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Website Best Practice, Part 2: User Experience Design

By Mark Withers

User experience is one of the most important factors to securing and maintaining business – especially online. So how can your website design help your user’s experience?

When it comes to choosing who we buy from, or do business with, there are two factors that most people consider these days – the quality of the product and the user experience. With the growth of e-commerce, it is now a lot easier to find the product you’re after. If you know you want a specific product, there will be a number of different places to buy it from. This means that availability of product is no longer the crucial factor, and buyers are now looking at other reasons to choose one business over another.

One of the main reasons why people choose a particular business is the experience of researching and buying a product. By ensuring that users can find out about, get to and buy a product easily, quickly and in the way that is best for them, you can help to ensure that they go through with the purchase, as well as come back to you.

Research suggests that companies who invest in a user experience design strategy can increase their ROI by 37%, showing just how important the customer experience really is.


Fundamental Ideas of UX

In user experience planning, there are some fundamental ideas which need to be considered. The main ones are:

· Context – The user needs to be aware of where they are in the context of their journey on your website at all times.

· Users – You should have your users in mind on every page and at every stage of your website – remember, it is for THEM not YOU, so user centred design is essential.

· Human – Be transparent, trustworthy, human and approachable

· Easy – Try to make the journey as easy as possible – without insulting their intelligence, help buyers continue their journey quickly and easily.

· Simple – Avoid distractions such as unnecessary pop-ups, adverts, jargon and pictures that take a long time to load.

By getting these user experience essentials right in the planning, you can then go on to put it into practise and start to see the results.

Information Architecture

Designing information architecture is no big mystery. In fact, it is fairly logical, if you can look at it from the outside. Organising the information on your website should be based around three factors, keeping the user in mind at all times:

· Navigation

· Content Organisation

· Making Relationships Between Information

It is vital that you get the information architecture right because it is this, more than anything which will determine how easily a user can find the information that they are looking for, as well as carry out the task that they came to your site for – whether it is finding out information or actually buying a product or service.

Managing UX Projects

To ensure that you are always offering the best possible customer experience, a good UX project isn’t one that is finished and left. It needs to be continually reviewed and tweaked as new information, products and technology become available.

Whilst some businesses decide that they can handle the ongoing management of their UX projects themselves, by far the most effective method is for the business to work alongside a specialist in UX projects to ensure that the user experience focused design is always spot on and that businesses are getting the most out of their websites.

A clear plan combined with agreed metrics gives you vital information about the progress of a project and its effectiveness. Goals and how to measure them should be defined at the beginning of the project – with the option to change them if necessary.

Building a Customer Focus into your Plans

Depending on your business, as well as your target customer, the strategy which is employed to make the customer experience as good as it can get will differ. Something useful to one person is useless to another, and what might attract one age group might seem annoying and meddling to a different generation. It’s important that you know who your customers are and craft your customer experience accordingly.

There are some things which are universal to successful customer experience. One of the main factors is to remember that your website is there to suit your customer’s needs, not your own. Think about what they will want to know, not what you want them to know. Focus on the user’s needs, not the company’s needs, and you will be well on your way. Part of the UX strategy might be to educate or provide information, but try to keep the focus on the customer and how this information can help them.

Remember that your website is often the first contact that a potential customer will have with you, so you need to make the right impression. As well as ensuring that it is easy to navigate and that the information that a user needs is available right away, you need to ensure that everything is in line with company branding – both visually and in the style and subject of the content. Presenting a professional looking website is as vital as the content which you are presenting: an amateur looking website can put off potential customers right away.

It is impossible to stress too much the importance of the customer experience in the success of a business website, and this is why many businesses invest so much time and money into creating and maintaining the right one.

If you have any questions about user experience design, UX project managing, or general e-commerce guidance, contact us here.

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