Once upon a time, websites looked like the pages of a book, just on your screen. Text riddled web pages with only a few splashes of colour from hyperlinked text were the new standard of easy-to-use and easy-to-access content. With the progression of the World Wide Web and the Internet, things rapidly began to change with everything you could possibly need accessible to you through a search on Google. Gone were the days of boring, plain, webpages which were swiftly upgraded with colourful and interactive elements.
As the industry saw rapid growth, so did the creation of new design and development techniques and practices. With this, special emphasis was placed on the way that this wealth of information and resources was presented to end users, and rightly so. This gave designers an insight into how best to create their websites to ensure the best possible User Experience.
The User Experience (UX) is defined as that which encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products by making easy-to-use, pleasurable designs. This differs from the User Interface (UI) which refers only to the human-computer interaction in a device. Both go hand-in-hand, with a good UI being fundamental to a good UX and vice versa, but this blog will focus on the UX and how important the lasting impact of a good UX is to build your brand.
What does a user want?
In order to understand how to provide a lasting impact on your user, you must first seek to understand them. Asking questions that will uncover the fundamental aims, goals and desires of your user will help you achieve this: What do they want? What do they seek to do on this application/website? Why is this important to them? What are their pain points?
With individuals spending less and less time online due to the mounting discourse around screen health it has become ever more important to capture your user’s attention and keep them engaged. Studies have cited overuse of social media and more generally, screen time, as a factor contributing to unhappiness in adults and children. In addition to this, it is documented that too much screen time can result in eye strain, blurred vision, long-term eye problems, and back and neck pain. So it is no wonder that people are trying to cut down the amount of time they spend looking at screens. The challenge for UX designers is to create an experience for the user that keeps them engaged whilst also providing value to them on their ever more scarce time schedules. With that being said, here are some ways to ensure that your UX leaves a positive impression.
Keep your user interface consistent and easy-to-use – your user did not come to work
How often do you exit from a popular website because it’s too confusing? Or how often do you open a social media app and think “this doesn’t make sense?” Not very often? Well you have UX to thank. Websites such as Google and Netflix have very easy to navigate pages that guide the user to where they need to go in order to complete the task they came there for. The use of buttons, colour and text make it very clear to the user where they need to go to search, sign-in, and continue their journey on their website.
When a user lands on your web page or app they do not want to do any more work than is necessary, so making sure that your interface is consistent and easy to follow is a sure fire way to keep them engaged in your content and enthusiastically continue using it. One way to do this is by using common website patterns and interfaces that will help them feel familiar with your website or app from the get-go making it easier to navigate through them. If a user must search for the location of the sign-up/in button (commonly placed outside of the navigation menu, at the top of the webpage), or cannot find the cookie policies (commonly placed in the footer navigation menu), then they are very likely to navigate away from your website or app to one that will provide them with the information they need. A user does not want to do more work than need be, so they will not take the time to scour your website to find what they are looking for. Time, after all, is very precious to a user.
Hold on… I can’t see
You do not want anything to hinder your user from seeing the content on your website, so the placement of navigation bars, cookie compliance pop-ups, and email subscription pop-ups, is integral to keeping your user on the page. This is more true for mobile apps than it is for websites, however there still lies some value in heeding these warnings.
You do not want to bombard your user with an email subscription from the moment they open your website, for all you know, this is their first time using it and they aren’t too sure if they want to subscribe to your content just yet. I’m sure many users have experienced this on one website or another, and oftentimes it derails a user’s experience as they are met with something that is not what they expected. They came for something in particular, don’t make it hard for them. Instead, avoid interrupting them; as they navigate away from your page onto another tab use an exit intent pop-up to grab their attention before they leave. Exit pop-ups have been shown to outperform regular pop-ups by 5%.
In the same vein, you don’t want a navigation bar that takes up the whole screen. Mobile users often find themselves having to battle with navigation bars in order to minimise them as there has been no thought into how the user will click out of it if perhaps they decide not to navigate away from the page they are currently on. So it is important for navigation bars to follow the general rule of thumb: a navigation bar should be narrower than at least half of the screen. This is to allow for a user to click out of them if need be. Additionally, using a hamburger menu on mobile devices will help the user navigate to where they need to be without being overwhelmed by the amount of content on their small screens and avoiding a stressful user experience. After all; “Good website navigation is not in the way, it disappears into the background”.
Load today, or I’ll go away
We already know that users increasingly are spending less time on their screens and with limited time there is a greater emphasis on wasting that time. Therefore users become more conscious of the time spent waiting idly and will navigate away from your website if it takes too long to load. Delays of several seconds or more often result in users leaving, this is especially true if they can source the information or complete their task on a website other than yours. For this reason delays in seeing their goals through can negatively affect the traffic and engagement of your website.
In order to avoid this, ensure that your website text loads before the images and interactive elements as these are where the delays tend to happen. This will give the user the perception they have loaded the website as they are occupied by reading the text, rather than staring at a loading screen. They will be more likely to wait for the rest of the content to load than if they were waiting for it all at once. The lazy load optimisation technique can also aid with your loading times, it will defer the loading of content until the user reaches that part thus reducing the loading times that the user must sit through.
If we had to summarise this blog in one sentence it would be: ‘make it easy for your user!’ Most people can appreciate when their needs are considered and their happiness is thought of, so when a brand is able to do this it leaves a lasting impression. The UX extends far beyond websites – it cements an impression in the user’s mind that they will begin to associate with your brand. Better then, that this impression is a positive one, ensuring that they identify your brand with convenience and ease of use which ultimately aids in building brand loyalty.
A good example of a company who was able to capitalise from creating an intuitive and positive user experience is Apple. Their UX is seamlessly integrated throughout their ecosystem to make for a wealth of useful products and services that aid users in their day-to-day experiences. A team is dedicated to considering each auditory, visual, and haptic experience a user may face in order to provide the best experience for them. This attention to detail has certainly worked in their favour, with brand loyalty being the fiercest driver of their revenues – Apple’s AirPods collected more revenue in 2020 than Adobe, Uber, Spotify, Twitter, and Snapchat. The in-ear wireless headphone market is saturated with plenty of alternatives to AirPods yet, this sole product was able to outperform large tech companies in revenue. Apple is an innovator, leading the way in convenience and forcing competitors to follow suit and think about how they too can make the user experience as seamless and easy as possible.