User experience is simply how your web site or app makes a user feel and it includes many different factors such as usability, performance and accessibility. Usability alone can form either a long and loving bond with your brand or quickly end the relationship.
On commencing a new project, a client is usually clear about what they want and how they want it; this would historically lead a design. Today however user-centred design is at the forefront meaning the design is being led and focused around the user, not what the client ‘thinks’ is required. So a holistic approach to design is taken with consideration given to a client’s ideas in tandem with the whole user experience and usability.
Designing for the user starts before any actual design work. Here are the first steps everyone should take:
1. Research, research, research: research the industry and the company: find out about the users and their needs
2. Site map: build a map of all the pages the website (or mobile app) and where they sit in the site architecture
3. User flow: build a second map showing each route the user should follow to get to what you want them to find, whether it is a purchase or telephone call to you
These 3 steps make up 3 of the 4 most important steps of the whole process, the 4th being testing – everything from user experience testing to the basic set live testing.
Only once all these steps have been taken a designer can truly start to design something that has optimum user experience.
So…how can you improve user experience on your site?
If you already have a web site or app ask your customers what they think, what they find easy and what they find difficult. This will give you key insight into whether your web site or app is working or not for the user – and ultimately for you.
If the feedback suggests you should make some changes, you may be able to just make some adjustments rather than a complete overhaul of your web site.
Adjustments to your site will be quicker but will still require the 3 steps above: Research, Sitemap, User flow to identify the changes required.
A complete overhaul is a longer process but generally will give you better results as you would be starting from scratch. You can completely customise and produce a site that is exactly what your customers want. It enables you to stand back and think about your target audience, rebuild key areas of the web site/app like navigation and calls to action. It can also be a great marketing tool when you begin to push out all the changes.
User experience matters and can hugely affect how people perceive your brand. You can have a stunning looking site that has all the latest HTML and CSS tricks but if it doesn’t work properly and doesn’t work for your users then it’s not going to do the job you need it to do.