The concept of user experience (UX) is crucial when it comes to web design. It is a user-focused way to approach the design and layout of digital products whether they are desktop websites, mobile sites or apps. The main role of UX design is to solve problems and make the life of the user easier. Websites should flow easily from one page to the next and be intuitive to navigate in order to provide a smooth user experience. Factors such as page load speed, consistency and clarity are crucial for developing a solid digital product. There are various UX principles that can help guide the creative process from idea to execution. Below are some of the top UX principles every designer should know.
Usability First - UX Principles for Great User Experience
The key here is to keep the end-user in mind when designing a website. Whether it is an e-commerce shop website, a university homepage or the website for a yoga studio, the purpose of any website you are designing is key to developing a smooth user experience. Implementing a clear hierarchy from the home-page to other pages is one of the most-used principles in UX design. Using a tree-like structure that branches from the main home page at the top to other primary pages and down to less important but perhaps more specific pages is the best approach in many cases.
The hierarchy of a website is something that needs to be planned in advance before the design and building process begins. It is worth collecting all of the information required for the website and breaking it down into sections and parts in a tree-type layout. If the flow is natural, the hierarchy should be almost undetectable for the user.
Developing websites that flow well for the user is much more important than implementing overly complex, impressive flows. It is best to put the user in control and let them browse or use a website in their own way. There are plenty of complex web frameworks available, but the best model for the job depends on the website and the needs of the business, plus the experience of the user. What will they use it for? Is it clear that the help centre is accessible from the lower-left corner, for example? A shop website will need to have quite a different layout to an artist’s website or a university website. In many cases, using a breadcrumb trail along the top left of the screen will help with navigation from "main" pages to smaller, more specific pages. It also lets the user quickly and easily travel back to previously-visited pages. This is just one feature that can be implemented in web design to aid user navigation.
What Is the Purpose of the Website?
Some websites need to provide a huge amount of information, while others may need to be easily shoppable. The purpose of the website and how the user will interact with it should be at the top of a designer’s mind when designing, building and testing a website.
Keep It Simple
This UX principle applies to language, the terminology used on the site and also typography. Typography or text-style truly tells a story visually and has an impact on user experience. Using a font or typography that is clear, easy to read and fits with the brand’s identity and style guide is another important element in user experience. Using a simple style that suits the overall purpose of the website is recommended. Many brands and companies will have their own guidelines on this. The job of the UX designer may be related to sizing, resizing and aligning the typeface so that the on-page information is easy to read and browse. Using a simple overall layout and keeping pages uncluttered also leads to great UX design.
Less Is More
That leads us on to the "less is more" principle. Sometimes in web design, it can be hugely beneficial to simply scale things back and simplify the information on a given web page, especially on primary website pages. More specific pages may require a higher level of detail or information, but first impressions are important and the structure or layout of a site should be easily browsable. Links should be clearly labeled, and information should be clearly laid out. Avoid filling web pages with too much information, images and other elements. This will also help with page load times. Navigation doesn't have to be overly complex and the journey from primary pages to deeper, more specific pages should be clear and simple.
Build a Prototype Before You Build the Real Product
Aside from layout and navigation, a website needs to function effectively. This means links lead to the correct landing pages, quick page-speeds, videos and images load instantly, there are no broken links and users have the option to go "back" easily; nobody likes clicking "back" on a shop website only to find their basket has been emptied in doing so, for instance. These elements should be incorporated throughout the UX design process, and everything should ideally be tested before the website goes live. This means building a prototype.
Test UX Principles With a Prototype
A prototype should be as close as possible in appearance, structure and functionality to the real thing. If possible, maybe test the prototype with real users. This provides valuable, in-depth information about how they browse and experience the website. Are all features accessible and visible in a single session? Can the user find everything they need and complete their tasks with ease? Prototyping is an important principle in UX design and is generally one of the final steps in the design process. Some UX tools offer the option to test a prototype with real-time, anonymous users which can help you put this UX principle into practice.
Study UX/UI Design
These are just a few of the most important UX design principles. If you would like to learn UX/UI Design and delve into the fundamentals of web design, check out our UX/UI Bootcamp and our upcoming courses!