Designing a custom website for user experience.
Website users (which is to say, all of us while browsing the web) are a busy, fickle bunch with a short attention span and a low tolerance for things that don’t work smoothly and efficiently. If site users can’t find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily, they’ll bounce away from your page faster than you can say “Add to cart” — in fact, research shows that most website users will leave your site in the first 15 seconds of entering*. For those who have poured hours of time and energy into their website, this can be dispiriting to hear. Yet this is exactly why it’s crucial to have a well-designed, user-led custom website.
What does user experience mean?
In the 1990s, along with the boom of the internet and technological devices, a man named Donald Norman introduced the term “user experience” into the vernacular. Also referred to as UE or UX, “user experience” basically describes the way we interact with the objects and systems in the world around us.
From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed (and even while you’re sleeping), user experience is part of your life. There is the way your cereal box opens; the experience of using your toothbrush; the process of scanning your train card or using a freeway; the app that allows you to order your lunch. As we know, good design is invisible — if you can do these things without thinking too much about them, this means the user experience is seamless, and therefore effective. Great user experience has the ability to take people from feeling ‘satisfied’ to feeling ‘wowed’ — think about opening a new Apple product and how the unboxing experience is a big part of the thrill.
Another UX pioneer, Peter Morville, gives us seven principles of user experience:
- Useful (the product or service fulfills a need or purpose);
- Usable (it’s smooth and easy to use);
- Findable (it’s easy to find);
- Credible (it appears trustworthy and authentic);
- Desirable (it’s aesthetically pleasing and resonates visually);
- Accessible (it takes into account the experience of those with disabilities or impairments); and
- Valuable (it delivers value and leaves the user somehow better off).
Where does user experience come into custom website design?
When it comes to websites, UX is largely about the ease and speed with which the user can navigate their way around the page and find the information they want. It also involves considerations such as how quickly the page loads, the relevance of the information provided, how aesthetically pleasing the page is and how well the copywriting draws them in.
“UX is about making a website really user-oriented rather than simply basing it around assumptions or business goals” says UX-trained PIER Creative Studio Manager Georgia Morrison.
While your goal as a business owner might be to secure bookings or sales, the user’s goal might involve simply finding more information to help them with their problem. The task of a custom website designer is to find the point where these two goals align.
Of course, creating a custom website is also about creating an experience that’s smooth and intuitive — as opposed to clunky — for your unique kind of webpage user. “Clunky” can mean pages that don’t load quickly, 404 errors, overwhelming amounts of information on the homepage, or key pieces of information hidden in strange places, for example.
“The goal with UX is to make the whole process enjoyable for the user, so that they never hit a speedbump, they never get stuck or frustrated and they never end up going to a competitor,” says Georgia.
What’s the process for considering user experience in custom website design?
User experience in web design is about learning and understanding the journey your users take once they arrive on your site, as well as why they’re there in the first place. This means putting aside your own assumptions and expectations, and conducting research (rather than guessing) on how your users operate.
“A lot of websites are designed and built around what people think a user might be looking for on a website, or what they think their priorities might be, or how they think the user might respond to language and prompts,” explains Georgia.
“Researching users early on is vital to plan and identify what it is they’re actually thinking and how they actually respond to content on your website — what pages they’re really looking for,” says Georgia. “It’s usually a lot of interviews with actual users and real life feedback and examples that become your basis for planning the site.”
In practical terms, this involves repeatedly testing and re-testing the website on various users to see which paths they commonly take. The results of this testing can be surprising for businesses who often don’t recognise their own biases or how much of their planning is based on their own background, experiences and technical ability.
At PIER, our step-by-step custom website design process looks like this:
This is where we meet with you to discuss your goals and begin to understand your target audience (or “users”). Depending on the scope of the website, this stage may involve reviewing your existing site and phone interviews with people who fall within your user group.
We pull apart the various pages we now know are needed on your site to create a visual map.
We start to plan the hierarchy of the pages, organising the information architecture and functionality.
The aesthetics: We ensure your branding is consistent across all pages of your site and look at the accessibility of the design.
Our in-house web developer, Josh, builds your custom website so we can begin to test it.
Testing and QC
We explore how users move through the site and ensure the journey is intuitive. We then check that the site works across various browsers and on mobile and make improvements wherever needed.
Go live (launch!)
We get this thing off the ground, taking it from the testing stage to being a live domain/URL.
We optimise all pages so that the site is “findable” and appears in search engine results.
We train you so that you’re empowered to make simple website updates yourself.
Maintenance and support
We provide ongoing support and maintenance so that your site is secure and working optimally at all times (includes theme and plugin updates and quarterly backups).
The end result is a custom website that your target audience enjoy using.
Ready to dive in?
To find out how PIER can work with you to create a custom website that achieves your business goals and allows for a great user experience, get in touch today.