User experience is the crux of product design, whether the product is a website, a mobile app, or anything else. While it should be obvious that the UX is essential to product design, some designers and business owners seem to underestimate it. The fact is — if your UX design clicks with your target audience, your product prospers and grows. If not, better luck next time or start thinking about how to improve a website design.
In this article, I would like to share the best and most essential UX tips I have accumulated in my professional practice. These should help you design products with intuitive and effective user experience.
1. Conduct a UX Review/Audit
When we get our hands on the project, we have the desire to immediately start running with it — but we leave not enough time for reflection. This approach is inherently wrong.
Take your time to improve web design, pull the UX team together or hire a professional UX designer, and analyze the current condition of the product. Conduct a UX review workshop, ask questions, and discuss them. Depending on the product and goals, a UX audit process may include: stakeholders interview, reviewing and understanding user goals, reviewing analytics, checking usability standards, heuristic evaluation, and so on.
After all the stages of the UX audit are completed, the expert should compile a report with all the recommendations marked by priority. Below, you can see the example of a UX audit report that I have created for one of our partners.
Would you like to learn more about the UX audit?
Do you want to know how to conduct a UX audit and what benefits it brings? Learn more in my recent article titled “Wait, Do Not Jump Into Redesign — Perform a UX Audit First!”.
2. Do not reinvent the wheel
Imagine that you come to the supermarket near your house, but every time somebody rearranges the products and you cannot find what you come for. That is exactly how your users feel if you often change the design of your web or mobile app.
Now, imagine that you come to a supermarket and the dishwashing liquid is right next to bread, which is next to summer hats. There is a certain way of how things should be done, and this is certainly not one of them. Once again, you cannot find what you need, so you grow upset and angry.
Most websites and mobile apps are structured really similarly. We have a logotype, a menu, a few content blocks, and a footer at the very bottom. Internet users are used to such an order of things, and they expect to see these elements when they open your website. That is the psychology of perpetuated habit and one of the most important app design tips for you to keep in mind.
UX designers often try to transform something usual for their design to stand out — in other words, they try to reinvent the wheel. However, it rarely works. Users do not like changes, especially, if these changes make them feel lost or uncomfortable. The best practice is to use layouts tried and tested over the years: for instance, the menu bar should be at the top or to the left, but not at the bottom. This is how you will make your users feel confident while working with your product.
3. Meet your user
The first question a designer should ask themselves is “Who is your target audience?”. Whom do you develop this website or app for? It sounds obvious. One of the web design mistakes may be that you trusted the data from the client. Often a UX designer starts working without testing the theory first — this can lead to misunderstandings.
How do you achieve this full understanding of your target audience? Start by looking at your competitors. Visit their websites or download their products, sign up for their mailing, analyze their marketing. Ask yourself what they are not offering the audience that you can offer.
It is useful to follow your users, so get ready to become a stalker :) Learn the age range, locations, and their tastes. See what questions users ask on the forums about your product. Here goes another tricky tip — ask questions on the forum yourself and wait for answers from your future customers.
It should not take much time, but it will help you choose the right design process and help you avoid mistakes in the future.
4. Follow the KISS principle
Keep it simple, stupid! This is the very essence of the KISS principle.
The phrase “keep it simple, stupid” is believed to have been coined by Kelly Johnson, the late founder lead engineer at the Lockheed Skunk Works.
The idea was explained by Kelly Johnson himself, usually accompanied by a short and simple story. Lockheed’s products were designed for the theater of war, and there was no time for some complicated maintenance. Thus, Johnson explained to his designers that each their invention, whatever purpose it served, had to be so simple that a man in the field with some basic experience in mechanics and a bag of simple tools could repair this invention. If the inventions were not simple and easy to work with, they would not withstand the pressure of war. One of the inventions that were the first ones to follow the KISS principle successfully was a Lockheed’s aircraft.
If you need another proof that the KISS principle works, have a look at this image of Microsoft Word with all of its toolbars visible. Try to imagine that you need to create a simple document with the help of such software. How long will it take you until you grow frustrated and angry?
Very often designers have the opportunity to create a Swiss Army knife, a product that will solve all the problems and issues of the user. This need is especially common when stakeholders manage the process: business owners believe that the more problems their software solves, the more users will be willing to pay for it. The designer's goal is to stop this flow in time and to keep the user's focus on getting what they exactly need without distraction.
