By Jeff Kline

Blog

Designing Your Website for User Experience in 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

User Experience, or UX, refers to how a person feels when they’re using your website. One of the biggest factors in the user experience is usability, or how easy it is to navigate and interact with your website. Additionally, visual design is also important: A great design can evoke emotion in your visitors and make the content more enjoyable.

 

What gets noticed?

When someone visits your page, what do you want them to feel and see? Do you want a nice, clean, professional design? Do you want your website to convey a fun and family-oriented organization? Maybe, you want your site to have a crisp, modern, minimalistic design. Whatever your design choice, it should make you look like a legitimate, knowledgeable organization.

To accomplish this, there are a few easy first steps you can take:

  1. Have high quality images.
  2. Ensure your site responds quickly and smoothly as you scroll and click. It should have the feel of a well-done website.
  3. Make sure your website’s navigation is easily found and used.
  4. Call-to-actions and sign up buttons should be prominent and clearly labeled.

Below, we’ll go through some more in-depth tips for your website, and specific things you might have or want to have on your website.

 

Design

The overall website design is the first thing visitors notice when they land on your website, and this first impression can easily influence their opinion of your organization. Obviously, it’s very important to have a nice, up-to-date design in order to make a good first impression.

There are a lot of different ways design has an impact on user experience. A great design can also add emotional impact to content, promote readability, and show the personality of an organization.

Here are 5 design tips to improve user experience on your website:

  1. One of the first things, as mentioned above, that is important is the use of high quality images. Most modern websites feature large-scale images like these, so it’s important that these are high-resolution and high quality, not pixelated or blurry. The type of image and the quality can make a great first impression on your visitors. The Charlotte JCC uses high quality, non-stock imagery on their website.
    • While we’re talking about high-resolution images, it’s important to make sure the file sizes aren’t so large that they slow down your website load time. Slow loading webpages will really drive your visitors crazy.
  2. Another web trend that contributes to a great user experience is animations. As you scroll down your homepage, notice how the elements appear on the page. No matter how subtle, adding animated loading effects and hover states will impress your visitors, draw attention to certain pieces of content, and invite them to interact with the website. Check out Greater MSP’s website for examples of animation on a website.
  3. White space is a tried-and-true design feature. White space (which does not have to be white) gives your eyes a place to rest on the page, makes it easier to read text, and prevents your visitors from becoming overwhelmed with visuals. Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple and let the text do the talking. Spartanburg Chamber uses white space well, and it works exceptionally with their color palette.
  4. It goes without saying that all modern websites should be responsive. This is extremely important because many people are now visiting websites from their mobile devices and tablets. There are several design trends that we’ve seen popping up over the last year or so that make it really easy to view information on all devices, while also contributing to a great user experience.
    • Two of those design elements are the use of grid layouts and scrolling over clicking
    • Grid layouts are great for adapting to mobile devices, because the content can stack and rearrange to fit different screen sizes. The news section on this homepage is a great example.
    • Scrolling over clicking is a response to increased mobile browsing. Consider: It’s much easier to scroll than click to navigate on a phone.
  5. The last design element that to consider is the use of fixed navigation. On some sites, you’ll notice that the menu stays with you at the top of the page while you scroll down. This feature is wonderful for those who have adopted the “scrolling over clicking” design philosophy. It allows your visitors to easily navigate to interior pages without needing to scroll back to the top. See Greene County’s website for a great example of fixed navigation.

 

Navigation

Navigation on your website is another really important factor in UX. Typically, you want your menu to be clean and simple, to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to find what they are looking for. If you’re having a hard time limiting yourself to 7 main menu items, but you don’t really have enough content for a mega menu, you can split your navigation into two menus - a main menu and a smaller “utility menu”.

  • The Main menu is typically used for content like membership information, and descriptions of your services, classes, and events.
  • The Utility menu is for tools that people use to interact with your website (such as a contact form, member login, or maybe a business directory).
  • Also, when designing your menu, keep the 3 click rule in mind, which says that visitors should be able to navigate to any page on your site in just three clicks or less.

Things to remember:

  • There’s no “one-size-fits-all” navigation style.
    • It really depends on the amount of content on your site.
    • If you don’t have a large amount of content, you can get away with a simple, single line menu.
    • If you have a ton of content, you might be better off with a mega menu.
    • Be careful in wording your menu items. Don’t get creative here, just use familiar phrasing. Go with what’s obvious and what will resonate with your audience.
      • It’s also a good idea to look to other organizations in your industry to see how they are labeling their menu items.
      • The same goes for any icons you might use in your navigation. (An example of this is the magnifying glass search icon, or a gear for a settings page)
    • Location matters: Some menu items have their place.
      • Put your most important items at the beginning of the menu and the least important items in the middle.
      • “Contact” should be the last item on the list, located on the top right of the page, where your website visitors expect to find it.

