When people visit a fast-food restaurant, they don’t call in to admire the décor, study the company history or browse through the latest advertisements. They visit because they want a burger in their hand, in as short a time as possible.
In the same way, when visitors arrive at your site, they just want to get what they came for – whether a product, service or information – with a minimum of fuss and delay. Addressing visitors’ needs so they can accomplish their objective in an effective, efficient manner is what website designers and developers call the ‘user experience’, or UX.
Getting to grips with the UX involves understanding your visitors’ progression from landing page to the point where they perform the action you wish them to take. Unlike a brochure, where there is a clear, linear progression from beginning to end, websites have numerous possible starting points, each with several alternative paths that can be followed. Putting themselves in the mind of the user enables the design team to build a website entirely around visitors’ needs. Can they find what they want easily? Is your site simple to understand? Is their encounter with your site engaging and enjoyable?
UX-friendly website design involves attending to a number of issues, including: a straightforward structure and navigation system; keeping the visitor aware of where they are and how to get where they want to go; consistent branding throughout the site; a tone of voice that your visitors can relate to; informing the visitor about what to do and when to do it; keeping them engaged and eager to remain on your site; accessibility issues, such as impaired sight and other disabilities… and these are just the tip of an online iceberg. Professional designers and developers consider a whole host of similar issues to create sites that give the user exactly what they are looking for in exactly the way they want it.
As technology develops and attitudes evolve, the needs and expectations of the online user change. By using feedback tools such as questionnaires and forms, or analytics software that enables you to analyse how visitors move through your site’s pages, you can learn what needs to be done to ensure your site’s UX adapts to suit your users’ changing needs.