Ever seen a website like this one?
This website is an eyesore — but it’s also ineffective. In addition to looking horrible, it’s horrible to use. Where are you supposed to look? Where should you click? What do all of these terms mean?
In the initial post of this series, we discussed product design. Remember that products with bad UX — like push-doors that look like they should be pulled — are everywhere. They are also a recipe for unhappy customers.
Your company may not make products. But I’ll bet your company does have an online presence. That means that you interact with customers through some kind of online interface, like a website or app. And online interfaces lend themselves to bad UX.
For example, take a website like ifly50.com. It’s absolutely gorgeous, no question about it. But it’s poorly designed. When you enter the site, sound starts automatically, which can be unwanted or embarrassing to the user. the only clickable items control the language preference and the volume level. How do I navigate this thing? There is a small oval at the bottom of the page. It looks clickable — but it’s not. It’s just a design element calling attention to the small, italicized text above it that reads “Scroll or use arrow keys.” Huh? Beautiful design isn’t enough to redeem the bad UX here; it’s confusing and off-putting to users.
In extreme situations, bad UX can have disastrous repercussions. Due to a flaw in a hospital’s electronic health records, an Ebola patient was sent home accidentally. The system’s user interface for nurses showed the patient information related to Ebola, but the interface for doctors did not. Oops.
In most industries, of course, your website’s UX won’t be the difference between life and death — but it might kill your company’s bottom line.
Improving your online UX is a challenge, but it’s worthwhile. In fact, when ESPN.com incorporated UX changes into their homepage design in 2015, they saw a 35% increase in profits.
Whether you are designing your company’s website or app or selling a web-based product, enhancing your UX means making the experience better for your users. So how do you do it? Here are some guidelines.
1. Start with your end goal
If you have an informational site, the info should be easy to find. If users need to input data, form-filling should be easy and painless, moving the user smoothly from field to field. If the goal is to sell, browsing and selecting products should be a pleasure — and checkout should be a breeze.
Sometimes, your end goal can change over time. For example, today’s news websites have a different goal than they did in the past. As social media traffic has grown exponentially, direct homepage traffic has waned. In 2014, news websites first began to roll out the concept of continuous scroll, which encourages users to stick around after the initial article. This was so successful that Time.com’s bounce rate decreased by 15% when they adopted continuous scroll.
2. Give quick access to vital information and functions
If potential buyers can’t find what they want, fast, they will often jump and go elsewhere. That means you need to ensure that important information – like your company’s contact info! – is easily accessible.
Make sure that your interface is easy to navigate. Users should be able to perform actions using a minimal number of clicks.
When Facebook rolled out a completely new design in 2020, feedback was mixed. But one detail that many appreciated was that they could finally access their friends list easily. Facebook is all about friends, right? So why did it take them so many years to finally put an easy link to your friends list in the sidebar?
3. Don’t frustrate your users
Sounds obvious, right? Don’t create an interface that confuses and upsets your users. So why do so many websites violate this rule?
Classic example: any form that can accidentally be reset, wiping out all of the entered data and forcing users to re-enter everything. This happens when “Reset” and the “Next” buttons are located near each other, or if moving back to a previous page of the form automatically clears the form.
Another common source of aggravation: sites that use hair-pulling password requirements. Passwords with a million rules are theoretically more secure… but in reality, they drive users to reuse the same passwords over and over (which is very insecure) or to store their passwords on sticky notes or Excel sheets (ditto).
4. Follow conventions
Conventions are there for a reason; they give users clear cues to follow. Navigation labels should match what users see elsewhere (ABOUT US, not A LOOK INSIDE; LOCATIONS, not FINDER). Buttons should look like buttons – not like text. And it should always be obvious where each click will take you.
5. Keep things moving
Nobody can stand a slow-loading site. In fact, 39% of people will give up on a website if it contains images that are slow to load.
There are other ways to make your interface seem slow. Forcing users to “register before checkout” seems like a great way to gather information — but it can also prompt impatient buyers to throw in the towel and just buy it from Amazon.
6. Make sense
Every piece of your interface should be logical to a human user. Never leave your customers guessing. Never, ever use cryptic error messages…
…and opt instead for messages that actually tell the user how to fix the error.
7. Adapt to multiple platforms
It’s great that your web interface works perfectly on a PC, but if it isn’t easily adaptable to a smartphone or tablet, your customers will struggle with distorted images, text that doesn’t fit the screen, and information that is near impossible to locate.
Remember that putting out a website or app is just the first step. Your users need to enjoy the experience … or they’ll find somewhere else to go.
This is part 2 in a series that examines how you can harness the power of UX to improve your bottom line. This post focuses on web interface design. Part 3 will discuss how the principles of UX can be used to improve customer interactions for all companies. See all the articles in the series here.