The idea of designing for the end user isn’t rocket science. After all, isn’t that what designers have always been doing? Not necessarily. End-user focused design only really took hold after the digital age swept across the professional design world and it became apparent that there was a need to refocus on the end user – and worry about the visuals after.
So what exactly is UX Design?
As the internet developed rapidly, so did digital design. Some of these developments were incredible – others… not so much. One of the negatives that came out of this lightning-fast progression was that the focus of design turned toward company or brand desires rather than what is best for the end user. We were asking “what does the company want?” rather than, “what does my end-user need?”
This is how UX – User Experience Design – was born. Even with such a seemingly simple mission – to design something based on the user experience – it has become a powerhouse field in design. Why? Because UX design yields far better results than a quick-turnaround, jazzy campaign or a one-off social post. When it comes to design, playing the long game and creating designs that users can easily interact with tends to be the way to go.
Here are just a few reasons why UX is effective in website or software design.
Why they’ll still want to stick around after the Honeymoon phase (aka, User Retention)
Thursdays are one of my favorite days of the week. Not for any specific reason other than that Thursdays are the day I have decided to work from a new coffee shop with a friend. We love to pick a new place each week, and there is a steep grading scale if a shop wants to make it to the short list of places we return to. The cafe needs to be friendly but not too loud – or too quiet – so that we can take a meeting or two. Good, fast WiFi is a must, and yummy coffee with a few snack options is essential. If they have a warm croissant, even better!
Why am I telling you this? Because the experience a customer has when they first visit a coffee shop can determine their opinion of the shop, including whether or not they will become a loyal customer. This is also true for users visiting your website for the first time. Not only is creating a loyal base for your brand a surefire way to keep your company or organization relevant, it also creates greater value. After all, gaining a new customer can cost up to 5x more than what it would cost to retain a pre-existing customer. And whether or not a brand retains a customer can be a direct result of their user experience. Does the site make them want to come back? Does it offer a smooth interface that’s easy to interact with?
One of the first questions we ask our clients at the beginning of a project is: “Who is your customer?” The immediate response is often “Everyone!” While it is important to understand your ideal customer and develop user personas (See our discovery process here!), you want your website to be accessible to anyone and everyone who may want to visit it. Ensuring that your website meets accessibility guidelines not only makes you compliant, it makes your site approachable for everyone. As an approach that prioritizes the user, UX Design is a great avenue through which to ensure site accessibility meets all Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Showcasing Brand Personality
Ever meet someone and after only a few minutes of conversation you think, “I like you.” That's what we want website users to feel. The first impression of using a site is like that first conversation. Not only does your website visually showcase your brand, but the ease of use showcases the quality experience your customers can have every time they come back to your business. Along with voice and visuals, UX can be one of the defining factors of your site’s personality. Good user experience design is like good customer service in a hotel. It can make a massive positive (or negative) impact on the perception of your company.
In today's competitive market, offering a better user experience can be a key differentiator. A well-designed user interface and a smooth user journey can set a product or service apart from the competition. A site can be beautiful, but can the user navigate easily to actionable items such as purchasing, contact forms, or giving donations? User experience-based design starts with the user first ensuring the web design is easily navigated by the user.
Intentional Next Steps
Why is one ad performing better than the others? “Just because!” wouldn’t fly as an answer. You’d want to know exactly why your audience likes the ad so that you can replicate those qualities again. In the same way, the best design for your website doesn't just have to be a guessing game. There are dozens of testing tools at a UX designer’s fingertips. These tools provide designers with data that allows them to make intentional decisions about your digital presence that will yield better results. Here are two examples:
A/B Testing: A/B testing involves creating two or more versions (A and B) of a webpage, app screen, or feature to determine which one performs better with users. UX professionals can use A/B testing to gather data on user preferences, conversion rates, and other key metrics to inform design decisions.
Heatmaps and Click Tracking: Heatmap tools visualize where users click, move their mouse, or scroll on a webpage. Click tracking data can reveal user attention patterns, helping businesses identify areas of interest and potential design improvements.
At 17, I stepped on to the path of graphic design thinking I would be a magazine creative director for the rest of my career. In the end, I was a magazine designer for a whole six months before being lured over to web design. From the beginning, I loved the complexity and freedom of the field. The first company I worked for had an online shop, website, and digital magazine. Once I realized how much untapped potential was in the site, I started researching user needs. It immediately became a problem I wanted to solve.
User experience is as important to a website as a computer charger is to your laptop. Without a good quality charger, you just have a dead laptop. And without a good user experience, you run the risk of just having another pretty (or not so pretty) website that your customers have difficulty using.
Want to learn more about how we can optimize your UX? Get in touch.
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