To stay relevant through an ever-advancing industry, technology has forced more and more organizations to embrace user-centered design and user experience (UX) when creating websites. So after years of arguing that user experience isn’t relevant, I think it’s only fitting that UX professionals now have a seat in the decision making process. Even today, and even within my very own agency, the discussion of “can you quantify UX from an ROI point of view” gets thrown around. After all, a sensible and pleasing design isn’t cheap. And it’s certainly much less expensive to create content without putting thought into the experience.

Over the next few blog posts we’ll go pretty deep into UX, but today I want to talk about UX and where it came from, its values, and its benefits to your company.

PUMBAA… NOT IN FRONT OF THE KIDS!

Good design is one that you don’t notice.” – Anna Fleischle, Winner of Critics’ Circle’s Best Designer Award

Think for a moment about the last restaurant you visited for the first time. A few questions for you:

What made you choose that restaurant? Was it the type of food, or maybe you’d heard about it from a friend?

What was your impression as you walked in? Clean, or sticky floors and tables?

How was the menu arranged? Was it ordered intelligently or did it look like someone furiously typed out every food item they knew how to spell?

What did you order? Did it come quickly? Was it fresh or obviously microwaved

Would you go back again?

All of these are questions surrounding experience. You, as a user of the restaurant, make a hundred flash decisions about your UX of that restaurant over the course of your meal. I would be willing to bet that at some point in your life, you’ve had such a bad UX at a restaurant that you decided to leave before you ordered. Or maybe even before you sat down. Keep this in mind as we discuss digital UX and remember that it’s a million times easier to simply hit the close button on your browser than it is to leave a restaurant. Until your web visitor has completed the sale, they can leave at any moment.

In the very early stages of planning, Walt Disney announced that he was building a place that was “always in the state of becoming a place where the latest technology can be used to improve the lives of people.” Over this summer was my first experience going to Disney World in Florida, and let me tell you — the entire park is themed around UX.

From something as simple as you’ll never see the same two characters at the same time – there’s only ONE Mickey Mouse, to a piece of trash will never be on the ground for more than 30 seconds. The entire park’s experience is the top priority. Disney knows that UX is what keeps people coming back. Disney knows that you know that every time you go to Disney World, it’s going to be the same magical experience. This more often makes you inclined to invest into it, and invest into it more often.

Finally, consider the iPhone. Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone at MacWorld 2007 when he called it a “leapfrog product.” He promised that it would be easier than any other smartphone. It would consolidate your devices, essentially combining your computer, your phone, and your music player into one easy to use device. The genius of the original iPhone lay hidden in the fusion of not necessarily superior hardware, but instead connected hardware. To put it simply, it took three objects that everyone had and made the experience of being connected much simpler. Apple broke ground on revolutionizing mobile devices.

You’re beginning to see why user experience plays an integral part in the success of many business models. UX is what people see of your business. It’s the spokesperson for your product. What I’m saying is that you may not necessarily be able to measure the ROI of UX, but Disney and Apple don’t break character when it comes to UX, and their ROI is measurable in other substantial ways.

IS UX ALWAYS PRETTY?

Here’s the skinny on that. I believe that UX is almost always visually appealing, but visually appealing isn’t always UX. Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?

As a digital marketing agency we often see clients that confuse UX with beautifully designed interfaces. The fact is that they aren’t always the same. Good design is great, but it only goes so far. User experience is a method of software development that revolves around innovative ease of use on a website.

The bottom line: This approach increases a user’s efficiency.

There isn’t much worse than a website that just doesn’t make sense. A button that leads nowhere? No contact us page? To a user, this is two parts infuriating and one part confusing. Let’s take a moment and go through a few common UX mistakes that even great teams often make.

MISTAKE 1: YOU BUILT A NORMAN DOOR

In UX, a Norman Door is any button, menu, or another object that doesn’t hint you on how to use it.

Getting even deeper, a Norman Door is any object that doesn’t give you a hint on how to use it, or – even worse – inspires the user to do something opposite of its intended use. Imagine walking up to a door with a long horizontal handle. This would indicate that you might need to push on that door, when in fact, imagine it slides open.

Take a look at these terrible UX design choices from your favorite programs.

