5 best website UX practices part 1 – beauty is only skin deep

Good web design can mean different things to different people – as with many things, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – but beauty on the web is only skin deep.

In recent times the need to build and deliver web user experiences that exceed pure visual beauty and enable potential customers to achieve their online goals and tasks has required designers and web developers to ensure the user is placed at the heart of everything they do (user-centric design). In order to create an enjoyable online experience, users need websites that are easy to use and have clearly signposted paths. These experiences are heavily influenced by UX (User Experience) and below I have listed what I consider to be 5 of the main UX rules that I believe contribute to great web experience that not only encourage users to stay on your site, but also come back again.

Whether you are a web designer, a customer having a website built or already have a existing site you can implement the following recommendations to add greater value and accessibility to your site for your users – as remember the competition are only 1 click away.

Does it work?

The first thing you can do is ensure your website is accessible and all links and CTA’s (calls to action) aren’t broken and actually deliver what they are supposed to do and enable users to find information they have come to your site for. This is extremely important is it not only casts a negative view of your brand identity but will frustrate users and have them searching for that Google search field to look for one of your competitors.
Bonus Tip
In addition, the best website design and UX delivery is pointless if you’re website is down – in short, ensure you have a good webhost !

Its your responsibility to be responsive!!

In today’s forever mobile dominated world it simply isn’t enough to have a good desktop site, more and more people are viewing your site for the first time through mobile and tablet and brand/website guardians need to ensure a seamless viewing experience across devices. Making your site mobile responsive is more than just adding a few media queries and resizing containers and images – attention needs to given to elements such as ‘hit areas’ of buttons, text sizes and size of images to ensure they don’t consume the smallest of screen sizes and hide other important away from users. As a result of the reduced visual real estate on mobile devices the need to simplify interactions is even greater than on desktop. As If that wasn’t enough Google will be penalizing non-responsive sites if you dont conform with theirĀ Mobile Optimization Guidelines.

Its quite simple really !

We are all aware of the saying “less is more” – well, this could not be more relevant to UX web design. A key consideration needs to be reduce tasks required by users to as few as possible to achieve their tasks. A clean and simple to navigate interface is vital to allow content to breathe and not get lost in “visual noise” – all the other “visual fluff” doesn’t add value, and only serves to distract, confuse your users and add page bloat. By simplifying you will give greater emphasis to the rich content you want users to find and absorb.

Your site needs to almost leave a trail of breadcumbs and guide users through the site and hold their hand to the very end when they click that contact button or download that link. Web users are impatient and want their online experiences to be simple, stress-free and smooth as possible. Today’s websites need to almost show users the future and inform them whats next before they action a click a button – dont just say ‘sign up’ – inform them of a benefit they will receive by signing up and what they need to do next (ie click on link they receive via email to complete signup).

Success is only a click away !

In terms of users accessing content nothing that you deem ‘important’ should be more than 2 clicks away. You don’t want to be taking users on an online goose chase to find something they can find elsewhere quicker – this will only lead to frustration and higher bounce rates. Make highly valuable content easily accessible from you homepage – even if its just a simple graphic or link in body copy to drive users to a page where they can find out more.

Show them the way

The navigational component of your site is a vital component that can determine whether your site is successful or not. People may know who you are or what services you provide, but they need clear paths to the content that interests them. Your main navigation needs to be easy to find, understand, and use. If you are using more than 1 navigational area, distinguish these through content hierarchy and make it evident which one is primary and which is sub navigation through positioning primary above the sub nav, size of nav etc.

As with many things related to good UX, simplicity is key and this is not different for your navigation – use simple and easy to understand labels such as home and not ‘origin’ – it should be simple enough for someone with very limited online literacy to comprehend.

Try and distill your navigational items to approximately 7-8 max – if you have more than this then ask your self do you need them? or can then be grouped into another more ‘overall’ heading?. So instead of Nav items for ‘about’, ‘news’ and ‘people’ you could create a primary nav section called ‘Company’ and place these all within – again this makes your interface clean and easy for users to understand and if they want to know about aspects of your company its obvious where they can access this.

There are many more UX/Accessibility hints and tips that can help ensure you site provides a pleasurable online journey for your users, but I hope you find these useful and Iook out for part 2 soon.

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