By Christopher Crawford
Does your website delight and inspire?
We’ve been swimming in the vast ocean of the World Wide Web for about 30 years now, and through years of internet use we've internalized an easy rhythm of navigation. A whole generation of post-internet born users have grown from children to adults surfing the currents of email, pages, popups, and portals. It’s safe to say that most users who reach your website are experienced pilots, so when something isn’t quite right, they spot it!
All a website used to need to be accepted by users and operate successfully was functionality, but the internet has changed - evolved. While functionality is still critical to a successful, well received website, aesthetic and design have risen in precedence to form the holy trinity of user experience and interface (also known as UX/UI).
It’s not enough to just float on function - you must ensure the user experience is smooth, intuitive, and engaging when they reach your site. Here are four tips for success our developers use in our web UX/UI design.
- Clarity and Flow
- Speed and Optimization
- Magnetic Calls to Action
Clarity and flow
Everyone knows first impressions are important. When a user arrives at your website, interfacing should feel natural. You want to convey your website’s message the best you can before the fold of the page (the part of the site visible before scrolling). Have your hero image and mission statement right up front. Users have little patience trying to figure out exactly what a site is all about.
One way to maximize clarity to by utilizing white space effectively. White space adds prominence and clarity to the elements of your site, and studies show that white space around titles, between paragraphs, and in margins increases user attention by 20%.
Lastly, keep your navigation bar clear and uncluttered. It’s ok to have lots of options in your drop downs, but make sure the initial several categories are intuitive, dropdown links are well spaced, and your nav bar is easily accessible. If your page has many folds – lots of scrolling – consider implementing a “sticky” navbar that will stay at the top of the screen as the user moves down the page.
It used to be that images and animated elements significantly impeded load times, and static pages were the go-to for website design. Advances in internet bandwidth speeds, coding languages, and device hardware have allowed us to evolve from a static experience to a dynamic one, and we believe the internet is a better place for it! Images and animations are a great way to create a novel and engaging experience, but tread carefully, as they are also are easy paths to clutter and distraction.
At ULG, we believe subtle animations are an excellent way to produce a comfortable and dynamic aesthetic design. One larger animation supported by more understated hover or glow effects make a better overall impression than many overt, whirling animations that pop and spin around the site. There is certainly a time and place where those can succeed, but in most cases: less is more.
Speed and Optimization
Just as users have little patience for unintuitive navigation and design, slow load times are something users won’t put up with either. With the advances mentioned in the section above, users have become accustomed to high-speed connections, and if you don’t think slow load times are really that significant an issue, think again. According to studies done by Google, every extra 500 milliseconds in page load time lead to a 25% decrease in searches. And Amazon found that they experience a 1% decrease in sales for each additional 100 milliseconds in load time.
Speed may not be number one on the priority list, but it can absolutely impact lead generation and conversions. So what can you do about it? The folks at Crazy Egg have a great, comprehensive list on how to go about this, but we suggest the following highlights:
- You can start by using Google’s free service to get a better understanding of your website’s page load speed. Google also offers suggestions for improvement based on their analysis.
- Choose the right hosting options for your needs. Going with the cheapest hosting option is an easy first-instinct reaction for many site owners, but we recommend doing your research and going with a host you can trust!
- Enable compression. The smaller your files, the faster your pages will load. There are many software applications out there for doing this. Gzip is probably the most popular, but Bzip2 is an alternative.
- Reduce image sizes. We mentioned in our point above that animations and images are a great way to improve a website’s aesthetic. If you’re using lots of images and animations then image size and compression will be an important factor to consider. Don’t just upload large, high resolution images to your site and then adjust the size parameters. Find out the dimensions you need, then crop those images down match using a photo editor.
Magnetic Calls to Action
A call to action is where the magic happens for most sites. You need leads, sales, and subscribers, and your calls to action (CTAs) must be well executed if you’re going to attract them. Unattractive CTAs are, at best, invisible to users – at worst, they’ll drive people away.
Users are accustomed to looking for key visual cues to direct them to the most important and engaging content on a site. Make your CTAs stand out by utilizing all our previous talking points: white space, color, animations, and prioritized load times. The internet is a visual medium, so use the psychology of color to direct and engage with users.
Color and animations are critical to UI/UX, but the words you use are equally important to driving user interaction. Action oriented words draw the eye and help users navigate exactly where they want and expect to go. Bold and enlarge the text of your CTAs, and use verbs that invoke a sense of urgency. The right words can psychologically trigger emotional connections and prompt users to act.
Digital Engagement is at an all-time high in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down. With online shopping and digital personification part of the new normal, businesses and brands can no longer let their websites play second fiddle to brick-and-mortar establishments. A clean, smooth UX/UI is critical to business in the modern world – a world that is becoming digitalized more and more each day.
Clean up your website by creating a user experience that is clearly defined and intuitive to navigate. Utilize color, white space, and animations in creative and clever ways to direct users to attractive calls to action. Finally, be sure your page load times match the lighting speed expectations of our modern-day technology. Your website, and a user's experience with it, is the key to communicating your story - your brand - to your audiance. What story is your website telling about you?
by Christopher Crawford
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