12/01/24

The importance of user experience (UX) in website design

Design in today’s digital era has been honed and refined, so much so that we designers now know what to do to get a user’s attention more easily. It’s no coincidence that the most successful web products have an easy-to-navigate system and a seamless user journey.

In fact, much of their success can be owed to having a design that helps users get to their end goal without even realising their actions are being guided. Within this article, we will explore the principles of design from a user’s perspective, delving into the processes of designing for digital and how it is more analytic than many would expect.

 

What does UX stand for?

UX = User experience.

UX refers to the interaction between the user and a product. When designing a digital product, exploring the UX is a fundamental part of the design process and shapes the way we approach a project.

To explain this more simply, let’s take an object such as a mug, for example. Its purpose to us is obvious, but the design of the handle, the texture, material or colour may make us feel a certain way about the interaction we are having with it. Similarly, in the digital design world, UX refers to everything that affects a user’s interaction with a digital product.

 

What is UX design, and why is it important?

UX is the experience that customers go through when using a product’s interface (design). It acts as a skeleton for the designs to come, mapping out structurally what works and what doesn’t based on the user’s needs. We explore UX in a stage at the beginning of a project called wireframing which, without any aesthetical design elements, allows us to start to define the purpose of pages and clarify consistent ways of displaying types of content. It helps us to determine the user’s journey and simplify this as best as possible to make sure the experience can be seamless from A to B.

Although, it is much more than that. UX takes on board what users both think and feel and the psychological aspects of user behaviour. Us as humans are both rational and emotional characters, which plays a big part into a way we interact and think about a product. UX design goes beyond appealing design choices and explores more about users behaviours in order to provide outcomes that meet needs most efficiently. Each person is different, and we are all looking for different things from a product. So it is the job of a designer at the start of each project to outline what exactly a specific user is looking for. And make sure we design in a way that meets the needs of all possible outcomes from all kinds of users. Designing a product that provides a positive, seamless experience for the user is what we strive for, however, getting to this stage requires a list of rules to follow along the way.

 

User experience mapped out on paper on a board

 

Peter Morville’s User Experience Honeycomb

Peter Morville is a designer and information architect who has been working in this field since 1994. His User Experience Honeycomb is a tool that explains the many faces of user experience design. It is typically used as a teaching tool to explain the basics of UX, but it can also be used as a checklist for designers to make sure every aspect of UX has been covered.

Usable: The product or service needs to be simple and easy to use. Designs should be easy to understand.

Useful: Needs to fill a need. If the product or service is not useful or fulfilling the user’s wants or needs, then there is no real purpose for the product itself.

Desirable: The visual aesthetics of the product or service need to be attractive and easy to translate and meet all requirements needed.

Findable: Information needs to be easy to navigate. If the user has a problem, they should be able to quickly find a solution. The navigation should make sense to the user.

Accessible: The product or services should be designed so that it meets the criteria for accessibility needs.

Credible: The company and its products need to be trustworthy.

Valuable: Users must have a reason to use your product. A valuable product solves problems and achieves what the user is looking for.

 

Peter Morville's UX Honeycomb 7 tessellating hexagons with the words "useful, desirable, accessible, valuable, credible, findable and useful"

 

What’s the difference between UX and UI?

UX Design can often be confused with UI. UI stands for user interface which is the designing and skinning of the design product with design elements such as colour, type and shape to make it looks aesthetically pleasing. Many people associate design with visuals and struggle to look beyond nice shapes and colours rather than measuring analytics, which is why both UX and UI can become muddled and merged as one.

Even though the UI and UX are both equally important and feed into each other, the substance comes from the UX. UX feeds the UI and works in the background to make the UI make sense to the user – the brain to the body.

 

Flow chart in red on a whiteboard

 

What does a UX designer do?

Essentially, LOTS of research! Researching the product, the process and especially the person. – Although UX designers follow a similar structure from project to project, the users really vary depending on the brand, target audience and digital product. Delving into “who the user is” is important for us to work out what will appeal to them. It requires a deep understanding of their needs, wants, behaviours and the context in which they will use a product. Utilising things such as flow diagrams and user personality charts are really helpful to map out individual user traits before moving onto wire framing and mapping out the first stages of a design.

 

Two UX designers looking at a wireframe on a whitebaord

 

What makes good/ bad UX design (and why we care!)

Good design is essential as it helps to create that positive relationship between the user and the company. It should allow users to get from A-B seamlessly and for the product elements to be easily usable to on this journey. You can see the good UX from the results of analytical research from a digital product.

Bad UX design may mean that users are struggling to use the product because of a blocker. This blocker could be a number of things including: not clear enough signposting across the site, the colour accessibility may not be reaching guidelines, or the type may be too big or too small hindering the readability and legibility. If people have a negative experience, this could have harsh impacts on businesses, as users may not return or recommend to others. It is important to alleviate the chances of a user coming across a problem, and this is why UX testing beforehand is so vital to the process.

 

THIS IS FEVER Intozetta wireframe

 

A couple of useful top tips that that help you optimise your web product from a UX perspective.

Reduce the amount of steps it takes the user to reach what they are looking for.

You want your users to be able to find what it was they were looking for. Whether this is purchasing a product, finding out about a service or searching for information, by keeping things as simple and focused as possible for your users, you are able to minimise the risk of frustration when they can’t complete their task.

More CTAS!

Buttons that read sign up to our mailing list today or book now are examples of a call to action that might sit on a website. You want to use these buttons as navigation points on your website and hotspots for guiding a user to where you want them to go. Having CTA buttons that simply read “click here” are poor. It only tells the user to click on the button and does not tell the user “why” they should click on that button.

Image of two call to action buttons, one that explains to the user where it goes, marked with a tick and another than doesn't and is marked with a crossAs designers, we care deeply about UX. To be able to turn applications into something that is user-friendly and create designs that people want to use is at the core of what we strive to do. Practising good UX is essential for a successful digital product and creating a journey and experience that is appealing for the user to use, you’ll end up with loyal customers that will inevitably have the ability to grow you and your business further.

Abi Suttle, graphic designer, at her desk at This is Fever's studio in Colchester

By Abi, Junior Designer