January 7, 2021
11 min read
User experience (UX) refers to the feeling a person (user) has when interacting with a given platform or process.
Put simply, UX is user-centered design.
In the current context, user experience is a way of evaluating design choices on websites, software, and applications by placing the needs and wants of the user at the forefront of your design principles.
As websites and applications have increased in complexity so too have the systems that we use to create them.
User experience has become an integral part of the design process. The success of a product or service often depends on user perception. Does it offer value? Is it useful? Is it enjoyable to use?
UX designers are the people who work to improve user experience. Largely, their role is to analyze and evaluate a system with the user in mind.
Their work is to consider ideas of utility, accessibility, and understanding of values, and efficiency.
The term “user experience” is generally credited to Dr. Donald Norman, who held the title of user experience designer at Apple in 1993.
It marks the start of a movement in the technology industry to move away from focusing on the needs of a small group of experts and towards those of the average daily user.
One misconception that is even common among UX designers is that user experience and usability are the same thing. Usability is an important aspect of UX but it is not the whole story.
User experience, UX design, and usability are subtly different. UX design encompasses the entire experience, user friendliness is just one part of that.
User experience is a measure of how a user ‘feels’ when interacting with a system as a whole.
Usability, meanwhile, is a practical metric that addresses efficiency and effectiveness – it is mostly concerned with making a website easy to use.
UX is a process. It takes account of less tangible factors such as the relationship between the user and the product.
The aim of UX is to utilise user research to create enjoyable user experiences. It is about creating products that are relevant and meaningful.
UX designing encompasses aspects such as interaction design, visual design, information architecture to ensure that a user has a pleasurable interaction at every stage in the process.
UX means user experience design and UI means user interface design. These two processes are often conflated into lazy definitions of UX/UI design but it is important to know that UI is a distinct system.
UI is a user centered design system and its focus is to make the interface of the asset in question as intuitive as possible.
A user interface is the point of contact between a user and a product. For example, a smartphone or tablet screen is a user interface.
In terms of websites and applications, UI deals with visual and interactive aspects. This could be color, typeface, buttons, spacing, and placement. It is a process of interaction design.
The UI/UX relationship is important for every UX designer to understand because the systems are two sides of the same coin.
Where UX seeks to optimize a product to be enjoyable and credible. UI is about making the interaction with the interface desirable and accessible. It deals with the presentation and look of the interface.
Design for user experience requires both UX and UI – the two go hand in hand. A good way to interpret the difference between the two is this:
These days everybody knows that in terms of design, user experience is essential. All you need to do is look at the amount of companies hiring UX designers to see that.
In short, user experience design takes the ego out of a product. Rather than focusing on what the designer, the client, or the brand wants – UX uses user research to make a product that users want.
The term user experience is shorthand for developing a system that is so intuitive that users will naturally want to move all the way through the conversion funnel with no roadblocks.
UX designers are good for business and here is why:
Making sure that your customers keep coming back is absolutely vital on every platform but especially so in eCommerce.
That is why so many eCommerce businesses are obsessed with metrics like “churn rate.”
As eCommerce is only going to keep growing in popularity, many businesses are asking themselves what is ux design, and what does ux mean in terms of business.
The answer is that UX is a way to differentiate your service from the competition.UX creates positive experiences which in turn creates customer loyalty.
While UX designers have plenty of tools at their disposal to create a positive experience, user feedback and user research are at the top of that list.
If a designer knows what a customer wants and needs and successfully implements that in the design process then the chances are high that the customer will be back.
Improved conversion rates
Optimizing your user experience is a sure fire way to increase returns. The effectiveness of hiring a UX designer can be seen in the conversion funnel.
A good experience is definable in many ways. One of those could be creating a streamlined customer journey – removing unnecessary steps from lead to sale.
It could be improving the lead generation process – using design to improve the number of high-quality leads that your platform generates.
It might sound obvious but if your product brings high-quality leads to an optimized conversion funnel that is easy to use then it will result in increased conversions.
This effect is measurable. Calculating your conversion rate before and after implementing UX design will show an uptake in conversion rates.
In a previous section, user experience was defined as a ‘blueprint’ and that is exactly why it is so useful in reducing costs. Starting with a solid design, founded in user research will reduce your costs down the line.
