There would seem to be two sides to user experience – that of the user doing the experiencing, and that of the service provider attempting to create a certain experience or reaction in the user. However, it is a little more complex than that, since there are actually multiple parties on the side of crafting a strong user experience, since UX is so key to success with a site (see below). Since UX is so fundamental, it is the concern of every business – so companies that leverage WordPress as part of their IT ecosystem want to optimize the content management system (CMS) to create greater UX. WordPress itself wants the user experience of its system to be strong. There are layers of UX in this sense, with each of two providers (at the level of the CMS developer and at the level of the individual website) boosting this factor.
Beyond the different players, there is another way to categorize UX: in terms of general ways that you can improve the site and specific features that are available within the platform. This two-part series looks at some of the general ways to approach UX and specific tools that you can use to do so, tapping the perspectives both of the WordPress community and WordPress itself.
Before reviewing steps you can take, broadly and specifically, to improve your site’s UX, it helps to first look at why it is so important.
Who cares? Is UX really important?
Usability, or user experience, is a core element of IT that is often discussed but not necessarily well-understood. The reason it stays so central is that the experience of the user is understood to be essential. Strong UX will improve outcomes in the following ways, according to the Usability Professionals Association (UPA):
- More sales
- Better productivity
- Lower expense for support and training
- Lower expense and time for development
- Lower expense for maintenance
- Stronger customer satisfaction.
Statistics from industry research are also telling. The findings from a 2016 Forrester Research report reveal how powerful user experience is. The analysis found that by improving the UX of the user interface, conversion could rise as much as 200%; even more shocking, by improving the overall UX of the website, conversion could go up as much as 400%.
4 general ways to improve UX
Here are four ways you can improve your user experience:
1.) Work on design.
You want the design of your site to be uncluttered and easy. It is a common issue for web designers to get excessively focused with the aesthetics and forget about how the site will be used. Setting aside the needs of the user to try to impress them with appearance is a huge mistake, as Tom Ewer explains in WPExplorer, noting that “a visitor almost always prefers function over form.” In that sense, it is important to always be thinking about what might be more obvious for the user so that they do not get confused.
Great web design may be interesting to people. However, since websites are (in almost all cases) fundamentally tools that serve a function, predictability is positive for that core need. The person using the site wants to be able to quickly understand a site, in part by seeing capabilities in certain locations, so they can do what they want to do.
Since predictability is so important, good design for UX should follow established standards. Ewer points out that there are various ways you can tweak a standard WP blog design to make it more appealing.
When you do go with a simple design for better UX, beautify it with compelling typography and strong colors. You want the look to be captivating and intriguing yet to remain easy and straightforward. Your function and form should be balanced – but again, with most of the weight on function.
At the same time that you do not want the design to get in the way of people being able to use your site effectively, you still want it to be appealing.
Making the design appealing while also clear will lead to better UX.
2.) Focus on functionality.
As indicated above, you want the layout of the site to be geared toward fulfilling the needs of the user. To be clear, we are not talking about performance, which can be improved with speed optimization tactics and by using high-performance infrastructure. When you think about your functionality, think about what you website is able to provide to visitors. They need to be able to get around your site and do what they need to do.
As such, navigation is core to functionality.
The user should be able to simply make their way through your site, using simple navigation components. Those elements of your site could be:
- a sidebar search box
- a sidebar categories list
- an archives page
- a navigation bar.
Almost all sites will have that navigation bar if not the other elements. The archives page is especially helpful if you organize it by tag, category, and date.
3.) Make your content sing.
You want your content to be, above all, relevant to the users of your site. Relevance is the key point related to UX because the user does not want to have to wade through information that is nothing but a distraction.
Content is not just about the information, though, and that is true even when it comes to UX: you also want it to look great.
To create better user engagement, two forks of your approach should be formatting and typography.
When you look at format, here are aspects to consider:
- You want your sentences and paragraphs to be as short as possible so that everything is easily digestible.
- Use to-the-point, ample subheadings.
- Important aspects of the article or important terms should be bolded.
- Incorporate italics for emphasis of specific terms.
- Introduce images so you are not just reliant on text.
- Use blockquotes, tables, or lists to enhance readability and create pauses in the reading.
To cover the second base, particularly think in terms of your choice of font, along with its color and size.
4.) Use your homepage as a starting point.
Think of your homepage as the entrance to your business, noted Madan Pariyar of Theme-Vision.
The homepage of your site is usually more visited than any other. It will get more links than any other page. People will also typically visit the homepage second if they visit another page first.
Since the homepage is such a doorway to your site, you can greatly improve your UX by focusing on how the user interacts on that page.
Ewer recommends two components to improve homepage UX:
- Feature box – This site element can go at the top of your website and provides an immediate sense of what your site provides. This box can be an opt-in form if you want. A feature box clarifies what you do.
- Start Here page – A Start Here page gives an idea of what is good about your site and provides a step-by-step quick guide to interacting with the site. It’s hand-holding, basically; and that is often what people want.
Note: The second part of this series will be linked here soon.
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