UX design principles – 5 tips for great UX web design

UX design principles – 5 tips for great UX web design
29th June 2020

Following industry UX design principles can help create seamless user journeys that deliver great results. Increase conversions with these five tips for great UX web design.

What is user experience?

At its core, User Experience (UX) is a crossover of design, engineering and customer service. It encompasses all aspects of the experience journey while using a product or service. It takes into account how the user interacts with the product, how they feel when doing it, and how they get what they want.

User experience design provides a set of methods and techniques to understand each website user types requirements of the service. These UX design principles help organisations anticipate and provide better solutions for specific behaviour patterns. This results in a series of adjustments that make the user’s journey as quick and easy to complete as possible.

Why should your business care about UX design principles? 

Using a product for the first time can be confusing and there is an expectation a user should first learn how to use a product to make the most out of it. This is why products usually come with a user manual, but often, people don’t read manuals. This is true for websites. First time users are rarely prepared to learn new and unexpected patterns to get what they need.

A poor user experience reflects on the service and products a customer can expect from your brand. A website that is confusing and difficult to use will inevitably have a low number of conversions and repeat visitors; users are just not willing to struggle when there are other options at the click of a button. On the opposite end of the scale, a good user experience will have a structure, content, and functionality that helps the user through their journey. This ease of use and clarity of content builds trust and affinity in a service. 

Are UX design principles just a modern trend?

The term “UX” itself isn’t new, it has been credited to Donald Norman while working at Apple in the early 1990s as a Cognitive Psychologist. However, the emergence of UX for the web is much more recent – it has progressively evolved over the past 15 years from the need to make increasingly complex web applications accessible to a wider audience.

The adoption of UX design principles has made modern websites accessible and efficient with seamless user journeys. The success of a user centred approach has resulted in its application across other digital platforms. Mobile devices create an expectation of good UX for all things digital.

Good UX is now the norm and not offering an intuitive, responsive, user centric experience stands out more today than 15 years ago. The result is a negative impact on product performance, brand perception, and the competitiveness of the business.

UX encapsulates a wide spectrum of disciplines which form the overall experience including:

  • user research and testing
  • understanding user needs and journeys
  • content and interaction design

Each stage has a series of methods and techniques, but the ultimate goal of UX web design is to create a memorable experience that is informed by real users. Any user driven UX approach is valid and will ultimately result in a better product.

The following five UX design principles can be found across successful UX 

1. Don’t force the user to think

In his book, “Don’t Make Me Think”, Steve Krug said, “The fact that the people who built the website didn’t care enough to make things obvious – and easy – can erode our confidence in the site and the organisation behind it”.

It is easy to understate the amount of work needed to make something seem “simple”.

The people behind a product – stakeholders, designers, developers – carry a vast amount of experience which can easily be taken for granted or accepted as the norm among ‘real’ users. This commonly leads to decisions that are unlikely to represent the true needs of the audience they are designing for.

So, it takes lots of empathy with the audience, and time spent understanding their needs and motivations, to deliver an effective user experience.

This doesn’t necessarily mean lengthy research phases and endless user testing. Even a small sample of users can give you an incredible amount of insight into the behaviour of customers. From testing a user journey from end to end, or a specific feature or area, seeing customers interacting with your website will help you find areas of friction and opportunities to make the journey easier.

2. Be consistent

Users will come to a website with pre-existing experiences of other products and services they’ve used, and an idea of how things ‘should’ work. Designing a product with these patterns and principles in mind will give the user an experience they are familiar with, and familiarity will lead to efficient journeys and fulfilled needs.

This isn’t to say that breaking the mould should be avoided. A fresh approach or breaking away from the norm will give a memorable experience, but it will only be successful if it meets the needs of the user more efficiently than existing methods. This relies on consistency; familiar points of reference throughout the journey, relatable content that the user understands, and a consistent presentation of the User Interface and information.

The introduction of consistency, either to align with previous user experiences, or within a new experience, is intended to reduce the mental load on the user. This allows them to focus on achieving their need, rather than having to figure out a new system.

A heuristic review can quickly identify any consistency issues and areas that can be improved, along with highlighting common pitfalls in user experience.

3. Get to know your target audience and listen to them

All businesses and organisations have people with a customer facing background – these experiences are invaluable in designing a service or product. There’s the benefit of customer insight combined with a business and strategic perspective. However, it is easy to be polarised by these preconceptions, irrespective of their accuracy.

Nothing can beat the experience of real users; their drivers and pain points, the context of their needs, and how they understand the service. In understanding them, the experience can be designed around them. The journey becomes effortless, with content optimised for the customer, and a site structure that is navigable and user friendly.

User research can lead to the creation of personas and user groups to give focus to content creation, and the prioritization of user needs. It also feeds directly into Sitecore personalisation features. Pages and content can be scored based on these user types, giving the opportunity to personalise the experience to the user. This can help overcome the differences in the needs or behaviour between user types and increase the performance of key pages.

4. Design for humans

The human factor of website design and user experience is easy to ignore. Stakeholders can be wary of engaging users, with the worry of showing potential customers something that isn’t complete, or something that could be ill received. But, humans can be unpredictable. They will naturally find the path of least resistance, searching out a route that is obvious only to them and their own experiences, which in turn are constantly evolving.

The key to a successful site is a user experience strategy. UX doesn’t end with the introduction of visual design, nor with the handover to build and it should definitely not end when the website goes live. Using Sitecore analytics, the experience can be continually refined, finding areas that are underperforming, and measuring performance against marketing or business goals. As new content and functionality is introduced, the impact can be quickly assessed, or even tested with a select number or type of users with Sitecore A/B testing.

5. Complexity is good, confusion is bad

Some websites and products are complex in nature and can only be simplified so far. Take for example, the depth of content in a newspaper or university website, the rules and exceptions in the UK benefits system, or the range and detail of content in a large e-commerce platform. These systems and products can be daunting to undertake as a project and manage in the long run.

User Experience design is all about approaching the challenges from a user’s perspective, asking,

  • How would the user find the thing they’re looking for?
  • Would a user understand the name we’ve given this thing?’

A user centred approach will not always make things simple, but it can make it understandable. Speak in a language that the user will understand, categorise content in a way that makes sense to them, and form your processes to support the user in achieving their goal.

The more complex a project is, the more resources it will take to refine and deliver the experience. There are a variety of UX practices that can validate an approach without committing too much time or effort. A wireframe can quickly test a user journey or prototype functionality, a card sort can identify naming issues or confusion with a navigation structure, and design sprints can develop and test ideas with velocity.

Throughout our Discovery process, our project teams focus on the user experience to give a solid foundation of knowledge on which your site can be designed and built. The data and insight can help make informed decisions throughout the project, ensuring that ideas are guided by real user and business requirements. This also helps feed a wider content and marketing strategy, using Sitecore’s powerful analytics, personalisation, and Sitecore marketing tools to create deeper engagement with your audience.

Implementing UX design principles to your organisation’s website

Is your organisation ready to get more from its website solution through strategic design? At Kagool, we specialise in the design, build and optimisation of Sitecore websites. We’ve helped a long list of enterprises implement great UX web design following the outlined UX design principles, we’d love to hear about your project goals. Contact us today to speak to one of our experts about how we can improve your overall user experience.