Investing in user experience is about putting your best foot forward with a prototype that has been tested against user behavior and positive experience.
As such, a development team is less likely to have to make large and costly changes to the design of your product down the line.
Now that we have covered the core concept of user experience design. Let’s look at some fundamental tips that your website should implement:
Users don’t read websites like a book, they scan them quickly in search of the core information that brought them there in the first place.
A great method to help users find what they are looking for is to make use of visual prompts such as images, infographics, or video.
Make sure to present your core messaging in these eye-catching elements to keep the user engaged and reduce bounce rate.
Minimalism has been one of the biggest trends in website design for quite a while and that is because it has a positive impact on user experience.
In the digital era, users have become accustomed to digesting data very quickly and when they can’t do that they often disengage with the product.
Crowding a website with information can hide the elements that contribute to the core functionality of the product.
Consider using a standardized color scheme and layout across your entire website so that users maintain a feeling of familiarity at every stage in the conversion process.
Before creating anything it is imperative to know who the audience will be for your platform. Your design choices will be based around their needs.
Competitor analysis is a useful structure for understanding this. Look for the big similarities in the UX of your most successful competitors, these factors will likely correlate to the main focus areas for your product.
Once you have identified the key factors in creating a comfortable initial product, it is possible to start differentiating your product from the competition with your unique selling point.
Once you know your audience well, you should also have a good understanding of the elements that your users are going to identify with most strongly.
Creating a visual hierarchy is about making the most important element stand out the most.
One simple way of doing this is to make sure that element is the largest on the page. Create a hierarchy by gradually reducing the size of the elements in relation to their importance to the user.
Nowadays, UX is everywhere. Users have come to expect a certain standard of quality and every big name out there is working tirelessly to improve their UX.
Still it is just as important – if not more important – for small and medium sized platforms invest in UX as it can be the difference between your platform and the competition.
Here are some examples of great UX design that you can implement:
Skyscanner is one of the world’s leading price comparison websites. They provide comparisons for flights, hotels, and car rentals.
As users mainly identify Skyscanner as a flight comparison service, this is the first tab on the landing page.
Note, how simple Skyscanner makes it to use their other services by simply clicking on a different tab (each tab uses exactly the same layout for user clarity.)
Skyscanner utilizes visual hierarchy by placing emphasis on the company’s core marketing statement “where to next?”
Other than that, the only thing on the homepage is the tool itself and a call-to-action “Search flights” which has been made into a button with a different – but complementary color scheme – to the rest of the page in order to draw the user’s attention and move them along the conversion funnel.
The search tool itself only asks three questions of the user: where, when, and how many passengers.
These are the essential aspects of the initial search query, the page is not bogged down with offers or prices as this comes later in the user process.
Now let’s look at how one of the fastest growing banking apps in the USA implements UX on their website.
Simple is an online bank that functions through a smartphone app.
Like Skyscanner, Simple make good use of visual hierarchy by enlarging the company’s tagline.
Simple goes one step further however by using an image mock-up of the Simple bank card to convey vital information.
Establishing customer trust is essential for any bank, especially one that lacks a ‘brick and mortar’ presence.
Notice how the bank card image lets the user know that Simple is partnered with VISA, one of the world’s leading and most trusted payment technology companies.
It conveys all that information in one simple image without having to write a block of text as long as this one.
Next, take note of the “start now” button. Other than “Log in” and “Apply now” – which are separated with whitespace from the main body of the webpage – the email sign-up box is essentially your only option to progress through the website.
For Simple, obtaining the user’s email address is the most important aspect in developing a new customer and that is why it is given so much priority by UX designers.
Duolingo is the world’s most popular language learning platform and it is available as a website and as an app.
Like Skyscanner, and Simple, Duolingo features a minimalist landing page.
Users will be able to recognize visual continuity between the website and the app when they switch platforms. The color scheme, typeface, and icons all appear exactly the same way on the application.
Duolingo use a scroll bar at the bottom to rank their most popular language options on the first page, whilst arrows encourage users with a niche interest to find their own choice.
This is a great example of making core information visible and also knowing your audience.
Similarly to the previous examples, Duolingo keeps it simple by drawing attention to two possible CTAs that are directly in the centre of the screen.
As such increasing the chances that a user will interact with them and in the long run, increasing conversion rates.