There are some common design frustrations that turn people away from a site faster than you can say “bad design.” You’ve probably been on websites yourself that turn you off instantly. User-centered design puts the user first and ensures every element of the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) mesh into an easy-to-use site. The usability goals in user-centric design take things up another notch.
The University of Washington recently decided to redesign their student portal and make it more student-friendly. After gathering input from students and staff, the result was a portal that sees about two million user sessions each month from students and teachers. You can learn a lot by studying the process they went through to create their new online presence, including surveying students throughout the redesign process to make sure each change matches user needs. They also offer a list of dos and don’ts at the end of the article that works well for anyone wishing to improve their usability.
Even though there are dozens of elements you can change, there are six main features you don’t want to get wrong when designing for user experience. Here are some things you can do to ensure your site hits all the right notes.
1. Design for User Happiness
To create a website your visitors love, you need to understand who you’re serving. Develop buyer personas that represent your typical customer. Survey them if needed and figure out why they are on your site and most likely looking for. Make the process of finding that information as simple as possible. Cut out anything that points to a different section than the one needed.
For example, one study found about two-thirds of people prefer self-service options on a website. If your site doesn’t offer a way to do business in a contactless way, leads may bounce away to a competitor.
2. Pay Attention to Color
Color has a considerable effect on the emotions of users. First impressions take a minute or so, and 62% to 90% of the impact is based on color alone. Not only should you choose color based on the mood of the page, but grab attention by using contrasting colors. For example, a red button pops against a light-colored background.
Calls to action (CTAs) should appear in an accent color, while the rest of your page follows your brand color palette as much as possible. However, don’t let your brand colors dictate your design if they don’t look good on digital screens.
3. Tap into Social Media
The majority of people online are also on social media platforms. Integrating your website with social media improves the experience for your users and makes it easy for them to share your content or ask questions.
Look for ways to mesh the two together. For example, you might add a box that shows your Facebook page’s feed to your home page. Automate new content pieces, so they get shared on social media with your followers. Above all else, keep users engaged. If they comment on a post about a new product, respond. Answer questions, address concerns, host contests and keep them talking and interested in your brand.
4. Get Customer Input
Throughout the design process, gather customer input. Remember the example of the university website at the beginning of the article? As they added new features and adjusted their platform, they had students test out the new elements and gathered feedback from them on what worked and what needed improving. Your creative process should be the same, even if you’re only making minor changes. It’s hard to create a customer-centered design if you don’t gather information from the people using your site.
If your pages are already up and you want to make it a bit more customer-focused, start by digging into your analytics. What pages are they visiting most frequently? How long do they stay on a page? What links get clicked, and which ones ignored?
Next, try some new arrangements and do some split testing to see what users respond to. Finally, come up with a list of possible changes and get feedback from top customers as you implement each adjustment.
5. Examine Your Own Biases
The way you view your website may be quite different than the way real visitors see it. Don’t just make assumptions about what people want to see from your design. Instead, make decisions based on valid data and then gather input from the people using your site. If you truly want to put your users first, you must get their thoughts on how well it performs for their needs. Data doesn’t tell the entire story of how a person moves through a website or their specific needs.
6. Test Everything Thoroughly
User-centered design looks at every single factor on your site and how it all works together. Looking at numerous working elements at once can seem a bit overwhelming, particularly if you’re new to UX design. One of the best things you can do to ensure you aren’t getting it wrong is testing.
First, pick up a cell phone and go through each page and interactive element on your website to make sure it performs as expected. Is anything cumbersome, hard to find, or ugly? Fix these issues first. Next, check the pages on your desktop computer.
Once you have a design that functions properly, conduct your multivariate testing to see which items need tweaking for user-friendliness. Finally, survey your users and find out what features they use, what isn’t working, or what they’d like to see changed.
Put the Focus on the Customer
User-centered design is about making sure the customer has what they need to make their lives easier when they do business with you. Put yourself in their shoes and try to see your design through their eyes. Customer-centered brands consider everything from the colors on the page to the length of the forms to the follow-up after an order gets delivered. What changes do you need to make to improve your customer experience today?
Lexie is a digital nomad and UI designer. If she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.