UX (or User Experience design) encompasses all aspects of a person’s interaction with your company and is an essential part of your brand. It includes everything from a person simply visiting your website and how that looks and feels for them to what it's like when they eventually pick up the phone to call you, place an order or have any level of transaction with your company and the impression they are left with.
For this article, we will be talking about your website only. Simply put, your website’s UX is how it feels for people to use and interact with it, while the UI (or User Interface design) is purely how it looks and works.
Throughout my 30 years of creative experience I’ve designed, improved and reviewed hundreds of websites and I’ve seen the good, bad and ugly ones. So, I’d like to share the 4 most significant UI/UX fundamentals you need to get right to boost your website’s performance and get results.
Your website’s structure and navigation are intrinsically linked, and the navigation should be clear and simple to use and not overwhelming or confusing for users. Therefore, one of the best ways to start planning your site is to work out its structure.
To do this, print the name of each page onto a separate card (or use an online whiteboard) and then group them into logical sets, such as putting “about us” and “our team” together. Keep doing this until you have up to 5 or 6 sets and then think of a name that labels each set. This name will then become the main navigation link so that you may end up with something like:
“who we are” - “what we do” - “why we do it” - “who we do it for” - “news and articles” - “contact.”
Then consider each label and see if there is a more straightforward way to describe it, not shying away from commonly used names such as “about us” instead of “who we are” and “services” instead of “what we do.”
You might find a lot of content inside one set, such as a list of services inside the “what we do” section. If so, you might want to subdivide that section further by following the same process as before.
People will want to navigate your site at their own pace, and making content easy to find and in a logical grouping will make the experience much more enjoyable.
You probably know about the “fold”, the idea that certain content needs to fit at the top of the page that is viewable in all browsers without scrolling. But try not to fall into the trap of getting as much content as possible above the fold. Doing this will result in a cramped and messy design that lacks focus, so users will struggle to know where to look and what to click on, which could result in them not interacting with your site. (There is an argument for ignoring the idea of a fold altogether, but that’s another article!)
Instead, take some time to prioritise your messages so you have a primary one (that can sit above the fold). Then, allow the user to discover the rest by scrolling down the page or using the navigation to find information on other pages.
Design-wise, don’t be afraid of “white space”. Designers will often use space to draw attention to content within it, which can be incredibly effective and make a busy site feel easier to digest. Asking a designer to remove white space “to move some text up higher on the page” might end up with the content looking overwhelming, and you risk deterring people from viewing it rather than engaging with it.
Another critical design aspect is the call to action (CTA) buttons. Try to have one primary CTA in the header and maybe some secondary ones tied to each content block further down the page.
As you have already structured your site and prioritised its main message, your primary call-to-action should relate to this.
Avoid ‘click here’ as a call to action - it’s too vague. CTAs should look obviously clickable so saying ‘click here’ is a waste of valuable content. Instead, describe what will happen when users click on the button, such as “Register”, “Download eBook”, or “Read Testimonials”, etc. (the same rule applies to text-based links too). This makes it clearer for the user and improves usability.
Ask yourself, “is it obvious what the result will be by clicking this button”? If not, change it.
Creating engaging content is an art, and we would recommend working with a copywriter to get it right, but as a guide, remember that homepage content is quite different to, say, an article. On the homepage, you need quick bytes of information that are easily scanned by users trying to find information.
Blogs, case studies and other information-based pages should be well-considered, structured and most importantly, authentic.
Authentic content will build trust in the user, and having that content displayed in a conversational and friendly manner (as opposed to something that feels overly salesy) will reinforce that trust. An obvious tip is reading it aloud to understand how it sounds. Imagine someone saying it to you, and think about how it would make you feel to hear it. Does it sound friendly, challenging, desperate, or genuine?
Gated (high-value) content is also an excellent way to engage your audience and generate leads, and you will find that people who trust your website are more likely to give you their contact details. However, the content “behind” the lead capturing form should be high-quality, relevant to their needs and exactly what you promised them. Allow people to contact you when they are ready to, and make it easy for them to do so, but don’t push them into it for the same reason. They will feel pressured and not respected.
Respect your website users, and they will respect you in return.