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User Experience Explained

7. December 2009 18:52

User Experience (UX) is what a user experiences while interacting with your website and encompasses everything from how easy it was to find the site to the journey a user takes through the site.

User experience is understanding and designing a user’s experience from start to finish, not just how the website looks or functions.

The aim is to improve the user journey - ironing out those frustrating fly-out menus, optimising the shopping cart processes and making the website more intuitive by placing information where users expect to find it. 

User experience honeycomb

UX includes, but not limited to:

  • User interface design
  • Information architecture
  • Usability
  • Interaction design

User Focused Process

User Experience is user focused, so the first step is to identify and understand your audience and find ways to communicate with them effectively.  You shouldn’t assume a user is familiar with your product offering or knows all your industry terminology.

Understand what tasks end users will want to perform on your website and create a series of use-cases to identify each task.
While you and your web design company know how to navigate your website, do your users?  The only way to find out for sure is to perform user testing.

User Testing

The best way to evaluate a website’s user experience properly is by assigning tasks to real users and monitoring their progress in achieving the tasks.  Users should ideally be recorded and asked to think out loud while carrying out the assigned tasks so you can understand their thought processes while navigating.

It’s important that the users picked to perform the tasks haven’t been involved with the design or development process.

Information gleaned from user testing is then fed back into the design process in an iterative manor to improve the end user experience.  Iterative design can help optimise sign-ups, maximise return on investment (ROI) and increase sales, so it has real benefits!

Picture used under Creative Commons from A-dit-ya

Determine your Website Objectives

2. August 2009 19:28

In order to build a website that meets your business needs it is important to determine what you want your website to achieve from the outset.  That way the site can be designed to better achieve those goals.

For instance you may wish your website to:

  • Sell your products or services online
  • Build brand awareness of a particular product or service
  • Manage or promote an event
  • Gather market research through surveys etc
  • Generate sales leads for your products or services
  • Provide marketing literature for your products or services
  • Build awareness of your organisation

As you can imagine an ecommerce website would be structured somewhat different to a website promoting an event, but even so it is important that your website objectives are communicated to the web design team, as your objectives may not be immediately clear from your brief.

For example:

If we know a major goal of your site is to generate sales leads.  We will design the site to include "Call to Action" elements to entice the web users (your potential customers) to enquire about your products.

On the other hand if your website is promoting an event, which is taking place in 3 months the search engine marketing plan we would recommend would be completely different to any other type of site and would favour pay-per-click advertising.

Information Architecture: Product Navigation

30. July 2009 19:06

Information Architecture put simply is the planning stage of a website and involves organising and designing the structure or "blueprint" of a site and should be carried out before any design or development takes place.
Here is a good example of the importance of Information Architecture.

Choosing Product Navigation Categories

You must consider the end user when deciding what categorisation to use for website product navigation.

We could categorise a company's products by brand, model number, manufacturer, or by function but which is best?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What makes the most sense to the customer?
  2. Will a customer who is new to our products/brand be able to find what they're looking for?
  3. Will a user who knows what product they need be able to find it quickly?

Categorise Your Products Carefully

Some websites make the mistake of only categorising products by brand/model or manufacturer and using this as the product navigation on their website.  In this case customers who are not familiar with the company's products will struggle to find what they are looking for. 

For example, the Peugeot UK website categorise their cars by model number, 107, 207, 308, 3008, 407, 4007, 807 etc.  As a potential customer who is not familiar with Peugeot's model numbers I don't know what models to consider if I'm looking for an estate car.  Do I click through every model category to try and find what I'm looking for or give up?