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The Ultimate User Experience: Why the Old Website Rules Don't Work

A decade ago, the general rule for website development was "build it and they will come." With fierce competition and thousands of other webmasters vying for the same customers, this mentality is no longer a viable solution. For a business to survive online, they must actively seek better ways to cater to users. One way a website can improve visibility and engage users is by creating the ultimate user experience. The concept is easier said than done. Most popular websites, the likes of Twitter and Facebook perform in-depth research and a strong understanding of data related to understand user behaviour patterns.

What is Your Target User?

One common mistake is making a site that caters to everyone instead of a specific audience. Every site has a target persona. You can't compare yourself to Amazon with its massive customer base and brand visibility, but you can take note of how Amazon caters specifically to searchers and buyers. The interface has a clear call to action (CTA) where the customer can add product to a cart and later continue through the checkout process. Amazon is a customer's go-to site for shopping, because it's easy to use, every part of the shopping experience is covered by the user interface, and users can search and buy products within minutes of landing on the site.

The way to target a user is to put yourself in their shoes. Move away from being a webmaster and look at your site design and content from a customer's perspective. This step is often difficult for website owners who define site layout using their own personal preferences instead of determining requirements for a target audience.

Your target audience has specific functionality needs that are much more specific than what site owners could ignore a decade ago. User design was once a standard layout with common elements such as navigation and content location. However, user design and interfaces have numerous movable parts including architecture, interaction design, visual design, responsive mobile components, usability, and even human factors that can be difficult to project. All of these components should work to accomplish one goal: better functionality for the user.

Customers Need to Perform What Tasks?

The competitive nature of online marketing is forcing webmasters to be experts in a field and not a jack-of-all-trades. Using Amazon as an example again, the site was founded in the 1990s when sites focused on offering general expertise across several domains. Now, to compete against numerous other websites in the same niche, a business must show specialised expertise that other sites don't have.

As an expert in the field, it should be fairly easy to know what tasks are needed for site design. This step is accomplished using a process called "user stories." Stories are given to developers who then translate these stories into functional website components. The following list gives you some samples of user stories:

  • As a customer service representative, I need to review a customer's order status.
  • As a customer, I need to search for product.
  • As a customer, I need to review my order status.
  • As a customer, I need to return product.
  • As a shipping employee, I need to see a list of orders that must be shipped and deduct product from inventory when product is shipped.

Notice these user stories can be translated into functional website components. Designers and developers use these stories to ensure that websites have functionality that meet user needs. Better engagement can assist with search engine visibility, popularity, and improves your ROI.

Overall, you should be focusing on making your website user friendly to solve problems. If the problem is that the user needs to find products, the site owner must be able to identify the best solution that gives users the right functionality to perform a task to solve the problem.

Companies used to hire a designer to create site layout, but today's successful organizations recognize that a team of designers and developers is needed to anticipate and cater to emerging interface trends. When these trends become common, users expect site design to have these components. Recently Google has adopted longer scrolling pages, for example, which you wouldn’t of seen a few years ago.

Finding the Right User Interface

Finding the right user interface is a process of experimentation. Tools such as Google Analytics tell you which pages perform well. You can link to Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics to review user behaviours and tweak the design accordingly. These tools allow you to track user behaviour from the first landing page to the exit pages and conversion pages. Experimentation is key to finding the right layout. A simple CTA placement can change your ROI immensely. Developers and marketing experts don't inherently know the right layout for web design until data is gathered and analysed.

With the right tools and experience, a site owner can eventually deploy the ultimate user interface. The days of throwing up a website and hoping for the best are long gone. The ultimate user interface is a combination of understanding users, being an expert in your field, using the right tools and experimenting with minor tweaks.