User experience, or UX, is synonymous with the brand experience. Why? Because UX is the way your customers experience every touchpoint of your brand. And since 94% of first impressions are design-related, it’s critical that customers have a positive impression of your brand from the start. Great UX inspires trust, loyalty, and most importantly, conversions.
WHAT IS UX?
UX—user experience—is the act of engaging with a service or a product. Holding an iPhone, scrolling a website, staying at a hotel, navigating an online shop’s checkout page—that’s all the user experience. UX design considers how it actually functions while you experience it: how intuitive a product is to use, its efficiency, its perceived value, even its beauty.
You’ll often hear UX and UI considered at the same time, so UI—user interface—refers to the visual interface that a user interacts with, particularly a digital one. A site or app’s typography, buttons, layout, even color palette is all UI.
In short: the UX considers how a product feels while you interact with it; the UI considers the elements that actually make it possible to interact with it. Choosing those elements, planning their functionality, and considering the user’s emotional state while guiding them along to their intended goal—that’s UX design.
UX tends to involve verbs; UI tends to involve composition. So:
- Clicking a button is UX; the design of the button itself is the UI.
- Eating at a restaurant is UX; the menu design is the UI.
- Driving a car is UX; the layout of the dashboard is the UI.
- Using a website’s dropdown menu is UX; the design of the menu is UI.
WHY IT MATTERS
75% of users judge a brand’s credibility by its website design. If it’s intuitive, beautiful, and guides them effortlessly through the experience, it inspires trust that the brand can fulfill their needs. In fact, great design creates a competitive advantage. Companies that focus on great UX design report 41% higher market share and 50% more loyal customers.
Did you know?
Every $1 invested in UX results in a return of $100.
MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU
Great UX isn’t as simple as building a website and hoping it works. To make sure your site or app will give customers a great experience, it’s best to start with an audit. User testing and research can help ensure that anyone who visits your site has a pleasant experience.
It may seem like small potatoes, but all it takes is one bad experience for people to begin complaining that your site makes your brand hard to love. In fact, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.
On the other hand, a great experience can mean boosted conversions, improved loyalty and increased satisfaction.
To deliver that great experience, one or more of these tests can turn things around for your current site—or help guide your future site. (And yes, we’re speaking from experience here—Madison Design offers all these services.)
- IDing the right research methodology
Great UX starts by looking at your brand’s current ecosystem and understanding what your customers need or want. We’ll pinpoint what research services work best to start converting clicks into customers.
When building a digital product, it's efficient to get agreement from all involved parties as early as possible—especially before development work begins. Wireframes are a tool designers use to generalize the hierarchy of information and functionality early within the design process. They serve as a blueprint for a website's content, organizing your home page, FAQs, contact information, and more into the most sensible places. It looks at the site’s structure as whole (as opposed to prototyping, which looks at the structure of individual pages).
It’s exactly what it sounds like: building a mockup of the final product. When it comes to UX, it means actually designing the site, either in sketches or by building a simple website full of filler copy and images to explore functionality (referred to as a low-fidelity prototype). Higher-fidelity prototypes come in the form of more advanced testing sites, clickable prototypes, fleshed-out page designs, or functionality testing in the browser via a staging site. It’ll look close to the final product and is usually built further along in the process.
- Heat mapping
Heat maps show exactly how users interact with your website. Wherever they click, scroll and hover their mouse, it appears on heat maps—typically red for hot spots, and blue for colder spots. It can help you determine how far users scroll, which buttons and copy elements are most effective, and even show design flubs, such as where people thought something on the page was clickable when it wasn’t.
- Customer journey mapping
Rather than heat mapping, which shows how users already interact with your site, customer journey mapping works ahead of time to create or encourage an ideal path through a brand’s digital touchpoints. For example, if a customer lands on your homepage first, but you’d like them to visit a sale page, customer journey mapping explores how the UX can effectively entice customers to navigate to that sale page. It can lead them off-site, too, taking them to any apps, social media and more.
- User testing
By bringing in other people to test the UX—that is, interact with it—you’re ensuring that you’re making the most user-friendly product you can. A site that isn’t user friendly can result in mistrust, frustration, and even lost sales—but still, 55% of companies don’t use user testing for their websites and apps. User testing in the early stages helps catch those issues before they become a problem—and can prevent costly redesign in the future. Win-win.
Want to update your existing website or app instead of building one from scratch? No problem. Remediation looks for opportunities to improve. Through techniques like heat mapping, customer journey mapping and user testing, we can find what’s working and what could benefit from additional features or upgrades.
GOOD UX Strategy
While UX is a wide field with no one right way to succeed, there are plenty of best practices—and things that can go wrong—when it comes to implementing your digital strategy, be it for your website or mobile app.
- Annoying design elements, like fonts and colors that don’t contrast well with the background (think gray on gray), a lack of responsive design for mobile users (people who have had a negative brand experience on their phones are 62% less likely to purchase from that brand in the future), hard-to-find back/next arrows, or even huge sticky headers that make it hard to see the rest of the content on the page.
- Forgetting why your audience is there. If they’re just looking to buy a product, make it easy to find the shop. If they need visitor’s information, put it front and center. Make it a cinch to find what they need.
- Pages full of text. Interactive content is a critical part of marketing and design, and without it, you’ll lose customers. Populate each page with a mix of text, images, video, and more. For more on how interactive content can boost your brand, click here.
- Not user testing. No matter how well you know your site, you’re not your target audience. User testing can show you where users may be frustrated with the site design, especially in places that seemed intuitive to you. They can also point out what works, or even add suggestions for improvement.
Best practices include…
- Mixing things up in your digital hierarchy. Most websites don’t have four headers in a row, or start off with nothing but text. Use headers, content boxes, blurbs, images, and video to mix it up and keep things visually interesting.
- Using interactive content. Statistics agree that videos, infographics, calculators, and other interactive pieces can attract more attention (and interaction) than static content.
- Refresh your content consistently. Even if it’s just switching out header images, make sure to have a plan in place for keeping your site updated with fresh content. Few things turn users away as quickly as realizing a site hasn’t been updated in weeks, months, or even years.
- Making sure your fonts are legible (both in color and in form), your buttons easy to click and find, and that your site follows ADA guidelines for accessibility.
UX design can—and should—be baked into any digital content project. It’s something we excel at, and not just with all-new designs. One of our specialties is performing diagnostic research and remediation for existing content that may not be performing as well as you’d like.