Your website could have all the pretty visuals and powerful words in the world, but they won’t mean anything unless they’re sending the right message to the right people.
Every aspect of your brand is telling a story and leading your users down a road to your desired end goal. UX design is the path they take to get there – so make sure it’s a smooth and straightforward one. If that navigation is clear, enjoyable and helpful, the likelihood that they will remain loyal to your brand will skyrocket.
But great UX design obviously isn’t that cut-and-dry – far from it. UX design is the process of finding the sweet spot between your most expressive content and the user’s needs. The right UX design will draw in the right people; on the other hand, those peoples’ pre-existing opinions and needs should influence the way you design their experience. It’s all about finding the right balance.
So before you embark on your latest UX design journey, remember to ask yourself how you plan on finding that balance. How can you keep your design simple while still expressing your brand in an impactful way that pops out and speaks to the user? On the flip side, how can you fully express yourself (and take all the design risks and challenges you might want) without making your site difficult to use?
The foundations of fantastic UX design
As with every other branding effort you will ever make, the first step in the process is knowing yourself and your brand better than anybody else. That means having a clear vision, well-planned goals and a strategy to tie it all together. Confidence in who you are and how you measure success is key to making sure you’re attracting the right people and building strong relationships. Which brings us to the next point…
Know your audience
This is the biggest key to a crafting successful UX design plan. Knowing your audience is your foundation to every other branding effort that comes after. Every part of the branding process should encourage you to understand your audience and give you the ability to step into their shoes, and this is most important when it comes to UX design.
Take some time to really understand and narrow down your target demographic/buyer/client. Here are just a few important questions to guide your research:
- How old are they?
- What is their experience with technology/modern multimedia?
- What’s important to them?
- How do they need you to help them?
In order to do that successfully, you have to step out of your personal bubble and think like a user. This is going to help you find the necessary balance between bold expression and simplistic usability.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. If you were looking for a product/service like yours, what would your top priorities be? How much time would you likely have on your hands? What questions would you have? What would draw you in visually, verbally and intellectually?
Tell a story
Once you’ve gained a solid understanding of who your audience is and how you’re going to reach them, you’re ready to create a successful UX design plan.
It’s important to keep in mind that your website is telling a story of why your audience should care, how you can help them and what you’re going to do to show them that. UX design will lead the way and help them understand each individual step they’re going to take on their journey.
So ask yourself: Where does your story begin? What are the possible directions it can take along the way based on user needs? Where does it end? Every step of the way (every web page, in your case) should be created with a user-first mindset and with the total journey in mind.
Now that you’ve got the right mindset to move forward in your creation process, here are a few quick tips for outlining and implementing UX design that will be efficient, successful and effective:
Do your research – often
Sometimes it’s easy to get so wrapped up in our desire to be “the best” or “the most unique” that we overlook the power of inspiration and fail to intentionally seek it out as frequently as we should. But indulging in a bit of inspirational browsing can be a huge key to creating UX design that knocks it out of the park.
Learning UX design is a lot like learning a new language – the best way to improve is through immersion. Immerse yourself in and get connected with UX design communities around the world that are constantly connecting and sharing their work and ideas.
Here are some good places to start:
Here’s a pro tip when visiting sites like this: look at each project from both perspectives, as both user and UX designer. Make notes of where the design is confusing or pleasing to you as a user, and keep that in mind when you’re back in the designer’s chair.
Don’t let copy fall to the wayside
Copy and design will always go hand-in-hand when it comes to creating a successful user experience. Both are huge channels through which your brand’s voice, tone and mission are expressed, so it’s important to keep each in mind while planning the other.
Your UX design will inherently be influenced by what kind of copy you deem necessary, how much copy there will be and how it will be spread out on your site. At this point you know that great website writing takes into account things like readability, subheads, etc. All of these are things that will be impacted by your UX design, and vice versa. Similarly, your copy will depend on the flexibility of your UX design.
On that note…
Top 5 aesthetic principles of UX design
Freelance UX designer Nicole Saidy recently published a blog with her top five principles of UX design: color, balance, contrast, typography and consistency. Let’s break those down a bit:
- Color: Whether you realize it consciously or not, color is sending an important message to anybody visiting your site. Color influences usability and mood of the consumer and can even impact their decision to remain loyal to your brand.
- Balance: Many people synonymize “balance” with “symmetry,” and therefore may feel like balance means imposing a rigid structure. This isn’t the case, though – in fact, balance can be struck with asymmetrical placements and designs just as well.
- Contrast: Great contrast has the power to guide your user through their journey around your site. It’s also an excellent way to organize your content and add structure in a creative, aesthetically-pleasing way.
- Typography: Readability has an enormous impact on not only your user’s experience, but also your overall SEO. Typography plays a big role in this, and doing it well will amplify the message of the actual words.
- Consistency: One UX Collective article summed up this concept perfectly with one simple sentence: “Usability and learnability improve when similar elements have a consistent look and function in similar way.” This same article outlines the four main types of consistency that can make or break your UX design: visual, functional, internal and external.
Test, test, and test again
Every step of the UX design process ultimately comes down to putting yourself in the position of the user – and the testing phase is no different.
Of course, a true test will involve outsiders who weren’t affiliated with the UX design or website development process. But you, as the UX designer, should also be able to put on your user hat and comb through your site for any places where users might get lost, frustrated or confused.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to UX design – don’t be afraid to experiment and let your creative side run free.