Throughout my 14 years in the design industry, I’ve used countless tools to work on my design projects. One of the first tools I used was the venerable design workhorse Adobe Photoshop, and it became my favorite tool for web and print design back in 2004. In the early days of my career, I considered Photoshop to be the most complete tool in terms of web design and mobile application design. Challenging Adobe’s dominance, Sketch arrived in 2010 and in my opinion revolutionized the UI/UX design process for Mac users. I loved Sketch and used it whenever I could for my web projects, but its lack of compatibility with PCs proved to be an inconvenient limitation in mixed-platform environments.
I recently re-watched Die Hard, the classic '80s action thriller featuring gritty policeman John McClane trapped in a skyscraper under siege from a team of very bad people.
In his attempt to navigate an escape and foil the hostage-holding bad guys, John crawls through narrow air vents. He hangs from treacherous heights. He dodges bullets and other flying projectiles. John even runs through broken glass, barefoot. <cringe!>
John’s not having a good user experience.
As you witness his suffering and struggles, it’s not hard to feel bad for our hero. He’s just trying to save the day.
Now, let me ask you: what about your heroes? Everyday people, website visitors, and the users who buy your products and services and make your business possible.
Are you feeling for them? They may not be crawling through glass, but their experience may be equally as painful.
My point in all this is to elevate your empathy for your users. Understanding their pain is the only way to improve your customers’ user experience. Below are six ways you can do this.
What’s UX? Why UX?
Essentially, user experience (UX hereafter) encompasses the overall interaction a customer has with your brand and how well (or unwell) it's perceived. In this instance, we’re talking about your website UX, but it could also refer to your call center service UX, your lobby receptionist UX, or even the push/pull handle UX on your front door.
According to Global UX consultant Nielsen Norman Group, “The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother.”
Look at it this way: Your success online depends on your UX. To frame it in a "Die Hard" reference, it’s the fire hose that keeps you from falling off the skyscraper.
How crucial is UX? Consider that 88% of online shoppers say they wouldn’t return to a website after having a bad user experience, studies have shown.
Here are 6 ways you can improve your website’s UX in 2020.
1) Mobile-friendly, Responsive Design
If your website isn’t responsive, you’re missing out. A quality website design will feature automatic modifications for the wide-ranging variety of screen sizes, from the smallest of handhelds in use up to the widest of 4K monitors.
This means all text, photos, videos, and other design elements must adapt and resize to provide the most engaging and consumable design format. Having to pinch and resize your screen for outdated designs and pdf files is a painful experience.
2) Hierarchy of Messaging
If all words and pictures were the same size, the user would get lost. That’s why hierarchy of messaging is so valuable. It’s a UX rule that’s been in place since the earliest days of content. Think about how newspapers feature the largest type in their headlines. The font size tells you what the most important words are on the paper. This is followed by smaller and smaller headings, and finally, the body text.
Hierarchy considers the user’s patience and ability to consume large amounts of information at once. Furthermore, this hierarchy is also an important accessibility element for the visually impaired. Screen reading devices are able to determine the order of messaging by the size of type.
3) Chunky, Scannable Content
There may be no greater UX crime than the dreaded Great Wall of Text. If you offer your readers sentence after sentence without enough visual breaks, you will melt their brains. Truly.
Users today want to scan, scroll, and pick out the information that appeals to their interests. Use the aforementioned headings and subheadings in your copy, and also provide bulleted copy and bold callouts. Organize messaging into smaller, bite-sized chunks, and you’ll show users you care about their time, patience, and understanding.
4) Clear and Concise Calls-to-action
Do you set your expectations with your customers? If not, they may just be wandering around your site with no clue about where to go or what to do. A huge component of having empathy for your customers is showing them how to perform actions they want to complete.
You do this by using conspicuously designed call-to-action buttons and messages that are easy to find and clear to understand. Starbucks figured this out in their restaurants when they posted “Order Here” and “Pick-up Here” signs over their counters. Otherwise, we’d all be running into each other like aimless zombies seeking our morning coffee.
5) Consistency of Functional Design Elements
Let’s take a moment to check back in with supercop John McClane. Our clever hero spent a lot of time riding elevators in his attempts to evade capture by the evildoers – who, by the way, were ruining a perfectly good Christmas party.
Every elevator operated the same way: up and down buttons, door open and close buttons, and floor number buttons. Now, let’s imagine if each elevator were different. John would be forced to learn new operating instructions every time, wouldn’t he? That would make saving the world (or at least the party) a little more difficult, to say the least.
The same design consistency should apply to your website. Identical navigation buttons, hyperlink text styling, and other navigation components will keep your user from having to learn new skills on every page.
6) Page Load Speed
With time and patience being an economy of online business, page load speed becomes a major UX factor. Consider that 53% of the time, visitors to mobile sites leave a page that takes more than three seconds to load. Yes, you have three seconds to keep half of your users!
So much good UX depends on your website’s load time. Why risk it?
Let’s Wrap It Up
Unlike the "Die Hard" movie, your UX is not always going to provide you with a happy ending where the hero saves the day. There’s work to be done, and it begins with understanding what your customer needs, wants, and expects. Good UX is all customer empathy.
Remember to focus on these areas:
- Mobile friendly, responsive design
- Hierarchy of messaging
- Chunky, scannable content
- Clear and concise calls-to-action
- Consistency of functional design elements
- Page load speed
Once you've optimized these six areas, you’re going to move onto the next list of changes, because your customers’ UX comes with an ever-changing list of needs. Please keep in mind that you have to consider all aspects of your multi-channel experience, because what works on one device may not look good on another.
We’re here to help, so please let us know your concerns and what we can do to help you achieve your best UX.
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