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What is User Experience?

By: Compose.ly — March 23, 2020

No matter your industry, succeeding in today’s competitive marketplace requires companies to create high-quality products or services that stand out.

User experience (UX) is the science of standing out. Understanding UX and creating a positive experience for your customers will go a long way in setting your business apart from competitors.

UX Definition

UX refers to how customers perceive, feel about, and respond to the use of a product, service, or system. Donald Norman, the design expert that coined the phrase in 1988, explained the term was meant to “cover all aspects of a person’s experience with the system.”

But UX will take many different forms depending on the product or service in question. For instance:

  • UX for websites involves visual design, simple copywriting, easy navigation, and so on.
  • UX for a physical store includes layout, lighting, physical accessibility, and more.

While experts continue to debate the best definition to describe UX in all its complexity, business leaders have embraced the burgeoning concept as an essential part of their marketing and development strategies.

Companies that prioritize UX design often succeed in their industries. In fact, research reveals that businesses earn $100 for every $1 they invest in UX. In the field of digital marketing, where website UX is king:

  • 39% of users stop engaging with a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
  • 88% of users are less likely to return to a website if they have a poor UX.
  • 73% of customers feel that content “must display well” on their devices.
  • 62% of customers who encounter a poor UX on mobile websites are less likely to buy from the associated brand in the future.

So how do you incorporate UX into smart design decisions? The UX Honeycomb, a popular design model by Peter Morville, outlines the seven key qualities that guide UX design regardless of industry:

(Image credit: Usability.gov)

  1. Usable: The product must function as intended, at a bare minimum.
  2. Useful: The product should provide a solution to a need.
  3. Desirable: Without sacrificing usability or utility, the product must be attractive to customers and incorporate the company’s brand, image, and voice.
  4. Accessible: Whether it’s UX for a website or a storefront, the product should be accessible to everyone.
  5. Credible: The product should incorporate design elements that increase users’ trust in the product and company. Credible companies last longer.
  6. Findable: Websites must be navigable—products, services, and information should clearly meet customer needs and be easy to find.
  7. Valuable: The product or service should provide an obvious benefit to the client. This is the most important quality of UX design and the center of Morville’s UX Honeycomb.

Why is UX important for websites?

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Consider these two examples:

In this first example, Dutch strategic design and development company Bolden designed their website to maximize desirability. This design, however, meant a poor UX:

  • It’s impossible to read their message or glean valuable information.
  • The colors, while striking, are cluttered and distracting.
  • The website lacks accessibility and utility, hence it offers no credibility or value.

In contrast, take a look at Duolingo’s website:

This simplistic and streamlined landing page maximizes several important aspects of UX design:

  • The site is visually clear, appealing, and easy to navigate.
  • The website is neat and minimalist—there is no confusing or unnecessary clutter.
  • The message is concise and obvious.
  • The website provides value with its ease of use and clear branding.

Bolden has updated its website since example 1 was taken as a screenshot. Check out how it compares now to the Duolingo:

As these examples demonstrate, UX plays a large role in how effective a business’s website is at delivering a message or motivating customer action. UX design determines whether users have a positive or negative experience navigating a website and finding relevant, useful, and valuable information.

Benefits of incorporating UX principles into web design and development include:

What are best practices for UX design?

There are several techniques you can use to optimize your website to promote excellent customer experience. Begin by thinking of your website in terms of the UX Honeycomb. How well does your website demonstrate the seven qualities?

Then, consider these four UX strategies:

1. Create content that provides value to your customers.

There is no single definition for “valuable content.” Value is subjective—a veterinarian’s customer will measure the value of basketball clips very differently from a sports club customer.

Make sure your website provides value to your customers by offering more than just your product. Create non-sales content like blog posts or curated pieces that increase your brand authority and credibility.

2. Use visuals wisely.

People like images. And images will help your website give a positive UX.

Photographs, drawings, graphic art, infographics, and other visualizations increase your website’s desirability, accessibility, and usability, if done well:

  • Don’t clutter your webpage with graphics or use too many colors. Not only will clutter make your website confusing and more difficult to navigate, but it will also increase loading times—which turn customers away.
  • Keep your website simple, user-friendly, and easy to navigate.
  • Use visuals strategically as call to action (CTA) cues, like buttons, or supplements to web text.
  • Stock images work, but custom images will go even further to improve your UX and help your brand stand out from the competition.

3. Optimize for speed, mobile usage, and responses.

Make your website flow for your customers.

  • Set up your backend.
  • Optimize your website for high speeds.
  • Make your website device agnostic—make it friendly for everything from tablets to phones, as well as for different computing systems and browsers.

Google now penalizes websites that aren’t optimized for mobile use, so the third step will not only make for a positive UX, but also help with search engine optimization (SEO).

4. Incorporate branding and CTAs throughout your website.

Your website sells your products or services. Your website’s design should consistently incorporate your company’s branding messages, along with applicable CTAs to guide customers through your sales funnel.

Including effective branding and CTAs in your UX strategy ensures more customers will become interested in your brand, buy your offerings, and return to provide feedback—or even share with friends.

Conclusion

UX is a very broad term, but it’s reducible to a simple concept: Put the user first. It doesn’t matter what your product, service, or message is if the user doesn’t have a positive experience getting there. Focusing on UX will ensure that your website is user-friendly and your customers are satisfied using your brand over others.

This article was written by Compose.ly writer Kathleen Livingstone.


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