Today, it’s hard to run a business without having a website that focuses on user experience design (UX). Simply put, this means developing web pages that are meaningful for your target audience and contribute to a positive experience. UX is about finding that ‘wow’ factor that brings users back to your website, but knowing what drives them away, too. What should you avoid when designing a website?
Why Does User Experience Matter in Web Design?
The concept of user experience is complex. Many layers create the visual elements, the text, and the interactive features that define how a user experiences a website.
What Is User Experience?
User experience means creating a design that will give the user a feeling of satisfaction. The more positive the user experience, the more likely they are to:
- Become a lifelong fan of the brand
- Share their experience with friends and family
- Leave an excellent review
- Make a purchase
- Trust the brand in the future
A big part of UX is understanding the user journey. It is the path a user may follow to reach their goal when visiting a website. For example, a user looking to buy a shirt will go on a clothing website and follow one or more paths to purchase. That person might want to look at the shirt inventory, so one path would take them to the menu and product pages.
Maybe the user already knows what shirt they want, so they might look for a path that takes them directly to a specific product page. They might even look to go directly to the “cart” to make their purchase.
UX design tries to make those paths as easy and obvious as possible. UX experience and user journey are both critical elements in website design.
These UX mistakes commonly frustrate, anger, or confuse website users.
Too Much Going On
You have just seconds to grab the attention of the user. Sometimes the best way to do that is to give them what they want upfront and don’t make them search for it.
When you clutter the website with design elements, you might drive traffic away, even if they are exciting or fun.
- Loud colors
- Huge headlines
All these things might be a little too much for a user. They are a distraction from the goal and can make achieving it too challenging. A user who has to wade through a bunch of clutter to find a shirt may either leave before buying or make a purchase and never come back.
Too Little Going On
At the same time, you want to use design elements that help the user complete their journey. Look to keep the design balanced while providing the user with what they need in an obvious way. They shouldn't have to search for a menu, for instance, or business information.
Less is more, but the user still needs to be able to find what they need. So use design elements that serve a purpose beyond just filling space. And, when possible, give the user several obvious paths to complete their goal.
Good UX web design uses elements that complement each other. There shouldn’t be a different typeface with every section or too many color palettes. It is an easy mistake to make when you are trying to build a website that is both functional and interesting.
Choose a theme, a color scheme, and a logo that represents the brand. Once you make those choices, don’t veer from them too far.
CTA stands for a call to action. It is your way of encouraging the user to check out a new product or take advantage of a big sale. A bad call to action is vague, or it may provide information but not a path to learn more about it.
- “Take advantage of our 10% off coupon today!”
That is not a bad CTA unless you fail to give the user instructions on how to access the coupon. Without a link or information about using the coupon, it is just frustrating. Many times a user will probably just pass it by without ever following that path.
The CTA shouldn’t be the star of the show, either. There is a reason grocery stores put the candy by the checkout. They want you to come into the store, walk around and get what you need, then see the candy on your way out the door. The candy is a call to action that gets you to spend just a little more.
The same is true for a CTA on a website or blog. Put it towards the end of the content, so they look at other things on the page.
Weak Use of Content or Whitespace
White space is the empty area around content in your design layout. While too much of it is distracting, strategically placed, it can pull the eye in the right direction. Designers use whitespace to break things up, especially blocks of text.
Poor and Irrelevant Imagery
Studies indicate that people tend to remember something better when they see an image of it. An image is also something the brain can quickly process, but that only helps if the images are relevant.
Graphics are an essential part of any website design, but they shouldn't clutter up the page, and they need to relate to the business. Also, images should be quality. If you use something fuzzy or pixilated, it won’t make a positive impression.
Few things will make a user bounce out of a website faster than confusing navigation. People are protective of their time, and making their path from page to page hard will understandably irritate them.
Keep the navigation on your website easy to find and fast to use. If they can’t follow their user journey in a straightforward manner, they will likely leave without completing it.
