User experience (UX) is one of the most important aspects of a website’s design and structure. It determines how visitors interact with the site, how they feel while using it, and their overall experience.
If the experience is valuable and pleasant, you have done your job. If not, you need to adjust until you find the sweet spot. Is user experience that simple? Hardly. Let’s take a look at a few more details.
According to the experts, a stellar user experience begins the second a person lands on a website…
The First Impression
As web designers, your craft is one of the most important on the web because businesses seeking to increase their profits and expand must have a well-designed, usable website. A company’s customers and clients will consider the website as the face of the brand and their first impression can either bring in more business or turn it away.
When a user lands on a website, they will formulate a first impression within the first few seconds. These few seconds can be worth thousands and millions of dollars to a business if they produce positive results.
Users will immediately scan the elements. If they do not see something that makes them feel connected to the site, they will leave. Every element must speak to a visitor, from colors, layout, headings, navigation and content.
Here are some of the questions users ask upon first glance of a website:
Can I trust this business?
Are they credible?
How reputable are they?
Are they experienced?
Are they professional?
Will they take my credit card information and run?
Are they an established business?
Can they meet my needs?
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All of these questions occur in seconds as users scan each element looking for something that will give them a “yes” answer.
Why do users only give a website a few seconds to assess whether they want to stay or leave?
For one, reading a computer screen differs from a book or newspaper and it is much slower. Second, the internet is a rapid-moving industry with millions of websites vying for the user’s attention. Website visitors will arrive to your website rushed and impatient to start, and anything that causes them to wait will be a waste of time. Third, most people are stressed and approach internet surfing in a hectic state. The last thing they want to do is sift through an entire website to find out what a business does. If they don’t find the answers they need or feel a lack of trust, they will move on.
Creating a great user experience must involve knowing what will make your audience happy and coming back for more…
Once users connect with your website, they look for an experience. Businesses define a successful user experience in different ways. Some think about the goal of user experience as converting every visitor into a customer first and then forming a connection. Others consider connecting with the visitor first (target audience), and delivering the right content to elicit a response.
What are some of the main goals of UX design?
According to Jesse James Garret, author of the book, The Elements of User Experience, engagement is the main goal of UX design. He believes engagement is only achieved through the basic senses along with a body and mind connection.
What is engagement? We hear a lot about this term since it is touted as the driving force that leads to a great user experience. But if you talk to some UX designers, they will tell you engagement usually occurs as a result of a great user experience, not vice-versa. A designer’s job is to make the experience as pleasurable and easy as possible, thereby facilitating an easier path to engagement.
According to UX experts, here is what engagement isn’t. It is not simply the “technology” of an experience or the way a website “functions.” Some businesses fall into the trap of designing strictly from a left-brained perspective, disregarding how a user feels, thinks, acts or responds emotionally. A great user experience will result in a range of positive emotions and they will be meaningful experiences.
A positive, engaging experience will be one where the user is highly involved, which results in future visits and increased engagement over a period of time. Generally, a positive experience will compel a user to want to relive it once again.
User Experience Tips
- It’s better to show people a little bit of information and let them choose if they want more details.
- Instead of just describing things, show an example.
- If something is clickable, make sure it looks like it is clickable.
- If a task is error-prone, break it up into smaller chunks.
- Don’t make people remember things. People can only remember 3-4 items at a time.
- People need feedback – The computer doesn’t need to tell the human. The human needs to know what is going on.
- If pages are cluttered, people can’t find information. Use grouping to help focus where the eye should look.
- Things that are close together are believed to “go” together.
- The hardest colors to look at together are red and blue.
How can you measure a positive user experience?
Ultimately, the user will determine whether they are happy with their experience and unfortunately this is not always easy to measure. Why? Because you cannot get inside a user’s head to experience their emotions. And their opinions are subjective.
Imagine a user had a stressful day and they arrive to the computer mad and ready to bash anything they see. Their experience may not be pleasurable simply because NO experience would be pleasurable in their current state.
You can, however, ask them feedback hoping they will offer honest answers and opinions. Your goal is to assess whether the user felt the experience was satisfying, valuable, and easy, among other pleasurable emotions. Were they happy, burdened, impatient, pleased, etc.? You cannot quantify emotions, so according to many UX designers, user feedback is usually the best way to assess success.
Google published a document identifying how it measures the effectiveness of user experience for many of their products. They discuss what they call the H.E.A.R.T. approach.
Happiness – Happiness, according to Google, describes metrics that are measured based on a user’s attitude. They are subjective in nature and describe satisfaction, visual appeal, the likelihood to share or recommend a site and the ease of use. The best way to track these metrics is to survey users and chronicle the feedback as changes are made.
Engagement – Engagement, according to Google, is the measurement of the user’s involvement. Google measures engagement by assessing a user’s frequency or intensity, and metrics such as the number of visits a week or photo uploads per day. It is recommended to measure engagement per user, not as a total, for an increase in the total number could be the result of more users, not the individual actions of current users.
Adoption and Retention – These metrics identify not only the number of new users, but also how many users remain in a similar time period. How you identify adoption and retention will differ based on your unique user experience. These metrics are useful for new products or those that are in a re-design phase.
Task Success – Task success measures efficiency, effectiveness and error rate. Essentially, you are measuring how long it takes a user to complete a task, how much was completed, and the errors.
Let us know in the comments how you feel about user experience. What is your opinion on how businesses define and measure it?
Here are some great UX educational resources: