Web development speak can often sound like a foreign language to those outside of the industry, thus creating two types of people — those who understand these terms as written and those who envision actual chocolate chip cookies. Though these terms may sound funny and be understood differently, we assure you these definitions are real.
We strive to empower our clients and audiences with knowledge and understanding of the work we do, whether it’s graphic design social media, video production or website development. The technical aspects of many of the areas we offer support can seem, frankly, overwhelming to some, which is why we’re breaking down our process. To help you better understand website production, let’s take a look at user experience.
A BRIEF OVERVIEW
The user experience (UX) looks at how people interact with a website in relation to the site’s overall functionality. It is the study of the who, what, why, where and when pertaining to websites, analyzing what the user sees and stands to gain when navigating a website. Focusing on creating a connection between the user and a website, a successful user experience evokes emotion and feeling that, without it, may come across as static and boring. A positive connection will, in-turn, make the user want to return over and over again.
When you think about website design, UX often takes a backseat to the design and development of a site, but the research and planning serve as the most important steps in the process. Without a good foundation, a site will not have a clear path to function and grow. The study of UX pushes site design further and allows for updates to functionality based on the users’ needs. Can you imagine trying to search for something on Amazon using the interface from 15 years ago? Industry experts study how people use the site to improve the UX over time so as users’ needs change, so does the site.
THE FIVE W’S OF USER EXPERIENCE
Taking the time to study UX early on in the site design process will make it easier to use and more likely have users remain on the site longer while also returning more often. Most sites can achieve these benefits by taking a closer look at the 5 W’s listed below:
Determine your audience through research
- Create employee or customer surveys to identify your existing audience
- Research analytics, if you already have a site, to see who visits the site
- Based on the survey feedback and analytics, create a user profile listing a fictitious person who would use the site, this allows the team to give a face to the audience
Focus on what is most important and design the site from there
- Build off of the information architecture and start by creating wireframes, blocking off areas of the site without actually designing it
- Adjust the hierarchy of the site to ensure the site flow leads users in the right direction
Create an information architecture and describe information placement
- If you have a current site, start by outlining the current structure so you can work on making it better
- Use a white board with sticky notes to easily move items around in real-time
- Add notes for specific page elements and visualize the layout
Build out a realistic timeline for when you want the site to go live
- Base your site’s launch around a new product release
- Stick to your deadline
Determine your goal for the site and the needs of the users
- Create a focus group to meet and brainstorm what you want users to get out of your site
- Use sticky notes to get ideas out quickly and narrow down a concept
Current website design trends create an easy-to-follow, almost templated user experience. But with creativity, research and planning, the possibilities of website design are practically endless. Follow the five W’s when planning your next website to put your site on the track to success.
With the Internet, technology, design and a host of other website-related factors constantly changing, so does the answer to, “What can I do to improve my website?” As it stands today, the keys to a successful website can be broken down into four main components — responsiveness, interactive design, architecture and visibility. As you dive into each of these components, take a look at your personal or business website to see where it could use some upgrades.
Having a good looking website will attract users initially, but making sure it functions well will keep them coming back. In the world of smartphones and tablets, making sure your website is responsive and mobile friendly, meaning the site is just as easy to use on mobile devices as it is on a desktop computer, is crucial. If your website doesn’t respond or function well on mobile devices, users have little incentive to stay on the site, and with technology continuing to improve and advance, a growing number of people use their mobile devices to browse the web. According to Statista, mobile devices accounted for 49.7 percent of web page views worldwide as of February 2017.
Incorporate movement into your website as a technique for catching the user’s eye and encouraging them to take a look around your website. While interactive elements take many forms, adding big, full-width videos, parallax scrolling — where background images are providing the illusion of depth when a user scrolls — and animation are at the top of the trendy website list add another level of interaction with the user. Keeping the user engaged will extend their stay on your website, leading them to learn more about what you have to offer.
Displaying the right information on your home page, such as call to action buttons and links to other pages, helps guide the user directly to the content they want. At a minimum, the most important information you should feature on your homepage includes details about you or your company, services you provide and contact information. You don’t want to overload the user the moment they visit your site with a lot of unnecessary content that could potentially confuse or mislead them. Smart architecture will give users what they need on the initial visit and more information as they become more familiar with your site.
So your website is responsive, has interactive elements and excellent architecture, but can your target audience find it? That’s where Search Engine Optimization comes in. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key to getting your website to rise to the top of Google, Bing and other search engine results. Proper meta keywords, titles and descriptions relevant to your website content not only help define you or your business, but they help users easily find you.
As technology continues to advance and design trends continue to evolve, staying familiar with website terms and trends will help to ensure your website’s success. Think about your visitors when making or considering updates and how you can enhance their user experience.
For more information about user experience, stay tuned for an upcoming blog with everything you need to know.
Business owners are increasingly looking to the Internet for spreading brand awareness, boosting sales and optimizing performance. As a business owner, you’ve likely explored many different digital marketing approaches including social media, online advertising and email newsletters.
But what about SEO?
For many businesses, and especially small businesses with limited resources, the idea of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often a completely foreign one, one requiring time that doesn’t exist. Ignoring this key component, however, could cost you a large percentage of web traffic and a lacking digital presence against competitors.
Traffic drives a website.
So, how do searches work?
Considering all the options available to us via the Internet, it’s no wonder most turn to a search engine to help find reliable information most applicable to the question at hand. And while it might seem like those instantaneous search engine results appear through some magical process, it’s really algorithms, or long mathematical formulas, that dictate what information displays. So when you press the “search” button in your search engine of choice, that engine then filters a mammoth amount of material and presents it to you based on quality and popularity of content.
So, how do you make your website relevant in filtered search results?
Basically – you have to make the search engines see your value and specifically what value you give to viewers. This relevancy and value depends largely on your website’s content and the effective use of keyword phrases. That means make sure your website’s functionality runs smoothly, using compelling content, and a backend with descriptive meta-tags, or content descriptors that accurately portray your products or services. And don’t forget to make sure your site considers “mobile first” – meaning, the design responds and adapts to the size of the viewers screen. Believe it or not, search engines give higher relevance to sites that integrate these elements into their site. See, it pays off!
Another tip – shared links will boost your popularity, and popularity is a key factor considered by search engines. Make sure your website has a clear message and that it’s geared towards helping visitors answer their questions. In turn, consumers will start sharing your website’s content. Establishing trust and consistency in your online business practices will lead to more shares and more website traction. As the site gains traction, it’ll begin to rank higher in a list of search results. Think of it as the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising.
Put website visitors first.
A well polished website cognizant of its purpose is sure to get on a search engine’s radar. Why? Because, when you put website visitors first, you’re proving your value and to search engines that’s bound to naturally increase your SEO. If you think about it, SEO isn’t much different from any other effort to improve user/audience experience. Keep your website up-to-date, consistent with branding, and teeming with well-written linkable material, and SEO will become an organic digital way to enhance your business.