What is ‘user experience’?

If you could jump inside the skin of another person, what would you think, feel, say and do?

We are complex beings, each informed by our own experiences but also the subgroups of society in which we participate. Social, professional, special interest and family networks.

This is what great authors and film directors know: the emotions and forces affecting us. They know how to connect contemporary themes and audiences; how to make an entire audience relate, taking us on a journey we will talk about well after returning the novel to the library, or leaving the cinema.

And that is what a great web design and development team does. It starts with research and ends with a remarkable website. The key discipline is called user experience, or ‘UX’.

With so many websites out there, it’s not enough to just build a website that looks pretty. You have to think about what your users are seeking when they come to your site, and how to present it quickly and compellingly.

At a basic level, UX is all about understanding what people need and like.  By having empathy for user needs, website designers and developers consider a range of technical and experiential factors. At the physical level, it is as specific as eyeball, hand and cursor movement. At the mental/emotional level it is about navigation and purpose.

UX specialists:

  • Balance the architecture of the website with content.
  • Prioritise the placement of content on each web page (‘content hierarchy’)
  • Build in flexibility for changes to the website as the company evolves and content hierarchy subsequently alters.
  • Balances efficiency or navigation and search engine optimisation with content to create a memorable experience.
  • Find technology that aids user navigation and page content readability (and avoid technology that looks impressive but quickly drives users away).

As every company and every brand is unique, so to is UX. Most companies have a range of user groups visiting their main site, content must be elevated for each at appropriate points.

Here’s a great chat I happened to catch yesterday on RRR’s ‘Byte Into It’ program about user experience.

Check out some websites we’ve made with user experience in mind. Call us if you’d like one too.

image credit: Chris Isherwood via Flickr Creative Commons