a user persona might look like in the context of an activewear apparel business. Kerry Shopper is a middle-aged part-time worker who aims to spend more time at the gym. Her challenges are her work commitment and juggling commitments at home with the family. To help Kerry achieve her goals, an apparel business could present an activewear product line that sells itself as being suitable for use at home as well as the gym. Also, if Kerry is engaged in social media fitness groups there might be an angle there for a drip-feed email marketing campaign if Kerry leaves items in her checkout basket.
These user personas are invaluable for UX designers because they will help solve problems or assist with testing out new solutions in the pursuit of increasing click-through and generating additional sales.
While user personas are helpful with categorising your website visitors, they can only serve as a guide at best. Remember that everyone has their own way of doing things which can complicate your marketing strategies. What we mean here is that you cannot expect one method to work for everyone. For instance, if you go to read the about us page, some people might go straight for the top nav option. Others might instead take a look at the footer of the website and go from there. And then you even have people who out of habit look at the sitemap or simply Google it.
To map out the user journey you need to discern their main objectives and allow them the opportunity to complete their task. Consider a simple eCommerce storefront. Every variable that enters the mix will exponentially open up the number of options available to your users at any given time. Be prepared for a variety of behaviours across multiple platforms including desktop and mobile. Put a little thought into this part of the journey and you can help simplify the process for your customers and even streamline it so that it is as efficient as possible.
After much head-scratching and note taking, you should have a good idea of what the user journey entails. You can use this information to produce an illustration of sorts of what your website should look like via website wireframes.
These are helpful for determining the primary features of a page while making allowances for negative space, images, copy and the broader layout. You can learn a lot about the pros and cons of the user experience in this stage. What you will mostly realise here is how functional your website and whether there are any glaring issues that need to be resolved ahead of time.
Let’s take a moment to break down user interfaces which focuses on the look and the front-end of your website.
Similar to UX designers, the UI folk have a couple of tools under their belt as well.
UI designers can use informational components to enhance the reading experience or provide additional information. These include message boxes, notification and even progress bars and charts.
Another neat tool is breadcrumb navigation which can boost the usability of a website simply by allowing the user to see their location on the site in a logical, hierarchical view. This can be achieved with a minimalist approach and can do a lot to improve the user’s journey.
And then there are input controls that provide individuals with a couple of options to respond to such as drop-down lists or checkboxes. The key here is to keep the information simple and to the point.