We call it “user experience” (UX) for a reason. Users can have a good one or a bad one. They can have a memorable one or a forgettable one. My vote is to have all my clients give all of their users a memorable, good experience. How does this happen? What can be done to help it along?
Facebook, Twitter and WordPress are all phenomenally successful. Owing in greater part to the layout of their sites the user experience they offer is quite memorable even if the site itself seems mundane and average. Sure to be the bane of wildly creative graphic artists you’ll see the reason for this is because every element on the page is generally where the vast percentage of visitors expects it to be or the design is so simple it is impossible to miss “what to do” or “where to go”.
Granted there are elements and functions of Facebook which seem to be hidden and the same can be said for Twitter but the more important features are basically “in your face” from the first visit. Whether this is by design or simply due to the designer’s human and personal preferences I do not know but what really matters is the layout, positioning and visibility of the necessary interactions are neither obscured by design nor are they obfuscated by content. Busy pages are UX killers for new users and you can’t get repeat users if your new user experience sucks enough to permanently dissuade them from revisiting.
I read an article recently about a Computer Associates (CA) study done back in 2010 where users were wired to an EEG machine, which reads brain activity, and put through a series of online experiences included UX challenges. The results were overwhelmingly conclusive that bad online experiences, including looking for links, buttons and functions, excited the parts of the brain associated with anxiety and frustration. The test proved that a bad online experience caused the user to concentrate with 50% more effort and even resulted in contortions of the face though subtle they may have been.
Different users have varying thoughts on what a bad user experience is. Site owners must determine which users to cater to because, as in all things, it’s virtually impossible to please everyone. Twitter did it by being simple and above the fold. Facebook did it by making it pretty simple to get started and highly rewarding for one of the greatest emotional needs, acceptance and involvement, once you did. WordPress does it because although themes may vary the common layout which exists among most means always having a good idea where the search box is, what the header does and how to use the features like the menu, comments and login.
Kim Bannerman on Ladybugs and Broomsticks recently shared her list of bad UX ideas with us:
My 7 top examples of Bad User Experience and User Interface Design
- Mobile “optimized” site – that looks like a table of contents
- Flash – I have an iPhone, iPad and a MacBook
- Pop Up Ads – I click to close them. Period.
- Flashing Banner Links – again, it looks like an ad and I will not click
- Site Consistency – your user needs to feel comfortable
- Auto Play Video – huge problem on major media/magazine sites
- Keep it simple – the best design is often the most clean
For the most part I think we all agree on the majority of the site. Although only a small percentage of us have only Apple products the disdain for Flash extends far and wide. (In case you aren’t aware Flash is memory hungry, not necessarily that secure and is really just a way for the code challenged to make a website perform like a video. Basically is sucks for all real and useful purposes.) Her inclusion of Auto Play Video, as regular readers know, is on the top of my list.