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This week we take a look at why your website's design and layout, or 'User Interface' (UI) needs to be straight forward and easy to follow, with purposeful, yet transparent elements to guide your visitors through your conversion funnel. All in all, providing an experience that does what it says its going to do and doesn't try to dupe users into something they don't want.
Like any good digital strategy, your website's functional and design-led elements all need to serve a greater purpose. They can't just exist for the sake of it, or because your nearest and dearest competitors have it. There's no room for a 'me too' solution in today's frantic, digital arena. Yes your navigation needs to be user friendly and your content engaging and possibly even 'pretty' in order to satisfy the gods of UX, but above all else your elements must serve to achieve your top level objectives.
Want users to subscribe? Don't make it hard to find your sign-up form (and don't ask for too many details!), similarly don't trick them in to giving away their private information under the guise of a competition entry (that doesn't exist). This won't do you any favours in the long run and it could just drop you in hot water.
Remember a few years back when people were just getting to grips with Facebook for business and there was a never ending stream of posts asking you to like their page, then 'like and share' a post to enter their competition? Well, shock horror it turns out many of them were just bogus exercises to harvest your information with no grand prize. How and what you ask for on your site could be deemed just as underhand if you don't just come right out and say it. I'm sure we don't need to tell you that being seen as untrustworthy is bad news for business.
So let's take a look at a few things that can make your user interface a user experience dream.
Ok so we've already touched on this but let's expand a little. If you ask for users information, particularly contact details its imperative you tell that what you are going to do with them. If you are gathering email addresses for a regular e-zine, tell them!
Then theres the EU Cookie Directive. If you're going to track or store any user data, and that includes using Google Analytics by the way, you are legally obliged to make your site visitors aware that their information is being collected and give them the choice to accept it, or opt out. In short, the directive gives your visitors the right to refuse 'cookies' that could affect their online privacy. So it's your job to put in big bold writing right there on your homepage. Not pretty but it's only there for as long as it takes the user to click the big obvious button you assign to it.
And here's a biggy. Run an e-commerce site? Take payments of any kind? Then you should have sign-posted Terms & Conditions and Returns information detailing what your policies are and most importantly, written in plain english. Don't baffle with babble.
By hiding, confusing or omitting key information you may lose out on valuable transactions from wary consumers but you may also find yourself in a legal quandary when someone calls you on it.
Hopefully your return visitors are by now able to navigate your site, meet their own objectives and in turn fulfil yours (good idea to find a way to align your objectives with what you know about your users site experience expectations). But what about new users?
When they land on your homepage is it immediately obvious what you do, what you offer and how they can get it? If the answer is no then you could be implementing too many special effects, moving graphics and distracting elements that will drive new custom away. The odd flight of fancy and susprise element is more than acceptable, but don't sacrifice your revenue generating objectives in the name of style.
Your homepage in particular should make it clear what you are hoping to achieve. If that is sales then put sign posts to popular areas or popular items right there on your homepage. And while you're at it make sure you haven't given your top level navigation a bunch of cryptic headings. That leads us nicely on to our next point...
Remember users are fickle and have an appallingly short attention span. If you make them hunt for what they're after (and by hunt we mean more than two or three clicks) they could get bored and leave.
You can encourage a feeling of trust by nurturing transparency at every opportunity. That includes your navigational structure. Make any information you feature on your site easy to locate and find your way back from.
We recommend only putting your main points of service in the top level navigation and secondary links at the bottom of the page in the footer. In both cases implement breadcrumbs so when users move through your site they'll be able to find their way back any number of levels, as far back as the homepage.
We touched on this recently in our Guide to Outdated Web Design Elements blog. Give your users the option to opt-in to interactivity like videos instead of frantically trying to find the off switch to 'opt out'.
By handing over control in this way you give your users a voice. A mutually beneficial voice. One that feeds back data you can use to tailor your future offerings, and a voice that the user implements to personalise or streamline the course of their visit. It also means there are less distractions keeping your visitor from that all important check-out process. Everyone's a winner!
If you know there are range of questions you are likely to be asked about your products or services it's a good idea to pose the question, provide the answer and host it on your site.
Not only will it cut down on your customer service enquiries and thus the number of staff you employ to fulfil that particular service, it will also give your users a sense of satisfaction that the information they needed was easy to find and answered without complication or unnecessary involvement. And guess what? There's a truck load of trust and honesty points in it for you!
These are just some of the things you need to consider when it comes to your user interface design but also good to take in to account when it comes to your general online presence. For example, you might think about answering those popular customer service questions in a blog article or in a social media post!