 

Content

When you think about it, content is actually the whole reason why people come to your website. They aren’t coming to look at your cool design. They’re coming to interact with the content of your site, whether it’s to find out your hours of operation, read a blog post, or register for an event. Uxmag.com says that “It's inherently impossible to design a great user experience for bad content.” If the content isn’t there, your site will never give users the best experience they could have.

    • Your website should be designed to showcase the content, not the other way around.
      • You shouldn’t have to adjust your really awesome content to fit into a random design.
    • At Accrisoft, that’s what we do. That’s why we’re so focused on finalizing your site map early in the project process. Even our predefined theme websites are designed with content in mind...we’ve used our knowledge of the type of content that membership-based organizations need to include, and we’ve designed those themes to make sure they showcase those types of content in the best possible way.

That’s why content matters for UX. Here’s how you can optimize your content to create a great user experience:

  • First, make sure you create content with the end user in mind. Make sure you understand your target audience, know what kind of information they’re looking for and expecting to find on your site, and use language and wording that will resonate with them.
  • Make sure your content is valuable and useful (and not just there to fill space). Create ONLY high value content. Anything else will just be excess that clutters up your site.
  • Next, be concise. No one is coming to your website hoping to read a novel. They want the information, and they want it fast.
  • You should also format your content in a way that makes it easy to scan. Use headers, sub-headers, bullets, bold text...things like that.
  • Last but not least, make sure your content is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Nothing will hurt your credibility more.

 

Calls To Action

Calls to action are one of the easiest ways you can drive action on a website. You can effectively use call-to-actions to drive action on your site without being annoying or hurting the user experience.

  • First, you need to make sure your call-to-action stands out and gets noticed.
      • Using a button is a lot more effective than just plain linked text, but you need to make sure the button still looks sophisticated and fits in well with the design.
    • To help it stand out, you can use a vibrant color that contrasts with your background
    • We recommend playing around with the Call-To-Action module in the marketing Application of Freedom, which allows you to create buttons and drop them on any webpage on the site.
    • As far as your button text goes, you should use no more than 5 words. You want to get the point across as quickly as possible.
      • Make sure to use a verb, like “Join” “Register” or “Subscribe”
      • Try using 1st person (such as “Edit my profile” instead of “Edit your profile”) in your call to action buttons.

Landing pages

Your landing page is designed to earn trust and persuade the visitor to fill out your form or perform an action.

    • The first thing you’ll want to include is some persuasive content. This could be testimonials from current members, or maybe a promotional video. In fact, many studies show that using a video actually improves conversion rates!
    • Your landing page should have a single, focused message. Try spelling out the benefits of your offer.
    • Try not to link out to other pages. This will distract your visitors and at this point, you don’t want them leaving the page until they fill out your form.
    • It’s best to have the form embedded directly on the landing page, rather than making visitors click through to yet another page.

Forms

Forms probably have the greatest potential to hurt the user experience, since they require more interaction than, say, scrolling down a page to read something. To make sure your form provides a good experience, your goal should be to make them as simple as possible.

  • You want to use as few fields as possible
  • Use short, 1-to-2-word labels, like “First Name”
  • Use a simple recaptcha. We actually now offer this great checkbox, which is a lot easier than having to type something in.
  • End with a thank you page. It’s important to create a thank you page that will end that experience on a high note, but will also encourage them to continue exploring and engaging with your website.
  • You should also provide them with next steps. For example, for a new member, this might be creating their member directory profile. You could also share links to other content they might be interested in, like your calendar of events or blog.

 

Final Thoughts

UX is a tricky thing, because you only have so much control. You can’t control a person’s mood or mindset, or their level of technical expertise, or the hardware they’re using, or the speed of their internet connection. Just because you design and plan for a certain user experience on your website doesn’t mean every single person who uses your website is going to have that intended experience.

But what you CAN do is focus on creating the best, easiest, most enjoyable user experience possible. And if you do that, then 9 times out of 10, your visitors are going to have a great experience on your website.

Remember: User Experience and design best practices are constantly evolving. All of the design trends that are considered “modern” and “up to date” right now—things like super gradients and large image rotators—might be completely out of style three years from now. As technology continues to evolve, users are going to expect more and more functionality on websites. Updating your website isn’t a one-and-done deal. You’ll have to keep up with technology and the new user expectations that come with it. Here at Accrisoft, it’s our mission to help you do that.




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