Our new development intern & Computing grad, Dan Spratling, explains why user experience, or UX, is arguably the most important part of a website, & why lots of site owners forget that.

You aren’t going to stay on a website very long if you can’t actually use it. And of course, whether it’s a shop, portfolio, or a blog, if you’ve paid for it you should expect your finished product to work. There are many knock-on effects if it doesn’t, but getting it to function properly is web 101. The purpose of UX, however, runs much deeper than simple reliability.

Your website must act as the user expects, and this is where many sites fall down. If you’ve ever clicked a link that took you to the wrong place, you’ll know the feeling of frustration. And if your users are getting frustrated, you might need to re-think your design.

Understanding people on the web

Web users don’t read. More accurately, they choose not to read. They skim-read, unless what they see really grabs their attention. That’s why online content needs to be different from any other type of media; on the surface, everything must be short and to the point, but always offering the option to delve deeper. Text is (usually) the core part of your website, and you mustn’t compromise that for video or images. A picture tells a thousand words, but don’t force users to scroll through a thousand pictures.

Movement draws the most attention – but too much is annoying. If you’re trying to focus and your eye is forcefully drawn away, that’s bad web design.

Hence, images are usually the safest way to draw a user’s attention. They stand out and don’t contain movement, but at the same time can be difficult to make work alongside text. Sometimes, well-placed coloured sections or headlines are just as useful, and all should be used together to give your visitors the best experience.

What to do: Think of it as ‘Customer Service’

Don’t think about websites as if you own them – at least for some part of the design process. Try to have two points of view. As professionals, we know you want to show off as much as you can on your website, everyone does. But you need to keep in mind what your users will actually be interested in; what they will understand. Things need to be cleanly divided, and each page must make sense on its own. When putting your site together, pretend users haven’t read any other pages before the one they are on, because they probably haven’t.

Most people will spend less than 5 minutes on your website, so you have to grab their attention, and give them small pushes towards the sections you want the most focus on. Headlines need to be catchy and natural, but also relevant – otherwise you could hurt your SEO score – so always bear keywords in mind. This is how people will navigate your pages. They first head to the main navigation to find the page they need. Then they find the most appealing headline and read the first sentence. If it’s not what they need, they’ll move on, so don’t start with a story about last summer.

The most important person to any website is the user, and they never get a say. You have to envision what they want and balance that with what you’re trying to sell, be that a product, service, or even just an idea. Users are under no obligation to hear you out, and they’ll rarely have the same enthusiasm for your product as you do. So express yourself in a concise and to-the-point manner, and maybe you’ll see a raise in interest.

Get help with UX from Voice Group

Voice-Group is an award-winning, full service agency, with a track record in ensuring you, and your users, get the best product we can offer. Not just on the web, but in other media too, such as print and signage, because for the best user experience, all aspects of your offering need to work smoothly together, online and offline. If you’re looking for a new website, contact us or call us on 01759 349 910 and ask for Nick.

For more information about UX

We have another article in the works detailing the core features of user experience and how to understand your users. If you can’t wait that long, take a look at what we can do for you.

References

Adobe – What makes a good user experience?
Microsoft’s user experience checklist