The Great Website Smackdown – Design vs User ExperienceKenneth Nel
Why Do You Have a Website?
One of the (many) perverse things about life is that there are more questions than answers. True story. So often we struggle in vain to resolve issues or find solutions to problems. For some reason, we’re convinced that there have to be answers. Why? Says who? In what Rule Book Of Life is this written down?
We’d all get a lot more sleep, and ditch the Gucci luggage under our eyes if we learned to just Let Some Things Go. We need to heed the words of the wise guru Ranja Ranja: “Some problems ain’t got no solutions.”
Okay, so there isn’t really a wise guru Ranja Ranja (or at least, not as far as I know). But, (because, dear reader, there is always a but), that doesn’t mean his words are any less profound. Some problems are just problems. We have to learn to live with them, manage them, and move on. And some questions are just questions. They don’t have answers. Breathe in, breathe out, and let them go.
However, (because, dear reader, there is also always a however), some questions do indeed have answers! This is life’s way of ensuring we don’t get inside our heads too much. Throw us a bone, why dontcha? Thanks a lot, Life!
One of these questions is this: Why do you have a website?
Profound? Maybe not. But important? Oh heck yes!! And, (and this is the best part), one hundred percent answerable! The reason you have a website is…..drum roll please….to sell more stuff!
Your business can be anything from making jerseys for dogs to offering tree-felling services. From roof repair to carpet cleaning, and mobile manicures to medical equipment. Whatever it is you sell or do, you want your website to help you sell and do more of it.
What Makes A Great Website?
I am so happy you asked because this is another question that has an answer. We seem to be on a roll here! Great websites are a combination of several things, all of which work seamlessly together to create the most effective sales tool your business has ever seen.
Websites give you an online presence, making you visible to a virtually unlimited number of people. And by people, we mean potential customers! These customers have constantly changing expectations. This means that to be effective, your website needs to be adaptable and flexible. It has to stay one step ahead of those demanding, fickle consumers.
We are living in an age of instant gratification. When it comes to all things Internet, we have the attention span of a goldfish with ADHD. Impatient doesn’t even begin to describe most of the people looking for products or services online today. When they arrive at your website, you have mere seconds to convince them to stay. You have to hit them between the eyes with the most awe-inspiring layout and coolest content. If you don’t, they will simply move onto another site.
Web design is one of the two critical elements that help make a website Hot or Not. It uses the same key visual elements as many other kinds of design, and these include:
This refers to the way in which the copy (text), graphics and adverts are arranged. Remember the aforementioned microscopic attention span of most web visitors? The layout of your site has to be the web equivalent of the mythical Sirens who sat on rocks and lured sailors to their demise with their hypnotic beauty and ethereal singing. It has to draw people in, and give them what they want without them really working for it. This means removing as many potential points of user frustration as possible.
Yes, your brand has its own colours, but as much as you might love them, they may not translate well as an overriding theme. Colour can convey different emotions, attract (or repel) different targeted audiences, and communicate action. It’s important to get it right.
Graphics And Visual Elements
People are visual beings. We usually respond to images first before any other element of design. In fact, about 20 percent of our brain is devoted entirely to all things visual. And, whether or not we like to admit it, we often fail to adhere to that old piece of sage advice and go right ahead and judge a book by its cover. If we like what we see, we go a little deeper. If we don’t, we won’t. Simple as that.
It’s best not to switch off when your web designer starts talking in a seemingly foreign language about Comic Sans and Serif. Yes, the words on your page matter, but the way in which you present those words is just as important. Let’s compare your website copy to verbal speech for a second. The actual words are what you say, and the font you use is how you say it.
Contrary to popular belief, content is not the enemy of design. Your website message can be enhanced through a happy marriage of visuals and text. Written test should be clear and unambiguous. And please, please, please, make sure your grammar and spelling are perfect. This is one area where you cannot be over-picky. Content must be optimised for search engines, incorporate relevant keywords and be of the right length.
These days, people access the Internet from so many different devices, if your website design isn’t responsive you might as well give up right now. Off you go. And don’t think you can get away with having an adaptive site. An adaptive site is where website content is fixed in layout sizes that match common screen sizes. These days, there’s no such thing. How big, for example, is a tablet? Oh, do you mean the standard size, the mini or the super-sized version? And how big is a cellphone screen, please tell me? You might as well ask me how long is a piece of string. Responsive design means your content moves dynamically depending on the screen size used.
So, we’ve established that a website’s design must be visually compelling. But we must also remember that people don’t visit our site just to look at it. Much as we’d like them to, they won’t bang on at length about our fantastic use of white space. They’ve come to our site because they want to use it for something. We have to give them the best user experience of their lives! No pressure.
A great user experience (UX) is achieved by paying close attention to a number of key factors, including:
Your website visitors simply won’t spend ages trying to get where they want to go. They won’t pull out their trusty compass or pocket map to help them find their way. Give them 10 000 megawatt runway lights showing them where to land. Put up big flashing neon lights saying “this way.” Think about how users search and browse. Make sure tabs and links work – and work quickly.
Relevant videos or audio clips have huge appeal for customers. Not only because they communicate information more quickly than written text, but they also serve to make complicated things easier to understand. Always keep in mind, however, that videos and big images impact your page-load time. Page speed is a key ranking factor on Google, but more than that, slow pages just annoy consumers who are just itching to hit the back arrow and try another site.
Feeling needed and valued is a very human desire. We love knowing that our feelings and opinions are valid and appreciated. By making your website interactive, you feed this very real need in your customers. So include comment boxes and opinion polls. Invite reviews, and convert visitors to users with newsletter sign-ups.
So Which Is More Important – Web Design Or UX?
This question has a very simple answer, and it’s this: Neither! As a matter of fact, they’re essentially two sides of the same coin. Think of your website as your body. Your UX is what’s going on inside that affects how you perform. If your circulation’s good and your organs are all working efficiently, you’ll feel good and will perform productively. Your Web Design is everything that makes up your outward appearance. If you have shiny hair, glowing skin and a lovely smile, you’re going to attract a lot more attention at the year-end office party than the poor guy from Accounts with the cheap hairpiece and acne.
This is a vast topic and we’ve really only scratched the surface here. We’d love to chat to you in more depth about all the things you can do to make your website a visitor magnet and a conversion machine.
It’s true that in life, there will always be those unanswerable questions, but for everything else, there’s Digital Coach. Get in touch today.