User Experience Basics: 5 things to consider when designing your website

User Experience. We’ve all heard the buzz phrase floating around the digital realm, but what does it mean? In short, user experience (UX) encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with a company, its services, and its products. From start to finish, a good user experience must take place at all stages of the buyer’s journey, including how easy it is to engage with your company’s website.

As obvious as this may seem, the user is often overlooked early on in the planning stages of a website. In our initial consult with new clients, we begin by reviewing some information to gather for a project brief by using a simple set of Q&As. The questionnaire includes things like: target audiences and demographics, identifying competitors, target launch dates and design preferences. Then there’s a series of questions identifying purpose. When we ask “why are you creating a website?” more often than not, we find clients become stumped at this seemingly oversimplified question. “A website is just something that all businesses have”, “we need to have a presence online”, or “we have to design something that looks professional” are some of the first responses we often hear.

While these points are true, the more specific information we are trying to extract in the early planning stages of successful user experience include:

  1. What action do you want the user to take when visiting your website? What is the goal?
  2. How should the user feel when interacting with your website?
  3. How will you achieve this?

Let’s break it down a bit further into 5 easy steps for your user experience considerations.

Step 1: Define your purpose

It’s imperative before you begin designing your website to first define your purpose. Is it to generate sales through e-commerce? Is it educational? To showcase a portfolio of your work? A lifestyle blog to generate revenue through digital advertising? What ever your purpose or goal is, write it down and continuously refer back to it to stay on track throughout the process.

Whenever we become stumped in making a design decision, we always count on the original user goal to help lead the way.

Step 2: Outline your buyer’s journey

In simple terms, begin by listing the steps in your typical buyer’s journey and at what stages your website might fit into that process. Identifying which stages your website is supporting the sale of your end product or service is key to understanding how you will best present this information to the user. A sample buyer’s journey for us at White Canvas Design would look something like this:

  1. Client hears about us through a referral, instagram or facebook
  2. Client visits our website to learn more about our services and see samples of our work
  3. Client feels they would like to learn more and gather a quote
  4. Client receives follow up from us with their complimentary consult appointment
  5. Client has their appointment and decides we are a good fit
  6. Client shares our proposal and information with other members of their company
  7. Agreement is signed by client and work commences

In the above example, our website is the workhorse for converting a new client from step 2 to step 3. The website is also a great follow up reference point for clients to solidify their decision with the team.

Step 3: Determine your call to action

After listing out your buyer’s journey (or several if you have varying scenarios) and identifying your website’s role, it’s time now to consider your primary call to action (CTA). After outlining the steps above for WCD, it’s clear that our call to action strategy would be both “get a custom quote” and “book your consult”. Both actions facilitate the user from step 2 to step 3 in their journey, depending on which language positioning best speaks to them.

Step 4: Research your user

Confirming your assumptions gathered from steps 2 and 3 is key. No matter how much we can assume what the user wants or may be using the website for, it’s impossible to know without asking. User experience research and discovery differs vastly depending on time and budget. Research methods include things like online surveys or third-party interviewing of sample groups. At the very least, gather 10-15 users who fit within your demographic (family and friends are a great place to start!) and have them complete a survey or quick phone interview. Make sure your questions are expansive, and have room for answers beyond “yes” or “no”. It’s also important to not lead the questions with any assumptions and remain as neutral as possible to avoid biassed answers.

For White Canvas Design, some of our questions looked like this:

  1. If you were researching a creative studio for hire in Vancouver, what kind of information would you like to see on the website?
  2. How important is it to you to see prices listed online? Explain.
  3. What kind of content strategies do you enjoy seeing on websites? (ex. newsletter sign ups, social media, blogs)
  4. What are some paint points you have when looking at business-service websites?

Step 5: Determine best design strategy

Now that you’ve gathered a good base of information for your website’s user experience strategy and CTAs, it’s time to consider the best design methods to achieve these goals. Remember design is more than how it looks, it’s how it feels. Based on your user feedback, what was most important to them when interacting with company websites? What were their pain points? How can you make this experience easier and more enjoyable?

The average human has an attention span of less than a goldfish, about 7 seconds actually. That means we have 7 seconds to give the user some of the information they are looking for to keep them on the site and begin their experience on the right foot. Simple, concise messaging and easy navigation (responsive, across all mobile and tablet devices) are key. Also making your CTA readily available on different pages of the website is crucial – you never know at which point the user will be convinced to take that next step.

For WCD, we discovered in our research that it was important to our users that they know the people behind the company, the services they specialize in and that we have the portfolio to prove it. Our homepage is designed as if we are meeting someone for the first time. We introduce ourselves in a short positioning headline and offer a handshake by inviting the user to meet our team. Other key entry points on the page include our core service categories and client testimonials. As you continue throughout our website through the services and about pages, there are repetitive buttons with our clearly defined calls to action for booking that consult or requesting a detailed quote. When clicked, these either open an email browser to our main email address, or direct the user to our website contact form. Once we receive the inquiry, we then follow up with the business to take them to the next step in their buyer’s journey.

Other key design tools depending on your business type may include: 

  • Address, phone number and shop hours easily accessible from the homepage if you are a retail or service-based business (perhaps the footer or header menu area)
  • Multiple ways for users to reach out and engage with you such as social media, email, phone or contact forms
  • A simple checkout process if you operate an e-commerce website with multiple payment type options
  • Virtual tours or product demos
  • Short promotional video to quickly explain what you do

Wondering which user experience strategy is right for you? Do you like coffee? Us too! Book your complimentary consult today by emailing info@whitecanvasdesign.ca or fill out the short form on our contact page to get started.