Understanding User Experience (UX)

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:

  1. Useful: the website content should serve a purpose and be original
  2. Usable: the website should be easily understandable and simple to navigate
  3. Desirable: design elements should convey positivity and encourage further use
  4. Findable: the content on the site should be easily findable.
  5. Accessible: everything on the website should be able to be used by people with disabilities
  6. 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 
  • Accessibility 
  • User Research
  • Usability Evaluation 
  • Information Architecture

User Research

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

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. 

Information Architecture

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: 

  1. Ontology
    • 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.
  2. Taxonomy
    • 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?
  3. Choreography
    • 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.

Website Navigation

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.

“the majority of readers spend fewer than 15 seconds on a page.”

3 Tools to improve your content’s readability

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!

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Hi Emma! Your blog post for this week was very informative and well-organized. I found the use of bulleted and numbered lists to work really well. They provided us with key definitions, concepts, and quick tips, helping to add variety throughout the article. I also appreciated the addition of the quote, “the majority of readers spend fewer than 15 seconds on a page,” near the end of the article. Its inclusion and emphasis feel warranted, especially considering the topic of the article. The section on Information Architecture outlined an idea that I had not heard of before, but made total sense as I read about it. I found it interesting to see how ontology + taxonomy = choreography. Describing the combination of these two important elements as a “dance” helps to demonstrate the importance of both elements and that one cannot properly function without the other. I did some further research on the choreography element of IA and found the article, “Understanding Information Architecture” (https://understandinggroup.com/ia-theory/understanding-information-architecture). It used the example of the Home Depot website to give some examples of questions that a website creator might ask in regards to choreography. The questions focused on a user’s experience searching for a specific color of orange paint titled Pantone 1505 C. It was interesting to see the concept of choreography applied to a specific situation! Some questions included, “does the experience surrounding Pantone 1505 C change if the user is on a tablet?” and “when does a user select the Pantone 1505 C during the process of choosing a paint? What do they have to know about painting first?”

    1. Hello Emma! This explanation of the user’s experience of a website is really well done! I like that you included the description of information architecture, especially the definitions of ontology (meaning), taxonomy (organization), and choreography (presentation). These definitions helped me to realize that designing a website and organizing the information is a lot messier than I realize. I think the process is less straightforward and comparable to the Agile Approach, a continuous loop that analyzes and evaluates each step. For example, when designing a new website, it is important to gather all the information you want to include. Making sure you have everything is important, so this would take a lot of time. Then, you would want to figure out how to organize the information, putting it into groups, and making headings and other things. Finally, you would want to organize the information. As linear as this seems, it takes a lot of trial and error and reorganizing before it will satisfy the user’s needs.

  2. Emma, I really enjoyed reading your blog this week! I feel like there was a lot of information that needed to be dissected this week and you did a really nice job unpacking it all and laying it out in a valuable, easy to follow manner for your readers. I found that your different sized headings, use of bold font, and bullets aided in the findability of the blog and were used in appropriate areas. I also felt that bolding the key words within the bullet points was a good way to keep the reader understanding what they were focused on as there was a lot of information to follow. Your use of visuals helped add to your discussion and enhance that learning experience for the reader as well. All of these visual elements really helped pull the factors from the User Experience Honeycomb together. The concept of Mobile-First was intriguing to me and got me thinking about what amount of websites are visited online versus from mobile devices nowadays. Through an article on Perficient I found that 58% of sites visited were from mobile phones and 42& of time spent online was actually on mobile devices! I found this super interesting and the percentages rather high which truly emphasizes the necessity of a mobile first user experience. Going forward I think I will be a lot more aware of how usability may or may not differ from the online to mobile experience.

  3. Hey Emma! I really liked your blog this week! It was very informative and educational. I liked the organization of your blog. The uses of the headings made it very easy to read and understand. I also liked the quote and how that looks in the blog. I like the fact that you used the same picture form the lecture in you blog to reexplain it and tie the two together. With learning about user experience, I have began to look at websites differently and pick out things I like and things I don’t. I liked the portion of your blog where you discuss clicking versus scrolling. I had never thought about the two in terms of user experience. This made me google different articles about user experience and I found a good one (https://uxplanet.org/51-research-terms-you-need-to-know-as-a-ux-designer-fac0d40a59d7) about the different terms to used when talking about user experience.

  4. Hey Emma! This was a very well made blog post about the user experience and I will say that many of the components that go into the experience has personally made or broken an impression of a site for me. As a writing consultant as well, I find the six factors of the honeycomb to be very accurate. Not only does this apply to websites that are for recreational use or otherwise non-academic, but academic works as well. Many times when I work with students, I see that they are using any blog they come across that uses information they like. Many times they don’t check if the sources are credible and not only does that hurt the student, it will hurt whoever comes in contact with that article next time. It’s important that website owners have credible sources so that the users don’t feel as if they must check everything for themselves.

  5. Emma,

    Thank you for writing such a well-organized, informative blog post. You did an excellent job organizing your content, and it made it much less overwhelming to go through it all. You only used two images in this post, however I think this was substantially more beneficial than including any more, The two images you chose to use not only help to break up the text and are appealing to the eye, but they actually helped me gain a better understanding of the information you are conveying. One thing that always felt like common sense to me that I didn’t consider to be part of the web design process was the Information Architecture you discussed. The idea of choreographing the ontology and taxonomy of the desired content is one that is very important in web design, because without the two working gracefully together, it is easy for a website to become frustrating for individuals to use. I also appreciated your discussion about the differences between scrolling and clicking on a website. Personally I find scrolling to be more convenient than clicking, like you said, but there are oftentimes websites that genuinely make the scrolling seem endless. There should be a threshold for what is considered too much scrolling. When looking into the User Experience more, I found an article that breaks down the entire UX/UI Design Process. I found it very helpful, and the 5 steps they break the design process into are excellent ways to orient yourself towards creating an effective, user-friendly website. The article can be found here: https://medium.com/nyc-design/ux-ui-design-process-for-beginner-753952bb2241

  6. Hi Emma! Your blog post’s layout was very well organized, I like how you used clear headings and lists to articulate this week’s topics to the class. I think all of your topics and reasoning for their importance lead back to the user experience honeycomb. Describing user research, usability evaluation, and information architecture leads to show what makes a website valuable to a user. I think that the concept of information architecture is really interesting, I never thought of website design as a process of building information in the most useful way. I found a site about information architecture at https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/information-architecture.html that said, “In order to create these systems of information, you need to understand the interdependent nature of users, content, and context.” I found this a very clearly described way of thinking about the factors of design. It also goes very well with the part of your blog about ontology, taxonomy, and choreography. I find it very valuable to think about the different components of information architecture as interconnected, rather than separate.

  7. I appreciate your simplistic headings and your use of visuals in this blog post. I think it is well written with a stylized voice but also professional. For example, I like the hamburger analogy in regard to collapsible menus. I think it find the tips and what to avoid the most valuable information in this blog. I think I agree with forge and smith that a simplistic navigational design is best. I feel like I often get lost on websites where there is too much going on and not enough of an engrained path for my eye to follow. Another reason I feel overwhelmed by a sites navigation is when the site does not change well with different sized windows.

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