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User-experience design: beyond beauty

With a myriad of tools (thank goodness) available in contemporary page builders it is so easy, for website owners and web designers alike, to get lost in what is “pretty” or “beautiful”. It is so easy to loose sight of who we are actually producing a website for: for the clients of our clients, the end user.

user-experience – functionality over form for business website design.

Let me start this blog post by categorically stating that, at Xeitweb, we love design. We get lost in finding ideal combinations of fonts and colours for our latest website design project. We delight in graphic textures, illustrations and image manipulation in PhotoShop. Developing the corporate identity of a new client and applying this to their communication platforms is purely a labour of love. Testing filters and animations to enhance user-experience on a website is often a process that needs restraint in order to avoid missing a deadline. No matter how small or large the project, when we hand over a uniquely crafted website to a client we are rewarded by knowing that we have created a business-focused platform that has met all of their expectations, including visual flair.

There I go again… rambling on about the joys of design when this is supposed to be a blog about function over form. Back to the point, there is a vital element that we value more than the visual appeal of the websites we produce: user-experience. How an internet user interacts with your website is integral part of the online success of your website. In this regard, success specifically refers to how the business investment that is your website translates into increased revenue.

With contemporary page builders for web design there are (thank goodness) so many filters, applications, widgets and special effects for the presentation of information on a website. With all these tools available it is so easy, for website owners and web designers alike, to get lost in what is “pretty” or “beautiful”. It is so easy to loose sight of who we are actually producing a website for: for the clients of our clients, the end user.

By the time internet users visit your website they are already partially convinced to make use of your services or to purchase your products. Now, they need further exposure to your brand, additional information and they need it fast. A website with a strong visual identity, a contemporary appearance and an accurate reflection of your business is very important. Even more important, though, is a website that is easy for potential customers and clients to interact with.

A fast-loading, mobile-responsive website is a sure-fire winner in terms of user-experience. Clear, uncomplicated navigation shortens the sales funnel on your website by effortlessly taking site users to the information they are looking for and to the necessary call-to-action mechanisms. Applying design that puts access to detailed information in the hands of site users offers them the opportunity to view only the information they are most interested in instead of having to read through a bulk of text. Site users often land on your site from social media platforms. A website designed to, visually, claim and affirm your brand territory will be reassuring to site users and extend brand awareness. Clear landing pages, reflecting your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) approach drastically reduce bounce rate as this encourages visitors to interact with your information and move to other pages on your website.

We can all relate to the frustrations of a slow-loading website. Unnecessary visual effects, applied only for cosmetic reasons, tend to slow down the loading speed of your website. Too many pop-ups and banners also reduce loading speed but, more importantly, tend to block (or interrupt) access to the information that internet users came to your site for. Landing pages that do not relate to your SEO approach will frustrate site visitors and increase exit rate. Overtly complex, or unclear, navigation can cause confusion and, at worst, site abandonment. With over 50% of inter access now being on Mobile devices, an unpleasant, neglected Mobile experience of your website is detrimental to business success.

The approach we follow, at Xeitweb, is to put the user-experience of a website first: how potential customers or clients will experience your website. Your website is, first and foremost, a business investment and must be designed as a business tool that translates into ROI. Visuals effects can decorate a website but do not have the ability to “hide” poor structural design. We do, though, place great emphasis on the appearance of your website and we apply functionality design as part of the visual production. The look/feel of a website should be included in your online business strategy but the thinking is, always, functionality first. Once a structurally sound website, ready for SEO, is established and user-experience is defined we add to this with additional visual effects: to enhance the user-experience but never to overpower it. We go light on “pretty” and heavy on the functionality of your website as a business tool.

– Willem Botha, Director

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