User Experience Design
While the discipline of designing for the web is heavily rooted in graphic design, we must remember that building a successful website is more akin to product design. That is, we need to make sure we build and maintain our websites to be usable for the people who visit them.
Users need to be able to enter the site, conduct their task and meet their goal, and leave, ideally without the thought of the fact they were on a ‘website’ ever in their head. They should just interact and consume content. In that regard, the website itself should be invisible.
With that in mind, UX (user experience) design is heavily grounded in understanding users and their needs, the content being presented, and most importantly the goals of the website.
Our Guiding Principles
While they may change or be adapted per project, Alloneword have a set of guiding principles that help define decisions and validate ideas. This list have evolved over countless years and projects, growing into a solid strategic list of rules for all digital projects to follow.
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- Do less better
- Achieve accessibility not symmetry
- Embrace fluidity
- Design for content not devices
- Don’t make users think
- Design mobile first
- Understand performance matters
- Design with data where possible
- Write content to be relevant, up to date and in the same tone of voice
- Show there’s always more to explore
Data driven decision making gives us the chance for truly user centred design.
Using the hard and fast data of what users are actually doing (or trying to do) on your site gives great insight into how we can start to make data driven decisions, rather than based on personal opinion and experience, although that is also valid.
Alloneword work closely with clients, reviewing and analysing the behaviour of their users, to ensure that the final design gives a user exactly what they need.
Testing our site against specific tasks, with the mindset and ability of a relevant demographic group ensures we keep the human element to interactions on the site.
While analytics gives us hard and fast data on where users are going, and what the popular areas of our site are, we must not forget that we are designing for people. People have a range of technical abilities, functionality preferences, mindsets and temperaments. By researching, drafting, agreeing upon and testing user personas and journeys, we ensure we keep the human element to interactions on our site.
Rufus is in his mid 30s and works in recruitment for a supermarket chain based in Herefordshire. He enjoys his work but also his down time, where he likes to stay active with running, hiking and generally being out and about. His friend is coming to stay in a couple of weeks and he’ll want to make sure they aren’t bored. He’s found the website via a search engine on his iPhone and lands directly on the events page. He’s currently in a rural pub, so while his phone is quick, the connection speed is not.
While we can agree upon an exercise to make the site better, and we will have a snag list of items to remedy, what constitutes ‘better’? Do all stakeholders agree? How do we measure if we’ve been successful at the end?
The actionWe’ll first want to agree upon what we want to do with our site. Do we want to drive traffic to higher ticket items? Make top tasks clearly visible? Or reduce the noise of the purchase journey?
The reasonOnce we’ve stated what the action will be, it's important to express the reason. If a reason doesn’t exist, then why do we want to do it? Is it that margins are better on higher ticket items? Or that research has shown the journey to purchase products is too confusing?
The goalThis is the measure of success which determines whether that goal has been achieved or not. We’ll need to make sure we have something achievable and that it can be measured. Will we see more traffic to certain products? Or maybe we’ll see a smaller drop-off rate during the checkout?
For projects where a current site already exists, a logical first step is first reviewing what content is on the site, what it’s saying, and if it’s all fluid. An audit gives an overview of where holes are and where work should start.
Alloneword workshops should open up discussion about content, whether it’s required, if it’s in the right place, and if its title is descriptive enough for what it contains. User scenarios and project goals should also heavily influence this session.
From collaborative exercises and analysis, a sitemap could be drafted, to clearly indicate where content will sit relative to each other. Having this decided prior to design and wireframing gives designers insight into the overall building blocks of the site.
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone, regardless of disability, is an essential aspect.”
Making websites that are usable and functional to everyone, regardless of limitations or ability, is an integral part of building for the web.
Ethically we should adhere to this, and financially it makes sense to ensure as many users can transact as possible.
The following are points Alloneword aim to adhere to with all new web projects.
- AA compliant colour contrasts
- Semantic markup such as HTML5 and ARIA labels
- Text alternatives
- Focus states for keyboard tabbing
- Non reliance on pure colour for colour blindness
- Good readable type and reasonably sized tap/click targets
- Non restrictive typographic scaling in browser
Creating full pages might be the desired result, but creating a usable and intuitive design system is critical in any part of the user experience process.
From initial kick-off and wireframing, modular design must be a considered part of the process. We want to lead users on a journey, and making that journey as clearly signposted and easy to use is possible is important for that.
While they might not be aware of it, when a user first lands on any site, subconsciously they are learning the interface to work the site, just like a learner driver learns to use a car. First and foremost, any design patterns we can hook into; headings at the top of a page, text inputs being rectangular and a navigation found somewhere in the first section of the page, as this will help smooth the initial page landing.
With the more bespoke parts of our site, keeping consistent page to page quickens learning. Calls to action, as seen on the right, may have variants, such as a stand out primary and subtle secondary, but they both keep a consistent interface and elements, meaning once a user has learnt what it in and it’s layout, whenever they encounter a new component, they will already have a familiarity with it, be it primary, secondary, or even the introduction of a tertiary element.
Relevant UX Articles
10 Common UX Questions
13 Apr, 2019
As a small design studio who works with lots of startup and new business, we’re used to (and love to) talk about the specifics of design and the creative process, and how all that can be individually harnessed to help that fledgling company succeed.
Is Your Website Working for Your Users?
25 Apr, 2017
Having a website is now commonplace as part of a business. No matter how big or small a company is, the fact that customers often look on the web first to solve a problem means you need to be there for them to find you. But what happens next?
Asking the Right Questions
31 May, 2021
Part of being a good UX designer isn’t having the right answers, its about asking the right questions. Knowing what the questions are will lead to moulding the design from a ill defined shape, to a considered and appropriate product.
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