UX In Web Design: Best Practices For High-Performing Websites
User experience (UX) is paramount in creating high-performing websites that meet user needs in today’s digital world.
A positive UX leads to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and conversion rates. However, poor UX drives users away in frustration, resulting in lost revenue and damaged brand reputation. That’s why implementing UX best practices should be a top priority for any business with an online presence.
In this article, we’ll explore some best practices around UX in web design and how they contribute to a website’s success. Optimizing these areas creates seamless user flows that make visitors feel valued, engaged, and compelled to take action.
Whether you’re launching a new website or looking to improve an existing one, applying UX principles lays the groundwork for connecting with customers and outperforming the competition. Read on to learn tangible tips for elevating your website’s user experience.
H2: Conducting User Research
Create representative personas
To truly optimize the user experience on a website, comprehensive understanding of your target audience is required. Developing representative personas based on real user data lays this vital foundation.
The first step is conducting in-depth user interviews to uncover insights. Ask about demographics, motivations, goals, frustrations, and objections.
Supplement interviews with analytics from heatmaps, surveys, support tickets, and other sources. Look for trends and commonalities that point to 2-3 primary user groups.
Next, synthesize the compiled data into fictional yet realistic personas. Give each persona a descriptive name, photo, and robust backstory. Include details like age, location, education level, interests, values, and career. Outline their goals and challenges related to using your website. Be as specific as possible to humanize the persona.
With well-defined personas, you can empathize with users’ needs and make design choices accordingly. For example, if a persona wants to quickly purchase a product, ensure checkout flows are simple and fast. Or if a persona finds certain features confusing, create tutorials and guides to aid their understanding.
Personas are not a one-time exercise. Revisit them often and update with new data. They will evolve as your customer base grows.
When every design decision stems from a place of deep user insight, you create an experience that exceeds expectations. Users will intuitively know that the site was designed for people like them.
There is no shortcut to this level of personalization – it requires dedicating time upfront to build and leverage robust personas.
Usability testing provides invaluable direct user feedback that exposes strengths and weaknesses in your website’s user experience.
To extract meaningful insights, carefully recruit 5-8 participants representing your core target personas. Offer incentives if needed to secure their time.
Prepare a testing script of 3-5 tasks that align with your site’s primary goals. For example, tasks could include registering for an account, making a purchase, finding specific information, or navigating between pages.
Set up the test space to observe and record participants as they complete the tasks on your live site. Tracking software can record on-screen activity, facial expressions, mouse movements, clicks, scrolls, and task times.
As much as possible, avoid interfering and simply observe as participants interact with your site. Look for areas of confusion, frustration, or hesitation. Make note of questions asked, comments made, roadblocks encountered, and suggestions offered.
You may gain further insights by asking participants to vocalize their thought process as they use your site. Feedback often uncovers explicit UX problems, while tone of voice, facial expressions and body language reveal implicit issues.
Remember that much can be learned from just a few tests. You don’t need a huge sample size to uncover major usability flaws. Use the feedback from each round to incrementally improve the UX before testing again.
Over time, regularly testing with real users will help refine your site into one that effortlessly supports customer goals. Users will appreciate that the site was iterated based directly on their feedback, ultimately driving higher engagement and loyalty.
Organize content effectively
Organizing a website’s content in a logical, consistent structure is crucial for user experience. Start by mapping out an intuitive information hierarchy that aligns with how users think about your offerings.
Group related topics and products together in digestible sections and categories.
For example, an ecommerce site may divide products first by general category like electronics, apparel, or home goods. Then further subdivide into specific types of products like laptops, shirts, or kitchenware. Chunking similar items together makes it easier for customers to browse relevant selections.
See this example from eBay:
Here’s their main category section:
As you can see, I’ve selected P&A, then it groups everything automobiles under this category and breaks them into more relevant categories
On a content-heavy site, organize information using established conventions familiar to users. For instance, group lesson modules from beginner to advanced levels. Or divide blog articles by popular topics and themes. Adding descriptive headers and formatting elements like bullets helps users scan and absorb the content.
A clear, consistent navigation scheme is equally important for easy access. Include a persistent main menu linking to key pages and categories. Maintain contextual local menus on sub-pages to enable drilling down. Craft navigation labels using recognizable terminology that reflects users’ mental models.
Alphabetize menus or order options from most to least critical.
Regularly re-evaluate the structure and navigation as new content is added. Maintain the logical flow and alignment with user goals. Confirm nothing important has been inadvertently buried. Careful ongoing oversight of organization and findability prevents fragmentation over time.
In essence, meticulously organizing, formatting and linking related content significantly improves the user experience. Users can intuitively navigate to find the information they want, keeping them engaged with the site. A thoughtful structure aligned to user expectations makes a world of difference.
As websites grow, users struggle to locate information without proper findability aids. An effective combination of sitemaps, breadcrumbs, and internal site search makes content navigation effortless.
A thoughtfully organized sitemap provides an overview of the entire site structure on one page. All main pages and top-level categories should be linked for easy access. Ensure sitemap links are crawlable to also benefit SEO.
A sitemap gives users a bird’s-eye view to jump between sections.
Displaying breadcrumbs on all sub-pages gives contextual orientation within the site hierarchy. Following the trail of Home > Category > Subcategory > Current Page reduces confusion about the current location. Breadcrumbs also enable effortless backwards navigation to higher levels.
An internal site search helps users lookup specific keywords across all content. Go beyond just matching search terms by mapping them to relevant topics and synonyms. Display type-ahead suggestions for faster access to common searches. Fine-tune results relevancy over time as you analyze search usage and trends.
See this example from Amazon, where search terms are displayed for faster access:
Without these findability aids, users struggle to access desired content, draining time and patience. Sitemaps, breadcrumbs, and site search each fill important gaps, giving multiple options to quickly narrow in on targets.
