One of the most frequent and blood-boiling problems that UX professionals face is that everyone thinks they can weigh in on their work without understanding it.
Smiling while holding back an angry tirade is their pastime as we bark at them, insisting that a page needs to be more “dynamic”. With so much demand in this area, we’ve collated the most common UX issues and why they’ll have a negative impact on your business.
As marketers, our main job is to get into the head of the consumer and understand the journey they take to purchase products and services. However, when it comes to putting together a website, any rudimentary analysis often gets thrown out of the window, and UX often goes out the window in favour of personal requests.
As a result of this, many websites make sense to their creators but no-one else, which can make for a confusing experience. Similarly, the UX process shouldn’t be confined to the development of the site. UX must also be taken into account when using the product itself, and it must make sense to the consumer.
To avoid such issues, you should employ a two-step process to analysing your audience and ensuring your interpretation is correct:
By profiling your consumers, you can understand their needs and what information they might be searching for before encountering your product. A simple way of doing this is to pick out one or two USPs and consider the nature of your consumer’s relationship with them. Profiles can either cover broad groups or go into detail on how individual consumers may behave, but either way, they will help determine what your site needs.
Once the profiles are set, you can get cracking with the creation of all aspects of your site. What’s often overlooked at this stage, given that everyone is usually keen to get it live, is that the site needs to be tested in terms of the goals you want your consumers to achieve. About five users per profile should give you enough feedback to work from, but if you only have one or two profiles, you may want to stretch to about 15 users.
Before any copywriters start getting precious, one thing must be made very clear: copywriting is a part of UX. If instructions or explanations aren’t clear, then the consumer’s journey can be severely compromised. It may be that such directions aren’t written in a particular “tone of voice”, but small issues like this can be ironed out, as the priority must be whether the user understands what they’re supposed to be doing.
To take a common example, when consumers fill out a form but happen to miss out a box, they will get an error message. All too often, the copy is something akin to “Invalid Submission”. The reason for this is simple – usually that the developers have used such language to correctly describe the issue. However, someone less internet and tech-savvy may see this and not realise all they need to do is fill in a text box, and instead navigate away from the page and never complete the transaction.
A vital part of UX is making sure that the copy clearly and concisely communicates your intentions to the intended audience rather than those who already use it. Once again, this is an example of how user testing can help you avoid issues when pushing a new site live.
There aren’t too many sites that are only ever accessed on one platform, which means that you should never design a site with just one in mind. Unfortunately, this still happens on a fairly regular basis, as once again, the people implementing the website fail to recognise the consumer journey.
Although you can optimise your site for one platform or the other, you should still consider the experience of someone visiting the site via the less used medium. A possible exception can be for any site which has an app that consumers can download, but even this is no excuse for a poor mobile site. If you do have an app, encourage consumers to download it, but don’t make the site unusable without it, as many people will use this as a perfect segue to leave you behind for good.
Our old friend the user testing exercise can help assuage any issues caused when consumers access your site through mobile and ensure that everyone gets a seamless experience no matter where they’re accessing the site from.
From an aesthetic and logical perspective, a site can be perfect but still give your consumers a poor experience. This is because the performance of the site will shape how they interact with the site almost as much as the design itself. On mobile, you have less than three seconds before users start abandoning your site in droves, so performance is a crucial part of UX.
With this in mind, performance shouldn’t be an afterthought. Any UX professional worth their salt will consider the ramifications of adding features to a site before doing so. A high-res image on the homepage may look great, but if most of your consumers are on mobile and the file is incredibly big, they won’t get the chance to see it before giving up as a result of a slow response rate.
Furthermore, the design must take place from the perspective of a slow connection. Any site will load quickly enough with a strong internet connection, but you should also consider how long it might take if the user has poor service or is using a slower network (e.g. 3G). By building from the bottom up, you can make exceptions where truly necessary without having to exclude consumers.
Continuing on the theme of exclusion, a rising movement within the UX industry is to make a concerted effort to create websites that allow people with disabilities to experience the site without a marked difference. If the people building the site haven’t taken this into account, there are a whole host of ways that some people may find themselves struggling to use it.
Colour contrasting is one of the best ways to make your site accessible, as this will allow partially-sighted and colourblind people to use your site without any problems. Content also needs to be easily accessed, with relevant tags explaining to both the consumers (and the software that may be interpreting the site) what is on the page (e.g. alt text for images).
Sites should also be navigable without a mouse, which means an embargo on carousels, and video or audio content shouldn’t play automatically. Another commonly overlooked accessibility issue is that resizing the text mustn’t render your site unusable.
While it might be difficult from a practical perspective for you to user test all of these features, by taking the time to do your research before starting the design process, you can ensure that no-one is left behind on your website. For a full run-through of accessibility standards, check out this article from the Interactive Design Foundation.
While we all make mistakes, and no doubt there will be plenty in the future, you can mitigate such errors by taking the time to follow due process and assess your consumer profiles before starting and test your website once it’s been completed.
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