Missing That Target Audience
Understanding your core demographic is key to effective marketing, whether creating your next campaign or designing a UX website. The website should feel “right” to your target customers. Trying to fit too many styles into the mix makes the website look chaotic and unbalanced. Instead, focus on design elements that speak to your audience.
Hard to Locate Contact Information
Even if your company is strictly virtual, users still need a way to contact someone. Make sure that information is easy to spot. Add a “Contact Us” page, and make sure the link is visible.
Not Prioritizing Accessibility
Web accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought. Instead, it should be a priority, as businesses face mounting pressure for inclusion. A positive experience needs to be the priority for every user, even those with special needs.
Accessibility features include things like:
- Closed captions
- Alt tags
- Clear label
Accessibility expands your audience and will help you comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and avoid potential legal issues.
No Hierarchy of Information
Hierarchy of information refers to how designers point the user in the direction they want them to go. The goal is to create a visual path for the user to follow.
The concept of a hierarchy of information can apply to an entire website or a single page. The hierarchical arrangement of pages on a website creates a path to follow to complete the user journey. These elements would include navigation menus and sitemaps. Page elements include typeface, images, and color palette and draw the eye to the page's focus.
Non-Responsive Site Design
Responsive site design is probably one of the most critical web design concepts of the 21st century. When a website is non-responsive, it does not adjust for screen size. As a result, when a customer tries to access the page from different sized screens, it will load slowly or appear jumbled.
Responsive website design aims to offer optimized browsing for the user viewing the page from a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Responsiveness is not only a critical UX element but an SEO one, as well. Google looks for websites that are mobile-friendly and rewards them with higher rankings in organic searches.
Analytics gives businesses the tools they need to maximize their ROI with growth-driven design. They offer information about:
- User behavior
- User demographics such as age and gender
- Source of traffic
Analytics lets you see when page tweaks work and which campaigns drive the most traffic to a website or product page. Without analytics, you make assumptions and hope to get it right.
Poor Site Speed or Load Time
A fast website can be the difference between having lots of traffic or a high bounce rate. The longer it takes a website to load, the more likely the users will leave and not come back.
Site speed is an SEO element, too. If search engines detect high bounce rates or long loading times, they may knock the website down in ranking.
Designing for Yourself and Not Your Target Personas
When designing a website, it’s important to remember that you are not the target user. Personas are fictional characters that represent your target audience. Using them when designing the website helps you step outside yourself and see it from their perspective.
Focus on creating personas for users with different journeys. For example:
- Goal-oriented — Have a specific reason for coming to the website
- Role-based — What role does your target play? Soccer mom, outdoor lover, environmentalist, these are just some examples of potential roles to consider.
When creating personas, consider how and why a user might visit the website. Think about their backgrounds and what is important to them.
Broken Links and Outdated Information
A website should be fluid and is always a work in progress. Broken links and old information can frustrate a user enough that they leave and don’t come back. They can also interfere with page rankings.
It’s important to update your website and use analytics tools that help you spot broken links.
Best Practices for UX
There are some rules for UX design that can help you avoid pitfalls:
- Design for short attention spans — That will keep you from overwhelming users with information
- Design elements should work together — Colors, fonts, and images should all be in sync.
- Make pages scannable — Users tend to scan pages instead of reading them. Bullet points, subheadings, and whitespace can all make pages easier to scan.
- Focus on simplicity — Functionality and usability are priorities.
- Use visual hierarchy to your advantage — Create focal points on pages and draw the user’s eye to them.
- Create a sitemap
- Keep content concise and clear
- Do user experience testing throughout the web design process.
At LAIRE, we do more than design websites. We create user experiences. We specialize in developing websites using the Hubspot CMS and help local businesses in Charlotte, NC, and Charleston, SC, with their marketing needs. In addition, we work with companies throughout the world to develop lead-generating websites.