Designing with a user-centric focus

When a user lands on a website, they should be able to… well, use it. They shouldn’t have to play hide-and-go-seek for the content they’re looking for.

Good user experience is the end-result of research, experimentation, and implementation of design and functionality. It’s based on real human behaviors, preferences, and actions. You want to build something that anticipates a user’s needs before they visit your site. This means learning about user behavior and applying your research to inform your design and development process.

Ensuring Good User Experience

There are a variety of ways to go about ensuring good user experience, all of which involve anticipating behavior. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Card Sorts. This comes in handy for determining the layout of a site’s navigation. It allows test users lay out the pages of a site in the way that makes sense to them. The card sort is most effective when you have multiple people participate.
  • A/B Testing. This involves setting two or more versions of a page and randomly directing users to one or the other. Whichever version of the page has better retention or conversions usually means that it provides a better, more effective experience.
  • Observation. Sitting down with users to observe how they use the internet. This, coupled with interviews and questions, helps to better understand how people expect websites to work and why they prefer certain experiences
  • Surveys/Polls. Sending out surveys is a good way to aggregate a large number of responses about general, self-reported behavior. Surveys are a good way to narrow down questions to ask or behaviors to look into. However, it is not a good way to understand the ins and outs of user behavior.
  • Heat Maps. These highlight the areas of a site that people click or hover, showing you what parts of a site get used the most.
  • Research. Reading previous research on user experience and design is a good way to understand how people behave and expect products to work.
  • Intuition. Sometimes we just know when something feels right. While this isn’t the most scientific method, it does work relatively well.

User experiences evolve

Not every user will have the same expectations or behave the same way. But, by doing your research ahead of time and keeping the user in mind as you create your site, you can develop a better, more intuitive experience.

Don’t forget, your work never stops. As technology changes, new styles and designs of websites become possible. These in turn affect the way people interact with websites. Over time, this changes their concepts of an “intuitive” design and influences their expectations. The best websites will be those that keep abreast of these changes and update their designs to stay current with their research findings.

Published 02/18/16 by Alex Beaudin