Common UX Mistakes in Web Design
Nowadays it is expected that every business have a website, there is absolutely no getting around it. Yet building a website isn't like it was in the early days of the Internet. Its no longer good enough to have a presence on the web, it has to be well designed, it has to work on a variety of screen sizes and it has to be both useful and usable to the site's visitors.Useful books about user experience:
- UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design
- Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences
- UI is Communication: How to Design Intuitive, User Centered Interfaces by Focusing on Effective Communication
- The UX Book: Process and Guidelines for Ensuring a Quality User Experience
- Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
- The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide
- The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond
- A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making
- Mobile User Experience: Patterns to Make Sense of it All
- Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
This is where user experience comes into play. Originally defined by Don Norman while he was the VP of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple, the term UX came about because, 'I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person's experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual." When it comes to applying the best practices of user experience to web design, there a few mistakes that are frequently made by web designers that left unfixed can leave people with a negative opinion of the site. Luckily, most of these can be easily fixed.
That's right, too much information can be a bad thing if its not well organized. Websites should be full of useful content, but there is a difference between providing valuable content on a well organized website and cramming text, images, ads, social media links and just about anything else on the same page. Each page of a website should have a specific task and present a unique piece of content. Headers and paragraphs should be used to separate information and there should be some whitespace to help keep things separated. If you don't already know, keep the flashing ads and pop-ups off the site. This has been a bad idea for years now and does little more than irritate the visitor.
The wall of text
A website should have something to say, but that something doesn't always have to come via long running text. The wall of text loses the visitor's attention almost immediately and when a person lands on a text heavy page they tend to leave in a hurry.
This isn't to say that page content should be restricted to a couple of hundred words. Long form content is well received by both visitors and search engines. It just has to be well written and well organized. Chunking content into bite sized piece using headings works well as does incorporating bulleted lists. But sometimes you can get away from text-based content altogether.
Web technologies make it extremely easy to embed images, audio and video into a page, so make use of them. Consider the following statistics from Marketing Sherpa who found that adding videos resulted in a:
- 157% increase in search engine traffic
- 100% increase in unique visitors
- 63% increase in page views
Designing the wrong demographic
People over 55 expect a website to provide them with a quick answer to their question. Those who make up Generation X want a page to be functional, but they also want a personal experience. Millennials, on the other hand, often don't draw a distinction between what they are doing and what the technology is doing. Each group sees a website in a different light so using the wrong 'trend" could wind up making the target demographic uncomfortable because they don't view the site as user friendly.
With this in mind, just because something is the latest in design doesn't mean it will work effectively for the target audience. Likewise, certain functionality might be expected.
If you don't have a target demographic in mind when you are building a site spend some time doing research and collecting analytical data on your visitors so you know who you should be leaning towards when it comes to your design decisions.
One in four Internet searches take place on a mobile device. Taking in to account the fact that in 2013 there were 1.4 billion smartphones being used worldwide, this shouldn't shock anyone. Nor should the fact that 57 percent of users won't recommend a company that has a poor mobile website.
Using a native app to display web content is one way to appease the mobile crowd, but there are other options as well. Designing a mobile version of the site and redirecting visitors who make use of these browsers is one route that can be taken, but this requires more work when it comes to designing, or changing, the site. Building a responsive site allows the designer to build one site, on a gridded system, that will render on screen sizes of different sizes without losing important elements like navigation, images and even text.
Making a website user friendly can mean all the difference when it comes to a visitor deciding to come back. While some of the larger sites have the luxury of a dedicated UX architect who is responsible for ensuring that a site is up to par when it comes to this, not everyone is as fortunate. For designers who don't have a UX review team, are plenty of resources that can help guide them with some best practices that will make their sites a more user friendly experience.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff is the web content developer for PhishMe, a security training and awareness company. He frequently writes about design, blogging and WordPress. You can follow him on Twitter @jeorl