Layering these elements optimizes discoverability and simplifies content navigation.
Design intuitive user flows
Seamless user flows are essential for facilitating key tasks and driving conversions. Start by mapping the specific steps users take to complete priority goals on your website. These may include signing up for an account, making purchases, accessing tools, finding information, submitting forms, and more.
Analyze each flow to pinpoint areas of friction and inefficiency. Look for any redundant or unnecessary steps that could be removed to streamline the process. Check that steps logically build on each other in the correct sequence. Identify opportunities to simplify complex actions or pre-populate information to skip repetitive entry.
Next, diagram the optimized flows to visualize the ideal user path from start to finish. The diagrams should illustrate a logical progression where each step advances the user closer to task completion. Review the diagrams and confirm no remaining sticking points or inconsistencies slow down the flows.
Ideally, key user flows are simple, intuitive, and efficient. Users shouldn’t need to click more than necessary or repeat steps due to poor design. Eliminating points of friction encourages completion rather than abandonment.
Proactively mapping and enhancing user flows for priority tasks creates seamless experiences. Users will appreciate a site designed to directly facilitate their goals with no speed bumps. The improved ease and clarity of interactions can significantly lift conversions and customer satisfaction.
Prototype user journeys
Prototyping is an invaluable step in the design process that allows testing and refinement of user journeys before full development. Use prototyping software to link site pages together in a realistic clickable experience. The prototype should capture key flows even if visual details are sparse.
With a prototype ready, recruit a small group of representative users to complete tasks and provide feedback. Observe how they navigate through the flows. Make note of any hesitation, confusion, inaccurate clicks, or need for guidance. Their verbal comments and body language will further reveal usability flaws.
Catalog all issues identified and iteratively refine the prototype to address them. For example, you may need to rearrange steps, change navigation labels, add guidance cues, or streamline forms. Retest the improved version with users to confirm usability bugs have been fixed.
Iterate through multiple rapid testing cycles to catch and resolve UX problems early when they are easiest to fix. Prototyping also allows validating proposed solutions without investing in full design and development upfront.
In essence, prototyping puts new concepts and flows in users’ hands early to extract feedback. This assessment ensures smooth user journeys in the final product that intuitively facilitate conversions and engagement. Prototyping is a cornerstone of user-centered design.
Align with brand strategy
A consistent brand presence throughout the website fosters familiarity and strengthens trust with users. Carefully align visual design and content with the established brand strategy.
Incorporate brand colors in backgrounds, buttons, headlines, and other elements. Use branded fonts, spacing, and typographic styles that reinforce recognition. Select photographs, illustrations, icons, and graphics that visually communicate the brand personality.
Optimize on-page content for SEO, but maintain the brand’s tone of voice. Highlight key brand messaging in hero sections and calls to action.
Strengthen connections by retaining brand consistency across all channels.
Users should encounter aligned visuals, content, and interactions whether engaging via website, apps, ads, social media, or other touchpoints.
A unified brand presence boosts memorability so customers easily recall your business. It signals quality and competence to earn users’ trust in the brand promise. The website should serve as a synergistic embodiment of the brand through all sensory elements. This level of cohesion requires coordination between design, content, and technology teams.
But consistency provides immense value. Users feel secure in familiar experiences and gravitate toward brands that respect their time by not requiring re-learning. A website aligned with the broader brand strategy earns recognition and loyalty.
Focus on usability
Optimizing website usability through simplicity and ease of use is foundational to the user experience. Ensure primary calls-to-action stand out clearly with high-contrast buttons and action-oriented labels. Place key CTAs prominently in sticky headers or hero sections to keep them top-of-mind.
Make navigation intuitive through conventions familiar to users. Use descriptive headers and recognizable menu labels organized logically. Include icons to visually communicate functionality. Responsively resize elements so usability isn’t compromised on mobile.
Reduce friction in flows by automating and remembering steps where possible. Pre-fill forms with known user data to skip repetitive entry. Enable one-click checkout. Store past orders or saved items to ease re-ordering.
Testing will reveal additional opportunities to streamline and refine processes. Any point of difficulty represents a chance to delight users by simplifying their path. Even small usability touches make interacting with the site feel more efficient and satisfying.
Whenever possible, utilize design patterns that leverage people’s ingrained mental habits and instincts. The goal is for users to instinctively know how to take actions and find information on the site. Seamless usability earns trust and appreciation, driving lasting engagement.
1. Question: What is the best way to conduct user research on a budget?
Answer: Recruit a small number of users (5-8) for remote moderated interviews via video chat. Offer incentives if needed. Analyze findings to uncover insights.
2. Question: How many personas should you have?
Answer: Limit personas to 2-3 primary ones representing your core audience segments. Too many becomes unwieldy. Ensure personas are realistic and backed by research.
3. Question: What are the most important elements in information architecture?
Answer: Clear, logical hierarchy of content. Descriptive navigation labels. Consistent structure aligned to user mental models. Findability aids like search and sitemaps.
4. Question: What is the difference between wireframes and prototypes?
Answer: Wireframes focus on content structure, layout, flow. Prototypes simulate interactions and are clickable. Wireframes set the blueprint, prototypes test usability.
5. Question: What tools can I use for usability testing?
Answer: Many usability testing tools exist like UserTesting, Validately, Userlytics. Features include screen recording, heatmaps, survey integration.
Is your CRO programme delivering the impact you hoped for?
Benchmark your CRO now for immediate, free report packed with ACTIONABLE insights you and your team can implement today to increase conversion.
Takes only two minutes
If your CRO programme is not delivering the highest ROI of all of your marketing spend, then we should talk.