UX in the era of web-scanning
Author: Kostas Papanikolaou
UX in the era of web-scanning
In previous blogs, we have discussed the point where UX meets the essence of communication, technology’s ways of improving the overall quality of life on the planet, as well as the power of appearance for eCommerce websites. All these are interwoven thanks to one of the most important aspects of the digital world, one that has been in place since the beginning of human societies: UX. According to the international standard on ergonomics of human-system interaction, ISO 9241-210, defines UX or user experience as “a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service.”
Billions of humans on the planet spend the vast majority of their day online, reading news, navigating websites, and using web applications. The constant need for knowledge, exploration, and information, has characterized the 21st century as the era of web-scanning. Users seldom enter a website or a web app to instantly start reading a piece of text or even watching a video the moment one appears in front of them. Imagine how you, or us, act when entering a website or a social media platform like Facebook or Instagram. We scroll and navigate quickly, before eventually selecting something as an “anchor” to start “investigating” further.
Morville’s UX Honeycomb
A direct result of that change in how humans perceive and use the Internet, is the change of UX design, its principles remaining the same, but its practices evolving, to match the needs of people visiting websites and web apps. As Peter Morville presents it at usability.gov, the User Experience Honeycomb consists of six main hexagons, which create a hive that represents the purpose of UX, which is being Valuable.
These six hexagons are:
- Useful – Your content should be original and fulfill a need
- Usable – Site must be easy to use
- Desirable – image, identity, brand, and other design elements are used to evoke emotion and appreciation
- Findable – content needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite
- Accessible – Content needs to be accessible to people with disabilities
- Credible – Users must trust and believe what you tell them
More disciplines included in UX, which determine the principles of human-computer interaction (HCI), are Project Management, User Research, Usability Evaluation, Information Architecture (IA), User Interface Design, Interaction Design (IxD), Visual Design, Content Strategy, Accessibility, and Web Analytics.
The Practices for Impeccable UX
Based on Merville’s Honeycomb presented above, User Experience is defined by how useful, easy-to-use, attractive, easy-to-find, accessible, and trustworthy is a website or web app/web app content. UX in the 21st century is about making sure the user is impressed enough by the overall experience they gain from a website that they will return, even if they disagree with a blog they read in it, for example.
To achieve that, websites need to be built based on the simple principles presented above. How that will be achieved, however, is a different matter. UX design is not something you learn overnight and certainly does not consist of executing certain sequences of code and design, before combining them into the desired result. Below some of the practices that if followed, can lead to a website offering a great experience.
Keep It Simple
Humans in the 21st century can evaluate the design of a website or web app within milliseconds. That means the UX design of a website should be appealing enough to make them stay, and simple enough to extend the period they choose to spend on the website, scanning, navigating, and -preferably for the owner- reading its content. The best principle to base that attempt is simplicity. Make sure your website is easy to navigate, that it has clear, viewable, and not too many buttons that lead to other web pages of it, and design based on optimized navigation. Allowing your visitors to move freely and easily through your website is the best way to keep them there.
Elevate What’s Known
Creativity is what separates an artist from everyone else. It is innate in humans, and our way to express ourselves, using multiple tools and means. UX designers are artists as well, and they are allowed to their creativity as they see it fit. The only “prerequisite” in that case -and we say it solely because websites are technical creations- is that creativity does not collide with what users “expect” to see when it comes to allocation. Being creative when selecting colors, graphics, animations, and the placement of content on your website is one thing, risking users will not find the login area, is something else. Try to keep it within the “boundaries” set by already existing websites when it comes to where crucial things are located, and elevate what’s known through aesthetics, and content.
Guide Your Visitors
When someone enters your house after arriving for a visit, do you let them roam as they see it fit, or do you set strict rules? We do neither of these. We suggest the most optimized way to have fun at the place we live in and guide them through the process of acclimating themselves around our space, in essence, “teaching” them how to navigate. Websites are similar, they are your place, you design them to be easy for you to handle, and for visitors to enter, navigate, and find what they want. This is why one of the most important aspects of UX design is establishing a “visual hierarchy” of things. Highlighting specific places on your website allows users to understand that you want to find what’s highlighted, and usually it will be your premium content, the things you are promoting heavily, and those that are the best way for someone to start exploring your website, before digging deeper.
“Read” The Room
Knowing your audience, the people that you want to visit your website and turn it into a constant in their every-day life is fundamental. Website owners and UX designers should work together to assess the situation, brainstorm on what users from the company’s target group will want to see, and offer it to them in both a “safe” (i.e. seen before) way as well as in an aesthetically pleasing, even ground-breaking manner (i.e. something they’ve seen before, but with a twist). Find what style and aesthetic are appealing to your target group, and tailor your website around that. Offering users something they like tends to be a great way of keeping them satisfied, and therefore, keeping them active on your website.
Like in the case of Branding being just a part of a successful business, UX design is only part of a successful website. However, UX design determines the overall experience of a visitor, and most importantly, it defines how a website is perceived after the first visit of a user. First impressions matter greatly in the digital era and therefore making sure that the first impression of your website is one that would make people return is of vital importance.