What is UX and why does it matter?
User experience (UX) is a broad term used to describe the overall interaction a customer or guest has with your brand or organization. This experience may span over many months or years and may be across multiple on-and-offline touchpoints. Within this article we are going to look at how good UX design can help you specifically within the context of your website.
Our goal as marketers is to create a user experience that’s free of friction and confusion, and which allows users to achieve their given task without issues. While this sounds rather obvious, it’s certainly not simple; in fact, UX is an incredibly complex field of study, in large part because we are essentially dealing with human behavior and so much of the success (or failure) of UX is rooted in emotional responses to the things we design.
Where did the term UX come from?
Let’s first start with the origins. User experience was a term first coined by Don Norman in the mid 90’s. Norman’s 1988 book The Design of Everyday Things remains to this day a sort of UX bible.
By exploring the physical and cognitive interaction between a human and an object, Norman created new philosophies on how this communication between the two could be combined to enhance the overall experience of using an object.
I walk around the world and encounter new objects all the time. How do I know how to use them?”— Don Norman
When was the last time you wanted to throw your phone out of the window because it didn't ‘work’? The truth is, it was likely working exactly how it was intended or programmed to work but the task you were trying to achieve wasn’t intuitive. This is where the term Human Centered Design (HCD) comes in. HCD puts the user before the design. By looking at the consumer’s needs, capabilities and behaviour, we can design a product or website that is intuitive and doesn't leave us frustrated.
In many ways, UX design is empathy for the end user of a product. It is understanding that people make mistakes and that we should design for error. More specifically to the web, following tried and tested conventions and norms gives a user confidence and ensures they understand what will happen when they click or tap a button. Because while surprises are great for birthdays, they’re not so good when it comes to UX.
UX is a broad term
The term UX has many elements that we can explore individually to better understand how we can have an impact on a user's interaction with our brand.
- Visual Design - This is the visual components of your website's design and how they all interact with each other. Visual design starts at the elemental level with typography and color and stretches to hierarchy and layout.
- Information architecture - This refers directly to the structure of your website, and is just like the folder structure on your desktop for storing family photos. It basically seeks to answer the question where does all of your content live and is this intuitive?
- Content Strategy - Does the page include all of the expected content? Content strategy is the art of deciding what information goes on page and in what sequence for the optimal reader experience. Remember: Less is often more when it comes to content strategy.
- Interaction Design - Taking all of the above elements of UX, interaction design looks to identify those key tasks and paths that a user will take to achieve them. This will look at the visual design of the elements along the way, the structure of the content and what information is available to guide the user on their journey.
Why does UX matter?
For many brands, their website presents the first interaction a guest or consumer has with them. If that experience is tarnished with poor user experience, missing information and long page loads, it contributes to a negative perception for the wider brand. To the inverse, good user experience will always convert better and will lead to brand loyalty, as well as an overall positive brand impression.
In short, if you want to know why UX matters, ask yourself this question: How would I feel if I learned that a person had decided not to visit my resort, buy my product or visit my destination based purely on the experience they had on my website? We’re pretty sure the answer is: Not very good.
How can I improve my user experience?
Our number one piece of advice is to listen to your audience. You will learn so much from just listening and interacting directly with them. If this isn’t possible, there are many other ways to gather the information you need to optimize your UX.
- Site Search - Often a site search will reveal golden nuggets. What are people searching for on a regular basis? Take this information and run some tests yourself. Pay attention to whether or not it’s easy to find that information; if not, be prepared to reprioritize that content.
- Customer surveys - Customer surveys are a great way to let your guests have a say, while also gleaning great insights AND making sure they feel heard and cared about.
- Chatbots or guest services - Identify the questions your team is constantly being asked (i.e., “what are the opening hours for X?”), and then go to the site and make certain that information is both available and easily accessible.
- How many of your users are coming to your site and leaving within 10 seconds? GA4 offers some great new interaction metrics to help you understand places where your users may be frustrated.
- Look at high exit pages in Analytics - Where are people leaving the site? Go to these pages and identify if you’ve led users to a dead end or if you’ve given them the opportunity to keep exploring.
Be warned - not all apparent problems are actual problems. Be sure to take all of this information with a grain of salt. Users are notoriously lazy and prone to making mistakes, so ensure you are seeing patterns of behavior before making substantive changes to your site.
There are some really incredible podcasts and Twitter follows to be had in this space. Here are a couple of our favourites:
twitter.com/LadiesthatUX and their podcast Ladycast
twitter.com/lil_dill, Katie Dill, head of design at Stripe
When it’s done well, UX should be invisible. In the words of the great Don Norman:
“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible, serving us without drawing attention to itself. Bad design, on the other hand, screams out its inadequacies, making itself very noticeable.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.