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Insight into Website UX Best Practices

A few years ago both users and website designers praised image sliders, narrow fonts and flat vector art. In 2017, gradients, bold fonts and experimental layouts are making a huge comeback. While UI website design trends come and go, sticking to UX best practices remains the only way to engage visitors and convert them into leads. From a UX designer’s perspective, what are the key factors of website success?

UX design & why it matters

In order to explain the difference between UI and UX, let’s bring the infamous UI vs. UX ketchup meme back from the dead.

Insight into Website UX Best Practices

Here the shape of a ketchup bottle and the material it’s made of represent the so-called usability factor. While the glass bottle looks stylish and expensive, with a plastic squeeze bottle you can effortlessly pour ketchup on your plate without shaking the container or hitting it at the bottom.

Thus, user experience design is the art of creating functional and easy to use products – be it a ketchup bottle or e-commerce website.

However, prominent UX designers including Chris Compston considered the meme an “insult to the complexity of UX/UI design” and the passion they had for these disciplines.

According to Mr. Compston, it took Heinz over 100 years to create a squeeze container and encourage consumers to give it a try. The quality of their product (which is ketchup, not the container itself!) has improved over time, too. What’s more, the company’s design goals didn’t have anything to do with user experience: they simply reduced packaging costs and lured us into consuming more ketchup! In the end, Heinz has somehow lost its perception of a premium product: even though the ketchup is still of superior quality, the cheap plastic container mimics the design of other companies on the market.

The moral of the story is: neither you nor the custom software development firm you’ll address should get hung up on usability alone. 

UX design covers way more aspects; these include:

  • Accessibility (a website can be used by people with disabilities);
  • Utility (a website should serve user needs and offer excellent content);
  • Desirability (a website provides the ultimate UX; users appreciate it and keep coming back).

Also, we now live in the digital era. The growing adoption of smart gadgets (8.4 billion units by the end of 2017), AI solutions and AR/VR tech by consumers and enterprises has certainly raised the bar for business owners and web developers. 

Wikipedia, Google and Facebook now use machine learning algorithms which run in the background filtering bots and controversial content. Your website can be accessed from any device (regardless of its screen size and original purpose). According to Vanson Bourne/Sitecore 2016 survey, 35% of Internet users want more personalized websites and mobile applications – as well as fast reordering of repeat purchases, 24/7 online support and multiple (and faster!) payment methods.

How can a newbie possibly succeed in the competitive online market? By following website user experience best practices, of course!

Conduct research 

In a nutshell, the UX research term refers to the collection and analysis of user feedback. The primary goal of UX research is to understand your target audience and its needs and create multiple use scenarios for your product.

Neil Turner, founder of UX for the Masses, has compared designing a product without proper user research to building a house without a foundation: bad UX design will affect website conversion rates, and you’ll have to overhaul its architecture (which usually takes up to 50% more time and effort than creating a UX roadmap early on) or operate at a loss.

Insight into Website UX Best Practices

The benefits of conducting a UX research include:

  • Optimum website feature set;
  • Better understanding of your customers and their needs;
  • Clear website design requirements;
  • Unbiased user feedback.

How does it work in real life?

You want to start a hotel price comparison website with booking options. You analyze research data, create buyer personas (male and female users aged between 35 and 55 who earn at least $ 150 thousand per year and look for elite holiday homes) and define initial UX/UI requirements and website functions.

Your customers’ top concern is credit card security, so you should choose reliable shopping cart software and CMS (probably Drupal). 47.6% of Internet users aged 45-64 do not understand hamburger menus – and that’s a strong reason to consider different navigation options. Potential website visitors would also like to have access to basic travel information like currency rates, emergency phone numbers and sightseeing tips so you need to add a blog and currency converter.

If you do not possess the required expertise and human resources to identify the goals of UX research, recruit and interview participants and process user feedback, you can always trust the task to a vendor with a stunning custom web apps development portfolio.

Streamline website performance

  • Website loading time is the key reason for page abandonment – in fact, 40% of users won’t wait longer than 2 seconds;
  • 88% of Internet users are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience;
  • 1 sec delay in page response will reduce conversion rate by 7%.

Here’s how to improve website loading time and overall performance:

  • Make sure your vendor takes the mobile-first approach to website design and adds extra UI elements to its desktop version;
  • Avoid implementing heavy design patterns, layouts and typography;
  • Optimize images and use CSS where possible;
  • Reduce the number of plugins and extensions (which means “features”) to the necessary minimum.

Keep accessibility in mind

8% of the world’s male population suffers from some form of color blindness. 56.7 million US citizens – or 19% of the country’s entire population – live with a disability. According to Pew Research Center’s 2016 study, disabled Americans are three times less likely to have never used the Internet then individuals without mental or physical impairment.

Terrill Thompson, tech accessibility specialist at the University of Washington, claims there can be no universal Internet user profile. Not everyone will access your website using a PC, keyboard and mouse. Some people might surf the Web via a smartphone. Others turn to refreshable Braille and computer-generated speech output devices. Sometimes users are physically unable to use a mouse and navigate screens via a keyboard. But you surely don’t want these people to give up on your website – after all, they also share your content on Twitter, make purchases and enroll in online courses!

Insight into Website UX Best Practices

By creating accessible websites, businesses can significantly raise disabled people’s living standards and win loyal customers.

So, what are the website accessibility user experience best practices you should follow? Make your pages:

  • Perceivable (a person can access the data displayed on the screen). This basically means making text readable for visually impaired individuals and accessible to a screen reader. The images and videos you’ll use should also be associated with text and captions;
  • Operable (a person should be able to interact with data). A website visitor can use voice output, eye gaze tech, head pointers or mouth sticks instead of a mouse – and it’s important to still enable him to click on the buttons and links and fill online forms. That’s where keyboard commands come in handy;
  • Understandable (data is presented in a predictable way and makes sense to users). During the website design process, a UX guru should develop multiple use scenarios. That’s the only way to figure out what task a particular person intends to perform and help him complete it as quick as possible;
  • Robust (you should always add support for new tech). Enable support for new browsers and devices. Create dynamic interfaces that differentiate user behavior patterns and act accordingly. Use HTML for content and structure and CSS for presentation. Finally, make sure your vendor tests the website with accessibility in mind.

Provide assistance

50% of e-commerce website users would like to have an online assistant guide them through a complex transaction. These guys usually prefer to live chat rather than talk to a customer support specialist on the phone.

2016 was the year of chatbots – sleek AI-powered applications that process questions asked in natural language, navigate website visitors through online catalogs and make personal shopping recommendations. Although chatbots mostly dwell on messaging platforms including Facebook Messenger and Telegram, you can put one on your website, too! Users who engage in a life chat with a bot spend up to 30% more and are 5 times more likely to make a purchase.

Keep it simple

Last but not least, make your website UIs as simple as possible, thus giving users an opportunity to interact with content in a convenient way. Implement simple controls – after all, you don’t want customers to read a manual to find your contact page. By shortening online forms to just 3 fields, you’ll increase conversion rate by 25%. Replace complicated passwords with pass phrases (these are easier to remember and harder to hack).

Once your website goes live, you should continue collecting and analyzing user feedback in order to keep up with your customers’ ever-changing requirements and UX trends. When ESPN.com, a popular US sports cable channel, took time to poll their website regulars and made several changes to the website UX architecture based on visitors’ suggestions, their revenue grew by 35%.

Remember: there’s always room for improvement!

We don’t peddle trends. We streamline business.