10 Principles For Improving The User Experience (UX) Of Your Website
The usability of your website has a direct impact on the experience a user has on your website. This means that a website with good usability will have a good user experience, compared to a website with poor usability. But it’s often difficult to identify usability issues, particularly for businesses and individuals who don’t work in the user experience industry. This is why we have compiled a list of 10 user experience and usability principles to help you identify some of the core issues your existing website may have.
1.) Meeting The Needs Of Your Users
Ensuring that a website delivers on the needs of its users is the single most important aspect of creating a good user experience. A business must identify the needs of their users and ensure that they can accomplish the tasks they visit your website to carry out.
User tasks can vary from buying a product or finding out more about a service to contacting a business to place an order or downloading a document. Whatever the user’s objective, it’s the business’ responsibility to facilitate the completion of their task, quickly, easily and to a level or standard they expect.
Take-Away: Identifying the needs of your users and ensuring that your website meets a user’s expectation will significantly improve your websites user experience.
2.) Labelling & Taxonomy
As a business it’s important to understand that, how your customers refer to your product or service, particularly what they call it and any jargon they may use, is far more important than what you call your product or service internally.
A business must endeavour to understand the language of their users and use this understanding to label products and to organise the content on a website (taxonomy). Doing this will significantly improve a user’s ability to navigate to the content they need and accomplish the task they set out to achieve. It will also allow users to understand how a website is structured further improving their ability to navigate through the website.
Take-Away: Using technical jargon and unnecessary abbreviations in your content will only work to frustrate your users and will likely drive them to a competitor.
Consistency in how a website is structured, how it works and how it looks and feels has a huge impact a website’s usability. For example; if the navigation was in a different place on each page of a website or if forms look and work differently throughout a website, users will become frustrated and likely leave the website. A website with a good usability will minimise the amount of learning a user has to do and reduce their cognitive load whilst using the site.
Take-Away: Consistency in your website’s navigation, design and functionality is key to reducing the cognitive load of your users and improving the overall usability and user experience of your website.
4.) Clarity & Simplicity
Over designing and adding unnecessary and irrelevant functionality, as well as over using design elements will only overload a user with information often confusing and frustrating them, when using the website. It’s been said that “good design is when there is nothing else left to take away”, although this isn’t a hard and fast rule in web design, the same principle can be applied to significantly improve the simplicity and clarity of your website.
Take-Away: With each element of your website, ask yourself; Does this element serve a purpose? Is it useful? Do our users need it? Are our users actually using it? If the answer to those questions is ‘no’, then that element should probably be removed.
5.) Basic Visual Design Principles
A good website design will follow basic design principles. There are hundreds of design principles that can and should be applied to a website design, but the most impactful for usability and aesthetics are also the most basic principles. Your website should demonstrate a visual hierarchy and structured layout that considers contrast, balance, colour, repetition, proximity, alignment and spacing.
Take-Away: Ensure your website follows basic design principles to help develop a good aesthetic quality and improve usability.
6.) Value Proposition
This is easily the most overlooked principle across all industries. When reviewing a website, a business should put itself in the shoes of its users and frankly and honestly, without bias, ask itself “If I didn’t know anything about our business and I landed on our company’s homepage, would I know what we do, and do I understand the value of using our product or service?”.
A website should immediately communicate what the business does and the value it can offer to users, this is called a “Value Proposition” and it is a key factor in qualifying and convincing website users that they are in the right place.
Take-Away: Ensure your website has a very clear and simple value proposition on your homepage.
7.) Individuality & Originality
A business needs to stand out, they must convey their brand and their personality as well as connect with their users through their website and content. A company that is using a similar web design template and similar content to their competitors will not be remembered by their users. A business that tries to follow their competitors will simply become ‘one of a number of companies’. A business needs to differentiate itself from its competitors and convey their own individual brand values, visions and service offering in a way that will resonate with their users. A business should allow users to experience their brand, by understanding who they are and what motivates them, then aligning their content to their user’s personalities and personal values.
Take-Away: Be original when you convey your brand. Don’t just fall in line with your competitors.
8.) Benchmarking, Measurement & Evaluation
User experience is largely based on using data and research to identify issues and inform solutions for a business’ website. Data can be collected from a large number of sources, but the most crucial is the data collected from a website itself using tools like Google Analytics. Such tools allow a business to see which pages are performing well and which pages aren’t as well as giving an overview of user behaviour throughout a website. This information will allow a business to not only benchmark its performance but quickly identify and fix potential issues.
Take-Away: Make sure you utilise tools such as Google Analytics to measure and evaluate your websites traffic and set goals to benchmark your success.
9.) User Feedback
It’s imperative that a website communicates with its users in a way they understand when they are interacting with it. Informing users that something is loading, or displaying an error in a visible, easy to understand way that doesn’t use technical jargon and lets them know what action now needs to be taken will significantly improve a websites usability. Users who do not receive feedback when interacting with a website will become frustrated and are likely to leave and go to a competitor.
Take-Away: Be sure to communicate with your users in a clear and informative way where necessary, particularly when they interact with your website.
10.) Recognition & Conventional Design
Using elements, icons and visual interactions that a user will recognise and understand will significantly reduce the cognitive load of a user, improving the usability of your website. As a general rule, if a designer can’t think of a relevant icon to accompany a service or a piece of text within 5 seconds, then they shouldn’t use one as it will likely just confuse the user. The same applies to interactions and functionality, it would be counter-intuitive and hinder usability if a designer were to re-design the functionality of a drop-down form field when almost all users will expect and understand the standard structure and functionality of a drop-down field.
Take-Away: Use commonly understood and universal symbols, interactions and graphics to reduce the cognitive load of your users.
When should you carry out a full UX audit?
This is by no means an extensive or detailed list, but the core principles outlined here will have the biggest impact on working to improve your website’s performance. If you find that your website has already implemented the above and it’s still not performing as expected or needed, then it may be time for you to commission a professional UX audit. Our comprehensive UX audits deep dive into extensive detail to interrogate, evaluate and identify specific issues with your existing website and current UX strategies. All of our UX audits deliver a full breakdown of issues and a prioritised list of items that should be addressed to improve your website’s performance.
If you are interested in having your website professionally audited, please contact Livewire on 01794 725 454 or email firstname.lastname@example.org