A Guide to Great UX

It would be safe to say that we all have our own ideas about what makes a good User Experience (UX). We have all experienced good and bad UX, but how do you define what made those experiences as they were? Furthermore, how do you create a website that you know is going to provide great UX?

 

User experience (UX) involves a person’s emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience highlights the experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership.

 

It should be simple; whether you are a web designer, developer or just the average Joe; in one way or another we are all web users. So it should just be a matter of finding things we enjoyed about the experience of using a website and replicating it in a design? This is where the difficulty of creating great UX lies. Take a look at the basic Google definition of UX at the left of the page;

 

You see the difficulties of creating good UX is highlighted in the definition. UX is the engagement of product to the user’s emotions to create an experience that is that is pleasant. Of course, the issue is that these qualities cross both the objective and the subjective elements of design; is it possible to create a website that is universally subjectively appealing- i.e: a website with all-round brilliant UX.

 

Brilliant UX doesn’t just pertain to one element of design, it isn’t about slick effects or emotive imagery; likewise it isn’t about navigational fluidity or user clarity. In truth it is about all of them and more. UX is an amalgamation of various design elements all harmonised to provide an experience that a user finds great all around.

 

So with this in mind lets take a look at some of the elements that make up UX.

 

Usability

Usability is NOT the same as UX! There seems to be a common misconception around this fact which results in the two things being bundled in the same pack. Of course, usability is a massive part of UX but it isn’t the only thing that makes good UX. Failure to distinguish the two things can lead to neglect of other important factors that need to be integrated into a UX conscious design.

 

Usability is important for ensuring that users of your website can access and navigate it fluidly with minimal effort. Whenever we visit a website we have a preconceived goal in mind; be it that we want to make a purchase, read an article or just have a browse, we always have some form of intent.

 

A design with good usability lets us reach our goals easily. We have all encountered websites which trying to get from the product page to the shopping cart seems to be more arduous than ten laps around the local supermarket, and it’s infuriating. When a design doesn’t focus on usability it can lead to a UX that is confusing, frustrating, alienating and overwhelming all of which leads to negative UX.

 

When designing a website that is usability conscious you need to bear your target audience in mind. You need to know who they are, have a preconceived notion as to why they are visiting your website and what their end-goals are. Of course, you cannot know this information for every single user of your website, but a good set of principles to bear in mind when designing a website which will keep you close to these factors are;

  • Accessibility
  • Relevancy
  • Clarity
  • Intuition
  • Credibility

By answering to these 5 terms when designing a website your design will provide a much better UX. now let’s take a look at an example of usability that is pretty fantastic.

 

Google got usability absolutely spot on with Gmail. Ok, this isn’t the most exciting or edgy example of great usable websites out there but you cannot not take away the fact that Gmail is easily a top example of a website with flawless usability.

 

So many of us use Gmail every day, but how often do you think about using it? Probably not often as Gmail boasts such ease of usability that it physically lulls your body into a state of autonomy and thus you send your emails in a semi-conscious state. You really do not need to press your brain to use it.

 

There are so many ways that Google have managed to make this possible through their design. The UI’s clarity is consistent and so easily accessible, it isn’t hard to use and you can pretty much work out how to perform all of Gmail’s functions through your own intuition. Google are constantly updating Gmail with just one purpose; to make it easier to use. This means that updates never interfere with UX whatsoever, Gmail always remains simple, quick and easy to use therefore you have absolutely no qualms with it, it is never an offensive experience.

 

Usability is a major factor in UX, Gmail provides great UX because it is easy to use. Don’t agree? Well cast your mind back to the last time someone asked you to show them how to use Gmail…I rest my case.

 

Aesthetics

The first real encounter that a user will have with your website is what they see in the first instance. The impression made at this point will then run throughout the user’s engagement, therefore the aesthetics are extremely important when it comes to UX.

 

The visual elements create the look and feel of your website, therefore they carry a lot of weight towards the emotional impact that will be inflicted upon a user. Emotions and perception go hand in hand and how your website will be perceived by a user is derived from how you emotionally affect them.

