You know a user experience (UX) design is successful when you can’t tell there’s a user experience. When a website’s design is so fluid and intuitive that visitors can easily find the information they need without frustration, it’s a success. UX is everything to a website redesign or refresh. The quality of your content, the beauty of your graphic design, and the reputation of a company matters little if a website is clunky and hard to navigate.
UX is one of those things you may not pay attention to when it’s done well. It’s when a UX is poorly developed that you start to notice. You might compare it to city planning. For example, you only notice how well Chicago’s cityscape is laid out if you’ve been to a place like Atlanta. Chicago’s design is logical and orderly while most would argue that Atlanta is filled with many distinct roads of the same name, odd intersections, and illogical layouts. The user experience for traveling in Atlanta is frustrating, at the very least.
1. Spend Time On User Understanding
The aesthetic appeal of your website is important, but avoid choosing designs based on what looks and feels good to you. Your company’s website isn’t for you. It’s for your market. If it doesn’t resonate with the people who will be directed there, it won’t help you improve conversion rates. A poor understanding of your target market will turn your website from a money making investment into a depreciating asset.
Develop data-driven marketing personas and take your exploration of the market one step further. Find out what other sites your customer base engages with and mimic or improve on the flow and user experience of the ones that garner the most attention.
2. Define A Purpose
Go beyond the generic answers of “marketing” or “to improve ROI.” While those answers are correct, they’re nonspecific. Try to develop attainable goals that are specific and measurable. Most companies will aim to keep a website redesign or refresh relevant for several years, so focus on a timeless purpose or long-term goals.
Try prioritizing the purposes of your website. For most companies, a website’s main purpose is to serve as an informational repository for the market or to classify and promote services. Other goals might be to put users in contact with tools like online quote generators or to act as an ecommerce hub. Still others want their websites to become a portal for customer interactions.
3. Don’t Overlook Basic Functionality
Website redesign is exciting. Your company can overhaul the entire look and feel of your current website and incorporate some of the ROI-driving trends that make a big difference in online conversion. But starting with the bells and whistles can spell trouble. Instead of looking at the “fun” aspects of the redesign first, start with functionality. Look at your analytics and make some solid decisions about site navigation and content. What’s the core purpose of your website? If you try to go too big too quickly, you may have to spend time backtracking and redesigning these basic building blocks.
4. Spend Time On The Homepage
Your homepage is the first opportunity to engage consumers. While you don’t need to include everything on the homepage, it does serve as the main access point for your message, branding, and site navigation. Try to keep any written content as simple and concise as possible. Some web designs work well with a screenshot of information, while others are gravitating toward long scroll designs. Choose the homepage design you need, but always place the most important content (sales language, CTAs, etc.) near the top where users will see it immediately.
There are certain elements users have come to expect from a website. For instance, clicking on the logo in the top left-hand corner should take a user back to the home page from any landing page. Your website homepage should always link to a contact page, content (services, products, programs) page, about page, and a news or blog page.
5. Invest In Responsive Design
You can eschew many of the current trends in website design, but not accessibility. Any website built or rebuilt today must include responsive design. Users are looking at company information at work, on the go, and in their living rooms. When a computer isn’t nearby (and sometimes even when it is!), people pull out a smartphone or tablet to look up information.
They expect that information to be readily available on whatever device they decide to use. As more and more products become connected to the internet, responsive design will allow companies to cater their web experience to any new device. The UX on these devices may even be more important than the desktop experience.
6. Set Yourself Up For SEO Success
SEO isn’t an afterthought for a website. A new or rebuilt website relies on SEO to make initial contact with consumers. Start thinking about Google algorithms and industry projections to ensure your website is focused on rewarded tactics and not old SEO practices.
This tip comes with a caveat. While SEO is important, you can’t base your web design around SEO. Incorporate it, but don’t overthink it. Instead of working on specific tactics that might be rewarded by search engines, most experts recommend that content development focus more on value for consumers and a seamless UX.
7. Collaborate Often
Websites are rarely a one-man job. Typically, the design is a group effort involving graphic artists, developers, strategists, marketers and others. In many cases, each aspect of a site has to go through an approval process. Collaborating is about more than communication. It means setting up a realistic and comprehensive timeline, developing a streamlined approval process, and being creative.
During large projects, many specific personalities may have strong input about the look, feel, and experience of a site. If a team can’t creatively synthesize those ideas, a website rebuild can take months and sometimes years.
8. Don’t Copy And Paste Old Content To A New Site
Websites are like living creatures. They have different looks and personalities. Often, content that worked in an old site won’t work in a new one. Make sure you add enough time and money to the budget to refresh your written, visual, and video content as well as the overall design. You may need to cut out information, reword your message, and develop interesting new content that does a better job of connecting with your market. Go back to the data, and write content your audience will consider valuable and relevant.
9. Stay True To Your Brand
Some companies get too caught up in the latest trends. They forget to consider what their users are looking for and their own brand personality. If your website doesn’t reflect your brand, mission, and goals, it likely won’t resonate as easily with your audience. Unless you make a connection between your content and your brand, your site might as well be one of countless others that gets lost in the shuffle. Take the time to integrate aesthetic appeal with your brand’s personality. The overall look is the first chance you have at keeping a visitor on your website.
10. It’s Not Over When It’s Over
A truly wonderful UX is one that changes subtly over time. It becomes better each time you load it – faster, more intuitive, and more relevant. When you launch your newly designed website, that moment is really the beginning. If you expect your website to deliver measurable ROI, you’ll have to make tweaks and updates to respond to user engagement (or lack thereof). What you originally thought would work well may not have a significant impact on UX, and there will likely be some unexpected surprises. Consider your launch as the starting point for a long-term ROI strategy, and choose a website development team you can picture yourself working with in the future.
Indeed, website redesign is more than just changing a few colours!
(Lead image source: velo_city)