Users.

Those guys are jerks.  Stupid dumb jerks.

Seriously, why are they using IE8?  Who even uses Internet Explorer anymore, much less version 8.  They have to realize, there are like, 4 newer versions of the software, right?  Are they also still using up free minutes from those AOL discs that got mailed to everyone in the late 90’s?

Today’s ever evolving web design and software trends are becoming more complex, not less.  The problem becomes, how do we help dumb people navigate on your website.  Obviously you’re not dumb, you’re reading our blog post on User Experience, but you know who I’m talking about.  Admit it, you know at least one person who, when they open their mouth, you think “Okay…here we go”.  As more and more people get internet access, simplifying the user side of complex software is but one of the big challenges that needs to be addressed by User Experience.

User Experience

That nebulous, borderline meaningless term that gets bandied about by web designers, boils down to essentially this:  Can users navigate through your website easily, while also enjoying the experience?

 

Or more to the point: Can stupid people use your website, and is it interactive and pretty?

 

For those who are a little slow, I guess we’ll explain why this is important.  Let’s say I’m the average internet user, and I would like to purchase my favorite brand of soda, OK Soda.  To be fair, OK Soda is no longer made, and has thus become the Holy Grail of delicious sugar flavored bubble waters, on account of it’s refreshing taste and overall excellence, but that’s beside the point.

Now, as an internet user, let’s say my google search results (sorry, “search engine” results…wouldn’t want to alienate both members of that all important “Bing” demographic) has two good results.  The first, is an incredibly complex site, with tons of cool features, a lengthy load time, and lots of neat, zipping graphics, but no intuitive way to navigate.  Clearly the designers are show-boating, and it’s really cool, but I just want to buy my product.  After two or three minutes, I get bored and frustrated.

Result number two is simple to use, straightforward, and I can easily purchase my delicious can of 15 year old OK Soda, but the site looks like a geocities website.  Poor color choices, bad contrast, ugly images, and overall, it looks like muppet barf.  But it’s not getting in the way of my sweet, sweet soda treat.

Which site do you think I’m going to use when I need to buy more of my precious, precious beverage?  It’s obviously going to be the site I can make sense of, and order quickly from.  This is a case of a company losing money and customers, because they didn’t factor in the ever important need to make their website Usable.  Usability, which has erroneously become synonymous with User Experience, is only one small part of User Experience, but you get my point.

“Well that’s all well and good” you say, “but if you’re so smart, how can I ensure I have top notch User Experience on my site?  You really think you could do better, you fat, blogging internet loser?”

Well, first of all, that’s rude.  This is a blog post, not the IMDB message boards.  But to your point, there are a couple easy things you can do to improve the User Experience of your website.

  1. Put together an ideal User Flow Chart.  This should be done from the perspective of a customer, what would their ideal website experience look like.  Then compare that with how your website actually functions, and make it look more like your User Flow Chart.
  2. Have you tried, oh, I don’t know, asking your Users what could be improved?  Try a user survey, you’ll learn a lot, and will probably get some suggestions you and your team wouldn’t have other wise thought of.
  3. Study your competition.  Have you ever noticed how a lot of design trends have been copying the big guys, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.?  That’s because they’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to get users to enjoy and repeatedly use their website.  If your major competition is doing it better, learn from them.
  4. Audit your Design Patterns.  What does that mean?  Are you using rounded corners on your boxes in some spots, and not in others?  Does text line up cleanly with images?  Do you use tabs or accordions to simplify a dense area of information?  Make sure that your design choices make sense, are intuitive, and are consistent across the whole website.  A sloppy, slipshod, random website can be very distracting and unpleasant.
  5. Create a Content Guide.  This will help you ensure the design is universal across your site.  What fonts should be used, what logo and where should the logo be placed.  If you have multiple people working on a site, this can help them not to work at cross purposes.

Remember, User Experience is hard to define, it’s just something you know when you see it.  So take your time to fully understand what your clients are wanting to see, and make your website as friendly as possible.

Or don’t.

You know, if you don’t want people to actually use your website.

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