The key to impactful website design is the user experience. It’s essential to optimize UX during the design and development process, so you have a functional site right out of the gate. That leads to more visitors, more conversions, and happy customers.
But what is the path to UX design? The answer is in the phrase itself: user experience. You need to place yourself in the seat of your user and structure a design that flows in the most efficient and intuitive way possible.
Why Get Inside a User’s Head?
It’s easy to make assumptions about what makes for positive user experience. But not everyone is the same. UX design is a lot like creating a customer-friendly environment. Not everyone is looking for the same thing, so you need to take a step back to figure out what your target user wants and how they behave online.
Envisioning Your User
So, who’s using the site? You can start with the old marketing standby of the user persona. That’s a mockup of the demographic the site is trying to attract, along with key pain points and behavioral characteristics. Some in web development simplify this even further, honing in on user stories.
User stories are the who, what, and why: “I am a [blank], I want to [blank], in order to [blank].” For example, “I am a technology purchasing manager for an enterprise-level company. I want to learn more about the functionality of this SaaS product in order to inform my purchasing decisions.”
With a story in place, you can picture the user’s journey and how to make it as easy as possible to go from point A to D, passing naturally through points B and C.
Identifying Your User’s Key Objectives on the Site
The story gives you an abstract idea of what the user wants to do. You should respond to those wants with the materials you want them to see — that’s where your content comes in. Your UX design should guide the user toward specific stopping points on the website.
Your technology purchasing manager wants to know about functionality. That means reading a list of product features or watching an informational video. Eventually, the user may want to sign up for a free trial.
Note how these stopping points are different for another kind of user. An e-commerce shopper may want to scan product listings and add items to a cart before checking out. They won’t be interested in reading blog posts about products — they want to see what’s on offer, compare specifications, and click buy.
Of course, you’ll have the odd user who wants to go off the beaten path, so to speak. But for the purpose of UX Design, focus on consistency and appeal to the most common use case.
Imagining User Flow
Once you know the objectives of your user, you can piece together a typical traffic flow. Then you can transform that into the ideal traffic flow, by making it easy for the user to get what they want and convert in the way you’d like them to.
You can use data to get a sense of what traffic flow may look like. Past analytics let you know how much time users spend on a particular section of the site, and what keeps them engaged. For example, a technology purchasing manager may be ready for a free trial after reading the list of product features. The design might anticipate this desire by placing the free trial call to action at the bottom of that page, in addition to the site navigation.
The e-commerce user may enter a search term for products, click through the images, and make a buying decision. Analytics may tell you the number of seconds a user spends before clicking through. That further informs the placement of the shopping cart, so the user can complete the transaction as quickly and easily as possible.
Using Standard Laws to Maximize UX Design
The last piece of getting inside your user’s head is recognizing that they expect. There are many design elements common across websites, and for good reason — they are what people anticipate from past experience. The “buy now” button is often in the top right; as is the search bar or “login” link.
You can also take advantage of psychology to maximize the user experience. Provide a few essential choices so it’s easier to make a decision. That’s why most subscription services offer three tiers, for example, On your website design, have only a handful of drop-down menus with intuitive labels. Make your elements large enough to navigate towards and interact with — think a big “buy now” button. Of course, eliminate any unnecessary steps. If you can get a user to convert in two steps instead of three, make that happen.
The good news about UX design is that you don’t have to roll it out without a test run. An online prototyping tool like UXPin is a great way to test your theories about what makes for positive user experience. Use it to walk through the design prototype with your team, or with a small group of potential website visitors so you can make tweaks. When you’re ready, you’ll go live with the best possible version.