Within the web design and increasing parts of the copywriting industry, ‘UX’ — short for ‘user experience’ — is a term bandied around as often as coffee.
I hear a lot about it in my Twitter feed. I read articles about it on Medium.
I’m not a designer, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a copywriter. And on some days, even saying this comes with pangs of imposter angst.
But user experience interests me greatly — irrespective of what or who I am. Because truly, UX affects everybody to some degree.
Whether you’re the person doing the experiencing —using a product or service — or the person analysing and trying to improve this experience; or you’re the business for whom profit depends on customer satisfaction.
UX matters to everyone.
I fully believe in its value.
I seek out articles about UX. I get inspired by UX exponents. I choose to immerse myself in a context where UX is essentially, a ‘no-brainer’. Because it makes sense to consistently try to improve the user’s experience — does it not?
And yet, taken out of this context — out of the echo chamber of places where I find myself creatively inspired — the concept of UX can easily be lost on clients.
There are so many reasons why this can be.
Jargon. Lack of explanation. Too much explanation.
And sometimes, just this streamlined concentration on user experience can translate to the client as a lack of focus on the business itself.
You have the user’s needs at heart, so can you truly have their business needs, their bottom line, at heart too?
Ultimately, a client only wants to know how you can help their business. And rightly so. This is the only thing that matters, and the only context in which UX should have any meaning to them.
And it does.
Because, stripping away any jargon — UX is simply an extension of customer satisfaction.
It comprises analysing the user or ‘customer’ experience from start to finish and improving it.
And a happy customer, a happy user of your service or product is someone who remembers you for next time. Someone who recommends you to their friends. Someone, who feels no need to look elsewhere for a better customer experience.
All just common sense in theory.
Yet often, there are still stumbling blocks in place when it comes to implementing UX in practice over theory.
All clients want the end results of a happy user, but we neglect to rein in habits and tendencies which don’t consider the user at all.
Here are some examples when user experience often takes a backseat— and how bringing it back to the forefront of our attention can truly impact what a website is there for, and how it can help any business.
1. A website isn’t a dumping ground for information
More isn’t better.
Forget FOMO. The fear of missing ‘something’ out — one small nugget of information that might just incentivize one person to commit to an action of using your service/product or contacting you — is a dangerous mind-set which drives us to fill websites with everything and anything about our business, whether it’s truly useful to the user or not.
In fact, websites can easily become vanity projects, used as platforms to show off everything about us and everything we’ve ever done.
And whilst it’s good to show your business has personality and set yourself apart, website users genuinely don’t care about what Dave, your IT manager looks like, or how quirky your office ping-pong table is.
The need for users to wade through irrelevant information to find what they actually want to know — is hugely off-putting — and will account for the largest percentage of abandoned web pages.
Consider the tasks your user is there to perform on your website — and give them the information and tools they need up front, to do this.
A streamlined experience will incite committed action from users, far more than a bombardment of information ever will.
2. An aesthetically beautiful website isn’t enough
Research conducted by Google has suggested that users form their first impression of a website within just 50 milliseconds of visiting it.[i]
And while an attractive website is a great starting point — it’s the window to what’s within — nice aesthetics can’t disguise overly-complicated menus and navigation structure, poor pathways or unhelpful content.
Everything, from your website’s navigation down to the text used on buttons, should be created with ease of use for the website visitor in mind. By giving your user straightforward pathways through your website, you’re increasing the likelihood of them taking action — signing up for your service, making a purchase or donation, subscribing to a mailing list, etc.
People are visiting your website for a specific reason.
Your website should be tailored with this in mind, every step of the way.
3. Your website copy isn't filler amidst a pretty background
More or less a reiteration of the former point —don’t rely on nice aesthetics alone.
The words on your website form the core information you’re communicating to users. Your design supports this — not the other way around.
Don’t treat your words as unimportant or an afterthought. Every word that takes up space on your web page should be there for a reason. And if you don’t know how to choose which words makes the cut — hire someone who does.
4. Your popups, auto-play videos and adverts are a distraction
I don’t think I’ve met a single person who enjoys the experience of pop-ups or auto-play videos when visiting a website.
Both interrupt the user’s flow so significantly that their first instinct is to find the cross icon and get rid of the offending item as quickly as possible.
Very few people take the time to even read what a pop-up says before closing it — and they’re so off-putting, they often prompt users to abandon a website completely, rather than close the pop-up and carry on.
Auto-play videos take this disruption to another level by assaulting our aural senses, as well as visual.
Yet businesses still employ these marketing devices because research suggests that — somewhere out there — there are still enough people interacting with pop-ups and auto-play videos (at least on desktop) to make it worth the risk.
But do clients know that improving their website’s UX alone, can substantially increase their customer conversion rate?
If on-site advertising and promotion is still on the table, then taking a UX approach means finding ways to advertise, promote offers, or encourage website visitors to sign up to mailing lists without actively disrupting the user’s experience in the process.
This isn’t an impossibility. It just might take a bit of tweaking before the balance is struck. Ultimately, the pay-off will be greater for businesses who take user experience into consideration first and foremost.
And those that are giving back control to the user — rather than taking it away, which is what pop-ups and auto-plays do — will stand out to the average website visitor, for good reason.
It’s not hard to see why improving UX is a great idea for any business.
We live in an age when people have expectations of how things should work. Access to an abundance of choice.
By taking a UX approach, we stand back and see all the little things that add up to make an experience better for the user.
And by getting these right, we make it easy for the user to choose us.
[i] Alexandre N. Tuch, Eva Presslaber, Markus Stoecklin, Klaus Opwis, Javier Bargas-Avila, ‘The role of visual complexity and prototypicality regarding first impression of websites: Working towards understanding aesthetic judgments’, Research At Google, (published 2012) <http://research.google.com/pubs/pub38315.html>