 

So you can essentially play with your users feelings through the visual elements of your design. If you wanted to make them feel miserable then you probably could with the right aesthetic qualities, but that in most cases would make a bad UX. If you use aesthetic elements that are amiable, inviting and positive you will provide a user with an experience that is positive and enjoyable. Therefore you will build a positive engagement and provide a UX that is memorable and emotionally pleasing.

 

Obviously it isn’t easy to always to create a guaranteed emotional uplift in your design, but if you try and capture these four qualities you will be well on your way to making sure your aesthetics provide a positive UX

  • Appealing
  • Memorable
  • Pleasant
  • Effective

 

In terms of amazing UX through aesthetics we need only take a look at Rubbish Taxi’s website. Rubbish Taxireally hit home with their website aesthetics. Their use of visuals really evokes an emotionally uplifting UX.

 

Their use of picturesque photography really captures the “rubbish removal” pitch that they advertise, and it really works. Similar feelings of unity and solidarity are all conjured by the successful employment of imagery, which adhere to Rubbish Taxi’s core values and create a UX that stirs all sorts of lovely emotions.

 

Consistent Branding

We all feel a lot more comfortable with things that we are familiar with, that’s just human nature. So it really goes without saying that consistent branding creates better UX.

 

If your branding is easily recognisable then it will generate feelings of familiarity with your audience and whether someone is visiting your website on their phone, tablet or computer; looking at physical advertisements in a shop or even watching an advertisement on T.V, if they recognise your brand that means that your UX has been memorable.

 

Creating consistent and memorable branding experiences are important because it creates familiarity which generates trust. If your branding is inconsistent and constantly subject to change then you will lose important recognition and those that do remember you will be made to feel uncomfortable by the fact that your inconsistency could reflect you as a business.

 

Good consistent branding commands a following of loyal customers. Think about how trends spread, it is a very visual thing. One person buys a product and then another person will do the same based on what they have seen. This process is made far easier when a product or brand are recognisable.

The superlative masters of branding have demonstrated this perfectly; none other than Apple. No matter how or where you encounter Apple you always know that it is Apple. Whether it be on their website, in their store or even handling one of their products; you always know it’s Apple.

 

This is because they are simple, effective and consistent in their design. They have built a following through delivering great products with the help of groundbreaking branding simplicity. The foundations of the relationship between Apple and its fan base is built up on this simplicity, their branding is easily adaptable to any format. This allows Apple to become more than just a brand, it is almost a small universe that once a customer has entered they know exactly where they are and are comfortable with it.

 

Once a customer has found a product that they recognise and are comfortable with it is then extremely difficult for them to change from it. By delivering a great product with a consistent and memorable branding you create a UX that provides comfort and recognition that is difficult to break.

 

Impact

The impact that your website has upon the user is the determinate factor in establishing the success of the UX of your design. Conclusions are made through experience, as are memories and you want to ensure that your design warrants positive conclusions through positive and memorable experiences.

 

Think about the last time you engaged with a website that you truly found mind-blowing. How elated was you to find it and how often did you return to it? What was it about the website that made your UX have such an impact on you?

 

Successful UX is based on making experiences like these for your user. Making a personal experience for a user that is engaging, humorous or emotionally stimulating creates a positive impact upon a user. This positive impact upon one user usually means that it is shared to a number of other users, because let’s face it, we like to share experiences that make us happy.

 

Creating a positive impact through your website’s UX not only gains you revisits, but it also generates a wider audience. The more people that your Website has a positive impact upon, the more people they will share it with and therefore your brands presence will grow.

 

Got a grip of UX?

As I said in the beginning of this article, UX is not an easy concept to grasp. There is no way to define exactly what makes a successful user experience, it’s far too subjective to boil down into a simple how-to. By implementing a combination of the methods listed above, as well as using your own intuition as a website user you can ensure that you are definitely working in the right direction to creating a website that will offer excellent UX.

 

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