Let's face it - we've all been in the position when all you want to do is throw your computer at the wall because the user experience on a site is so awful. Clicking on a hundred different buttons to get to one item, flashing popping graphics coming at you, hidden information, forever loading screens - the list is endless. Yet, while we can sit there and think of all the ways a user experience can go wrong - how often do we think of what actually makes an user experience good? While there are many ways to have a good user experience, three main steps are a must: purpose, design and navigation.
First of all, a good user experience can make or break a companies reputation. If your site looks, well, shifty, and poorly put together, no one is going to view you as a credible source of information, products, etc. Having a good presence on the web and a site with a great user experience can be the difference between gaining lifelong customers/followers, and crying yourself to sleep every night.
So step one: have a purpose to your site. Do you sell products, do you write information articles, review items, are an author? Having a purpose as to what your site is, what you do, etc. will help a user get a feel for you and your company. Having a confused and chaotic site with a lack of focus is a sure way to turn users away. While chances are you may have some overlap (i.e. both selling and reviewing products), making your purpose clear and concise is a key ingredient to making sure users are happy and not want to hit the back button.
The second step is to have a design that looks legitimate, is well put together, and not like an 8th grade HTML class project. This includes having a site ID or company logo. If you do not know who a company is, or what they do, then that automatically sends out warning flags to a user. Plus, who doesn't like to look at well designed sites that are appealing to the eye. If something is poorly designed, or not well thought out - chances are people aren't going to want to stick around.
Finally, the third (and possibly one of the most important) steps, is to have a friendly web navigation. There is nothing worse than not knowing where to find the information you are looking for on a website. Since it's very possible you can land on an interior page from a search engine, the need to be able to find what you are looking for from any page, is a must. Many times you find sites that only have neatly laid out paths from the homepage. What good is that if you land on a page deep within the site? Having persistent navigation - appearing in the same spot, on every page so users know what to look for and guide them to their destination is the best thing a site can have. An hierarchy of information is a great way to establish great navigation. Showing the important main sections, and consequential subsections, allows users to easily access the main information as well as the nitty gritty details and everything in between. In addition, simple things like having a search function, and labeling pages are easy ways to vamp up navigation and structure while enhancing user experience. It's also important to note: while not all those who wander are lost, most still would like to have a home button to keep on wandering from.
Next time you see a website with a poor user experience, stop the urge to kick your computer or throwing your mouse at the wall (truly, it isn't their fault), and think about how could this be improved. Hey, maybe you'll learn a thing or two about what not to do on your site!
Article Categories: Misc, User Experience, Information Architecture