Click here for great user experience and usability advice!
Did you do it? Did you click the link? Don’t worry if it didn’t work for you, it goes nowhere. Regardless of whether or not you clicked the fake link, it initiates a forgettable user experience because anchor links in general are ugly and boring.
An anchor link is an inline link on a page that brings you to a specific place on a page or a site. Inline links have a tendency to create a deviation in the reading process that affects the user experience, yet are completely necessary for proper search engine optimization. Anchor links are a prime example of a usability function. They offer an effective path to additional information and when used correctly can offer a boost search ranking — though the example above is a lesson in poor SEO (let’s see if you go for that one).
Here’s the thing with usability, it is NOT directly connected with user experience. Website usability is synonymous with website utility. You can navigate from A to B efficiently. But just because something is highly usable does not mean it creates a great user experience. A great user experience invokes an emotional connection. It adds something memorable and it taps into a creative core. Not all websites have amazing user experiences, and that’s ok (not awesome, just ok) as long as they are usable. Break the usability though, and the user experience will tank quickly. The harmony of perfect usability and a great user experience is what every website should strive to create.
Figure it out and make something beautiful
Let’s get one thing absolutely square. User experience is not user interface and user interface is not user experience. Short form UI ≠ UX. It’s a common misconception or strange grouping to imply they are one and the same. Time to drop that line of thinking. User experience is cognitive and it is a five-component collective (it’s actually more than five, but let’s keep this simple). It is part user interface, part user expectation, part content delivery, part usability, and part timing, all working in tandem. And it doesn’t end when a user leaves your website, it follows you through every interaction that user has with your business.
Take it from the Nielsen Norman Group, a leading voice in the user experience field, who says “’User experience’ encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
So how can you use this thinking to improve your website? Simply by putting yourself in your user’s shoes. Forget everything you know about your site and ask yourself the following questions through the five components of user experience:
- User Interface
- Does this user interface (ie. the site’s look and feel) please me visually?
- Is my website consistent with my brand guidelines? Do I even have brand guidelines?
- What am I doing visually to engage my audience? For example, are you using simple animations to keep visitors interested? Have you used multiple forms of content to break up text-heavy pages?
- User Expectation
- Are buttons and controls where I expect them?
- Does my website kick ass on a mobile device?
- Do I look trustworthy?
- Investing in your image lets visitors know that you believe in your business, thus will take considerable care in ensuring customers will be served well.
- Content Delivery
- Is my content written for web and is it relevant? Web copy differs from other forms of marketing content because it should actually include repetition, especially with keywords. It should also use short, concise sentences, even fragmented, in order to be consumed quickly as online content is traditionally scanned vs. read thoroughly.
- Does my website use a mix of various media types (photos, video, graphics, audio)?
- Do I have a blog? Is it being updated regularly?
- Does my website work? Like, 100% work? Your checklist should include a browser check, mobile check, link check, spellcheck, etc.
- Is my website accessible for individuals with vision impairments?
- Is it easy for you to take action? Depending on the nature of your business, can customers easily make a purchase, or request more information or book an appointment, etc.?
- Does the information I am looking for present itself when I expect it? For example, does information flow elegantly from one page to another, naturally guiding me to a specific outcome, or does the flow feel abrupt or fragmented?
- How long do I stay on each page?
- Do animated elements linger long enough to be interpreted?
While this is not an exhaustive list of every little thing that you should check (here is a longer list of UX improvements), it will give you a head start if you are looking for ways to break down your existing website and make some solid improvements to how your users interact with your business online.