Source: Google Translate

Let’s talk about this. In the first image, hey Google – what the heck IS THIS? Is it a snake? Is this the button I use if I want to lasso my text? No one on earth has any idea what this button does until they use it. Then they discover that it allows them to write words using their finger instead of a keyboard. So then they quickly back out of that because no one wants to ever do that. That’s a double award for bad UX, straight from the infallible Google.

Source: Instagram

Next, let’s look at Instagram. If you didn’t already know that this is the button to send direct messages, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that from this ashtray.

MISTAKE 2: YOU USED A LAST RESORT UI (USER INTERFACE) DECISION

Last resort UI decisions are design elements like drop-down selections or hamburger menus. Often times, hiding buttons is NOT the answer.

Trust me when I say drop down menus, regardless of how cool their animations are, are annoying. The idea that if I’ve never visited your page before and I have to guess what’s in this menu is the exact opposite of good UX. Any element that takes more taps or clicks should be considered a last resort. One or two of them won’t hurt anyone, but when they’re scattered all through your content, they can pile up into a bigger issue quickly.

Combat this by putting options in plain sight. Give the user more control. Experiment with tab bars or radio groups of buttons. Most importantly, identify what’s important enough to show. I get it, not everything can be out in plain sight and sometimes you’ve gotta hide things. So hide the less important items, and make the more important ones shine. It’s a mistake to think that menu controls simplify UX, they only serve to make your website more complex.

MISTAKE 3: YOU POLISHED YOUR UNDERPERFORMING SITE

Regardless of how shiny and well thought out your designs and UX is, no one will care if it never… ever… ever… loads.

Did you know that according to Google, the average user’s wait time before closing out of a website is 2 seconds? If your web pages don’t load up in 2 seconds, your risk of losing a potential client increases exponentially.

To combat this, you should build your designs around the limitations of user’s attention. Let me break it down for you:

0.1 seconds: feels instant

1.0 seconds: seems seamless, but something’s fishy

2.0 seconds: average

5.0 seconds: time to call Comcast

8.0 seconds: eternal torment. Exactly zero percent of the population will wait this long

Adding elements that have to load each time a user clicks your website will increase the load times. Trust me, I get it: it sounds insane, but you should be building for 0.1 second load times and not a nanosecond longer. And here’s where most people begin to trip up. Reduce your landing pages! They aren’t your website. Landing pages are the final cycle of marketing to PPC clients. You don’t need anything more than what will sell a customer on your landing page.

Small improvements here and there matter. According to a study done by NN/g, it’s no joke that a 1 second or less improvement in response time to your website builds can improve conversion rates.

MISTAKE 4: THERE IS SUCH A THING AS ‘TOO MUCH LOVE’

Effective marketing requires you to simplify your message. I know your product is the best thing since toilet paper, but if you inundate clients with information, they’ll lose sight of the message.

So simplify. Break down the product effectively, but make sure that you’re focusing on the main selling feature of your product. Once you’ve hooked them with that feature, then drip feed them the rest of your product’s incredible features. But you don’t need a lesson in sales here, we’re talking about UX. From a UX perspective, too much information can be just as bad if not worse than not enough information. It’s not always easy, but it’s a critical component to powerful storytelling.

To combat this, focus on the core sell of your product. Build your pages around this feature, and how quickly you can say this message. Prioritize visual simplicity over complicated theses and research reports.

Can you actualize your message with one image? Can you give this to someone and have them understand what your product can do for them? If not, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board with your UX team.  

MISTAKE 5: YOU DIDN’T INCLUDE A CLEAR CALL TO ACTION

Without your telling the customer what to do, it’s surprising how little conversions you’ll actually earn.

If at any point in your life you’ve ever been on a website and thought, “oh my word I get it, I have to click here to check out” then you’ve been privileged to what a clear call to action (CTA) looks like. Regardless of if you like it or not, we as creatures need our hands, hooves, and paws held. We need to be led and shown what to do. Click here. Check out here. Mark this box. Without the call to actions, we’d be just as lost as cavemen.

Combat caveman syndrome by making sure that you include a powerful and motivational call to action on your landing page. Don’t be pushy, but don’t be weak either. Mama taught me that it takes a gentle but confident man to win the lass.

So go win that lass, you damsel saving prince in shining armor you! Next time we’ll talk about how UX can and should be applied to mobile-optimized websites, and why responsive web design is a must-have for businesses to function properly.

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