User Experience (UX) focuses on understanding the values, needs, and abilities of users as well as the goals of the business. Successful User Experience design works to improve the quality of interactions and perceptions of the product. The root of a successful UX is whether or not the user finds the interactions with the website valuable. According to (HYPERLINK) Peter Morville’s User Experience Honeycomb, there are six factors that contribute to a user determining value:
- Useful: the website content should serve a purpose and be original
- Usable: the website should be easily understandable and simple to navigate
- Desirable: design elements should convey positivity and encourage further use
- Findable: the content on the site should be easily findable.
- Accessible: everything on the website should be able to be used by people with disabilities
- Credible: the website should be trustworthy, and the content should be believable.
The field of user experience is broad and encompasses many other disciplines. Usability.gov lists the following as related fields:
- Project management
- User Interface Design
- Interaction Design
- Visual Design
- Content Strategy
- Web Analytics
- User Research
- Usability Evaluation
- Information Architecture
User Research is conducted through observation, task analysis, and feedback to better understand the impact that different designs have on the user. According to Usability.gov’s article on the basics of user research, many types of tests can be conducted at different stages of the design process to tell you more about how your website is actually performing.
Usability evaluation happens after websites are created. Tests are conducted to measure how easily and intuitively the site can be navigated, how efficiently tasks are carried out, the level of user satisfaction, and how often and serious user mistakes are made. All of these results are then used to refine and improve website usability.
Of all the subfields, Information Architecture, or IA is most connected with User Experience. Essentially, Information Architecture is the process of deciding how to arrange information for maximum clarity, and this process is involved in everything from software development to grocery store schematics. Noted by the L.A. Institute, “we like to say that if you’re making things for others, you’re practicing information architecture.” Since the nature of user experience is making the website experience most successful, IA is used deep within UX.
Critical Components of Information Architecture
The presentation on Information Architecture explains the three critical components as:
- Ontology refers to the meaning of content. This can have different implications based on geographical region considering different dialects and cultural customs. It can also apply to icons, symbols, and colors that are associated with specific connotations. For example, red is generally indicates negative while green indicates positive.
- Taxonomy refers to the organization of content. Is it exact? Meaning, does it have a natural order or objective category such as an alphabetical order or list of geographical regions? Or is the content subjective, including content such as topics or tasks?
- Applying ontology and taxonomy into a “dance” that allows users to interact with, and flow through the website smoothly. An important component of this dance is the way each user navigates through a website.
The navigation system is how users travel through a website. It tells you where you to go next, or how to get to a certain destination. Having a successful navigation system also contributes to SEO. Google and other similar sites can tell when a user has difficulty navigating through the website, which will end up hurting the website’s search rankings.
What Website Navigation Looks Like
- Scrolling and Clicking: Scrolling, especially now, is a popular way that users navigate through a website and clicking encourages further topic exploration.
- Menus and Submenus: Structural hierarchy, the most easily recognizable form of navigation.
- Icons, Images, and Buttons: : These are eye catching, identifiable, and very effective. Banners and logos almost always redirect you to the landing page, and universal icons tell you where to go to look for places like the shopping cart and settings.
- Linked Text: A simple way to help users explore related content.
Desktop and Mobile Navigation Strategies
The best navigation design practices for desktop viewports according to Forge and Smith is to follow a simple, less-is-more strategy. Having a clear and concise menu is becoming much more popular than the collapsible menus, also called hamburger menus. This allows the website designers room to play with the use of breadcrumbs, which help the user move through the site to find what they are looking for instead of using the back button.
Collapsible menus on mobile viewports seemed to have become the standard because it allows for more content to be readily available. Although hamburger style menus are convenient, Forge and Smith points out that studies have shown the increase in use of a footer navigation over a header navigation, and that thumb-zone menus can be a stronger choice over the hamburger.
Tips for Website Navigation Design
- Simplicity is key
- Know your audience
- Use pre-existing web design parameters
What to Avoid in Website Navigation Design
- Location confusion: Is the navigation menu in an unexpected place?
- Too many menus: This tends to limit engagement
- Ambiguity: Elements should have a clear and intuitive purpose!
- Information overload: Keep it simple
Mobile-First: Necessary in UX
Mobile friendly experiences are more important now than ever before. According to TechCrunch, back in 2018 Google began boosting websites that use a mobile-first strategy to better accommodate the majority of users, are those who use Google on a smartphone. Websites that are designed for desktop viewports, or websites that have a longer load time are now lower on the search rankings. This especially should be kept in mind when designing websites because more engagement means higher rankings
Scrolling Vs. Clicking
User Experience is tied to user engagement. How each website visitor interacts with the content sets the tone for the whole relationship, which is why scrolling vs. clicking has become an important decision to make. Rather than having a fixed amount of content on the screen, scrolling allows web designers to include an infinite amount of information on a single webpage. On the other hand, the use of clickable links lets jump to different pages effortlessly.
Why Choose Scrolling?
We’re conditioned for scrolling. It’s how people have navigated social media, online articles, google search results, etc. for years, and it’s universal. Scrolling is a big part of using the desktop, mobile device, and tablet, and it allows for information to be spread out and easily understandably. Scrolling provides quick content delivery, it doesn’t require any commitment, and users are able to browse at their own pace.
What About Clicking?
Clicking can’t be avoided, either, but clickable links must be used with more caution. The key with clicks is to make them count. According to Forge and Smith, if not used properly, they can “become a barrier between your user and their goal.” The user must make a decision whether or not to actually click, so they shouldn’t be placed too early on the page and should always be informative and intuitive.
Tips for Clicking:
- Don’t make it mandatory: Nobody wants to feel forced to click on a link.
- Make them easily accessible: Especially on mobile devices.
- Use them cautiously: Don’t overload the content with links.
Beyond the Decision
Deciding to use a scroll or click feature isn’t the ultimate deciding factor for UX. According to Forge and Smith, the decision on whether or not content should be scrolled or clicked won’t matter if your content isn’t readable. Readability refers to the content’s ease of comprehension and engagement. This article discusses the importance of improved readability and notes that “the majority of readers spend fewer than 15 seconds on a page.” If the content effortlessly understood by the user, chances are they won’t continue to engage. On the other hand, when content is readable and the average user spends more time engaging, this actually boosts the website’s SEO.
Getting deep into the world of user experience can seem daunting, but it can also be exciting and fulfilling to put these tips and tricks to use. Now go see what kind of seamlessly intuitive website you can create!