The bottom line is “Try to avoid complexity in order to improve website design”.
There are two best tools for you to check if your product is user-friendly: CJM (Customer Journey Map) and user testing. Customer Journey Map is a timeline of all touchpoints between a user and a product or service. It helps to understand the customer experience better including all the journey steps and touchpoints along the way to achieving their goals.
As for user testing, it is a very complex process with its own methodology, rules, and best practices. In the simplest terms, the user research and interviews will help to understand what percentage of users need this or that functionality.
Do you want to find out more about User Testing?
The first rule of user testing is “Remember, you are not a user.” About this and more, read in my recent article “The Value of User Testing: How to Find the Hidden Opportunity?”.
Everything that has no importance and does not solve the user’s needs, has to be removed or hidden in a way that it will be available only when it is needed. Make an effort to improve user experience by developing existing features, not adding new ones.
5. Make it responsive
Responsive design is a crucial part of user experience. How often do you leave a product page if it does not display well on your phone? Me — almost always. This is how companies lose some potential customers. Responsive design ensures that your website looks perfect on all devices. According to TruConversion, websites with non-mobile-first designs are likely to experience only 20% of gains while mobile-friendly pages can generate up to 30%.
Knowing your target audience, you can even start with a design for mobile devices (Mobile-First approach). There are a lot of recommendations on how to craft an excellent mobile-first design, although not all of them are universal. Your design solutions should depend on the end-user and their pain points rather than trends and creativity.
Aside from your users, there is another side: a mobile-friendly website will help you perform better in terms of SEO.
6. Focus on content
The work of a designer does not end only with well-structured layouts. Work in a team and demand quality content, do not forget about UX writing. Be user-oriented, make sure that your communication with the user is clear, use the terminology your users are comfortable with. A sense of humor is also appropriate.
Well-written text and successful illustrations or photos greatly affect users' impressions and user experience. Again, you should do some small research about your users rather than blindly following existing standards.
An interface displaying difficult and weird language or poor-quality images will never attract the user.
7. Pay attention to accessibility
Accessibility is a huge topic, worth its own article. In terms of UX design, the job of a designer is to build a product accessible for everyone.
When one hears the term “accessibility”, they think about 3% of users with complete blindness, hearing loss, motor impairments, or cognitive disabilities. Yet, accessibility is not confined to this group of users, but it rather extends to anyone with a temporary or situational disability, such as color blindness. It is not about serving a small group of people, it is about improving user experience overall.
The aim of the UX team is to show empathy and to create a user-friendly product in general. The top recommendations to be followed are those listed in the guidelines by W3C.
Here are some of them that I find to be the most important:
Consistent navigation: You have to ensure that all components take place in the same place on each page.
Device-independent design: You have to focus not on beauty but on content, and your design should be displayed perfectly on all devices. Also, you should provide text equivalents for image maps or image links so that a person could click them without a pointing device.
Keyboard-only and touch-only users: For the users who have and use only a keyboard or only a mouse, they should be able to navigate through the website and perform all the functions with the help of either a keyboard or a mouse respectively.
Colors and contrast: Text readability and the design comfortable for eyes are essential. Text readability greatly depends on the colors you use and the contrast between the color of your text and of your background. There are multiple tools that will help you check the adequacy of the colors and contrast you use, such as Usecontrast and Colorsafe.
Design for forms: Input forms are very common for applications of any type. You use them for login, registration, making purchases, or leaving user feedback. Users prefer forms to be simple and short. Users should be asked to enter only what is necessary for a certain process to be completed. If you ask them to enter some irrelevant or excessive data, they will most likely abandon the form.
8. Make the User Interface consistent
The visual design also affects UX. Aesthetically attractive, stylish, and trendy interface, oddly enough, creates the impression of ease of use. This phenomenon is described in The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman.
To achieve this consistency you need to follow the same style and be using the same branding and design elements throughout the product. It is a way to encourage users to relate those design elements to the brand. General things are fonts, color scheme, button styles, illustration styles, and navigation.
These eight website design tips are simpler than they seem, but their importance is beyond measure. If you implement each of them carefully, your effort will pay off in the form of users’ affection and love. Still, high-quality UX needs you to invest some time and work. But if you do not aim for high quality, what do you aim for?
Would you like an expert UX designer to review your website?
Our professionals would gladly look through your software product and see if the UX audit would help. Contact us to learn more.