Have you ever abandoned a company website because of clumsy payment portals or hard to navigate product listings? If so, you'll appreciate how important user experience (UX) is to the modern economy.
User experience refers to the way site visitors interact with content, from search boxes and web chat bots, to help portals and product listings. And it's a rapidly growing area of the digital sector, as companies are locked in competition to provide the best possible experience.
At Ironhack, we teach beginners and experts alike. And here are some of our guiding principles to help user experience professionals as they reshape the way we use the web.
1. Consistency is key
First of all, user experience designers need to keep a laser-like focus on consistency. This means referring to brand guidelines and house style for aesthetics and language. But more importantly from a user experience perspective, it means ensuring that all user journeys feel the same, with similar mechanisms for different processes on the site.
Consistency has another key benefit: when users visit websites, they want to feel comfortable and familiar with every page they use. So good UX modelers incorporate elements that are familiar from similar websites, and work hard to make users feel at home from the first time they visit.
2. User needs are everything
In the world of user experience, everything has to revolve around what users need and feel. There's nothing more important when crafting website or apps that are intended to hold attention, provide experiences, and generate conversions.
Because of this, beginners need to learn how to put themselves in the place of users, so they can understand how visitors actually engage with their designs. Creating user personas is a useful heuristic here. They let you model different demographics and behaviors, so that sites can be optimized for everyone from students to seniors.
3. Learn how to sketch site hierarchies
Another crucial skill for UX beginners is the ability to create visual representations of how sites work. In general, this means understanding how the elements of a particular site fit into a larger hierarchy.
Hierarchies can be primary or visual, and both matter. Primary hierarchies are the most familiar, dealing with the way content is organized on sites. This includes things like home pages, product categories, individual product listings, and additional pages like terms and conditions or the all-important "about us" section.
Visual hierarchy is just as important. This refers to the way site elements are placed on the overall design. Which graphics are the most prominent? How large should navigation buttons be? Everything should come together in a way that encourages visitors to explore content and make conversions.
4. Function comes before beauty
When crafting your UX models, it's essential to keep this maxim in mind: usability trumps beauty every time. While there's nothing wrong with beautiful digital creations, if they aren't easy to use and efficient, sites will tend to deter visitors, resulting in a sub-standard user experience.
Beginners shouldn't feel unable to experiment with the look of their designs. But it's a good idea to test and double test every page to make sure that aesthetic improvements don't compromise usability. As you develop your skills, you can work more fluently, but UX auditing is always a sound starting point in the early days of your career.
5. Does the site cater for every context?
Contemporary user experience professionals need to cast their net widely. It's not sufficient to create sites that look and feel good on Chrome. You need to take into account the experience of smartphone users, tablets, diverse browsers, and even specialized apps.
Beginners need to contextualize their projects and make sure they work for every situation. Does your site provide a solid UX for people who are checking their phone while out shopping? Is it quick enough to use when commuting? And does every version provide access to the content users require?
6. Don't design without considering accessibility
Alongside devices, user experience creators need to foreground accessibility. You wouldn't design a school or hospital without providing wheelchair access. And you wouldn't create pedestrian systems without taking into account the partially sighted. Things are no different in website design, where many different types of person access the same resource.
Think about how those with disabilities will interact with your site. For instance, you might want to fine tune the color scheme to make sure that the site is optimized for visually impaired users. And it's important to simplify every page to create flows and content delivery mechanisms that make life easy for everyone.
7. Keep project progress under control
UX projects have a couple of things in common. Firstly, they tend to pass through similar project milestones. And secondly, if you don't maintain control over project progress, they can quickly become very, very complex.
However, beginners can make it far easier to manage their projects by referring to which phase they have reached in the modeling process.
Phases stretch from ideation and planning, through to creating proof of concept and prototype sketches, refinement of those prototypes to create working models, and then completion of the most effective model to create a finished, ready-to-use website.
Complete planning before prototyping, and make sure your testing is complete before putting final element in place. That way, you'll feel more confident about completing projects on schedule and the results will be more impressive as well.
8. Keep things simple
In website design, the principle "less is more" should guide everything you do. Think about your own web usage. Have you ever appreciated complex language, clicking through 3-4 portals to reach payment pages, or having to open multiple tabs to access the information you need? Probably not.
It's not always easy for beginners, but try to cut out as much as possible without compromising the overall user experience. Use simple language at all times. Stick to clear typography for messages and buttons. And avoid clutter at all costs.
Become a user experience expert with Ironhack's assistance
UX is a booming sector in the digital economy. Companies across the world need an army of engineers to build websites that deliver what users desire, and they are often willing to pay a lot of money for that expertise.
Starting a user experience journey is easier than you think. Just enrol in one of Ironhack's bootcamps for UX UI Designers and start delivering beautiful solutions which make life easier. Anyone can do it, as long as they have a passion, creativity and dedication.