User-experience design: beyond beauty

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

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

Rocket fuel for websites

Rocket fuel for websites

Having a website is a good start for your Online Presence but it, alone, is not the key to online success. Your website needs Search Engine Marketing.

I still come across a surprising amount of website owners who expect to be successful online just because they have a website. Having a website is a very good start but it, alone, is not the key to success. Having nothing more than a website and only relying on word-of-mouth a business owner might as well promote their website with printed flyers or do it telephonically.

A simple analogy: if you own a car, do you have transport? Technically, yes. But, if you do not have fuel in the tank of your car you technically do not have transport. This is where the connection between Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and your website comes into the picture.

SEO relates the content of your website to Search Engines, such as Google. This enables potential customers to find your website without having to know the name of your Brand. Internet users are looking for your products, or services, and these are the search terms they type into Search Engines in order to find your website. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising works in a similar way.

Search Engines favour quality content. For this reason a successful website needs to be built “Search Engine-ready” containing the structure and content that Search Engines prefer to present to Internet users. Search Engine ranking, through either SEO or PPC, puts the fuel in the tank of your website to be visible on the Internet and accessible to potential customers. The combination of a quality website (built for Search Engine success), quality website content and effective Search Engine Optimisation is a sure-fire way of making your business successful online.

– Willem Botha, Director

The magic is in Mobile

The magic is in Mobile

Most website owners are already well aware of how crucial it is to have a Mobile-responsive website. During the past four years Mobile devices have overtaken Desktop devices as the main means of access to the Internet and this tendency is only growing. Are we paying enough attention to the actual user-experience (UX) on Mobile devices or is the look/feel of Mobile-responsive website design still viewed as an afterthought?

Desktop devices (think 24-inch screen) will never lose their delicious cinematic appeal: browsing through large pictures and experiencing more of the website on a single screen than what can be done on Mobile. In certain industries your Desktop site will probably always be where returning visitors will go to immerse themselves in your information. However, in order to build your army of loyal followers your website has to, first, be discovered by new users. This is the pivotal point where Mobile comes into the contemporary picture.

The Development of any new website should be Mobile-focused. This does not mean that Desktop sites should be neglected but Mobile has to be put first. This makes business sense. In our Analytics Reporting at Xeitweb we already see that most of our clients, during any given month, tend to have 48 – 55% of their total website traffic from Mobile devices. Of the Mobile percentage, easily, 80% of the traffic would be new site visitors. This means that whichever industry you are in there is, roughly, a 70% chance that your website will first be discovered (by a first-time site visitor) on a Mobile device.

The first-time discovery of your business website by an Internet user is a make-or-break moment for your Brand. If the Mobile user-experience is immersive and easy to navigate the Internet-user could immediately relate to your brand and access the primary information they have been hoping to find. Depending on your Brand message, or the industry you are in, the first-time visitor to your Mobile site could then later visit your site on a Desktop device because they have already established a connection with your Brand. However, if the first experience of your website on Mobile is unpleasant or frustrating you could lose a site visitor and potential customer.

How do we ensure that the crucial, initial experience of your website on Mobile is an excellent experience? We do not conceptualise a Desktop site and then take it to Mobile as an afterthought. The first step is to approach the design of your Mobile site in a different way to the Desktop version of your site. Auto-responsive technology is our (greatly beloved) friend but as soon as the design of a website becomes intricate, which is often needed, the bridge between Desktop and Mobile cannot all be left to auto-stacking. Elements such as font choice, font sizes, image sizes and even colour tones need to be adapted. Beautiful hover-effects used on a Desktop site need to be replaced with equally immersive visual elements on Mobile, all within the same design style of the relevant website.

However much of a cliché, the expression “first impressions last” will forever be true. Let’s put your Mobile site first as this is where your Brand will be discovered. In order to grow your business you should not rely on existing site visitors alone. Let’s make the first-time online (Mobile) discovery of your Brand an excellent user-experience.

– Willem Botha, Director