User Experience (UX) Design
In today’s high tech world, it’s simply not enough to have a pretty website. It is crucial that your website is constructed to facilitate effective communication with the target audience through the use of right technologies related to the website and the data that will be presented through the website to support usability and experience.
User Experience is an umbrella term for a cyclical design process in which teams work together to ensure a website is as user friendly and intuitive as possible. Good UX is dependent on the quality of work put into understanding the people using a product or service. Therefore, conducting empathetic research with your customers is important to better understand their motivations, behaviors, and tendencies to maximize their experience, bolstering your brand and product in the process.
Peter Morville’s UX Honeycomb is a well-established and extremely popular visualization tool, which depicts the seven aspects of the user experience.
The seven aspects are:
- Accessible: Contains a system’s ease of reach, use, and understanding. Provides a UX that can be accessed by users of a full range of abilities.
- Usable: Enables users to achieve their goals effectively and efficiently.
- Useful: Provides a specific purpose for its target customers.
- Findable: Enhances the ability to find and identify a product or service.
- Credible: Cements the user’s trust in the product that they are using.
- Desirable: Heightens engagement through branding, image, identity, aesthetics, and emotional design.
- Valuable: Delivers value to the business and its customers.
While the above items are tenants of good design, each project has different needs and priorities. Balancing design with business objectives and technology limitations is part of every project and incorporating these sources is vital to the design process.
As a standard part of the UX process, information architecture defines all the ways your website structure is organized and presented to your user. Information architecture is much more than just a sitemap to show what page leads where. Information architecture encompasses many different facets of the user experience and refers to the overall hierarchy and organization of all the associated content. It also includes the division of content pieces and how they are arranged and linked, and how users navigate among those pages. To do this, you need to understand how the pieces fit together to create a larger picture, how items relate to each other within the system so that users would easily adjust to the website’s functionality and could find everything they need without much effort.
Rosenfeld and Morville visualised information architecture consisting of 3 components. They referred to this as the “information ecology” and consists of:
Users: audience, tasks, needs, information-seeking behaviour, experience.
Context: business goals, politics, technology, funding, culture, resources, constraints.
Content: content objectives, volume, governance and ownership, funding, culture.
The information architect’s job is to create an experience that allows the user to focus on their tasks rather than finding their way around. When users can’t find what they are looking for right from the start, there’s a huge possibility they will abandon your website. And when people abandon a website, it’s more difficult to bring them back. This is where information architecture design plays a key role.
Information Architecture takes some time to create and requires specific skills to do it efficiently. While Information Architecture isn’t really visible to end-users, it is the backbone for the design, just as blueprints are the most valuable document for an architect to use in the construction of a building. A properly planned Information Architecture guarantees a high-quality product since it reduces the possibility of usability and navigation problems. This way, well-thought information architecture can save both the company’s time and money, which otherwise they would have spent on fixing and improvement.
Topic Cluster Model
Most modern website structure is now shifting to a topic cluster model, where a single “pillar” page acts as the central hub of content for an overarching topic, and multiple content pages that are related to that same topic link back to the pillar page and each other.
When you organize knowledge this way, the website homepage is the root at the top. The row below corresponds to high-level pages (like Products page), followed by another row with specific content (like Product 1, Product 2, etc.). This linking action signals to search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the topic, and over time, the page may rank higher and higher for the topic it covers. At its very essence, the topic cluster model is a way of organizing a site’s content pages using a cleaner and more deliberate site architecture.
The opposite of this structure is a flat website structure where all the pages are just one click away from the home page without any additional layers or depth. This type of structure isn’t recommended in most cases as it can result in crawlability and website accessibility issues. This can lead to poor search engine rankings, along with high bounce rates. And losing your visitors equates to leaving money on the table.
Website Navigation Menu
Good navigation is the main cornerstone of an effective website. In practice, however, it’s often a tough challenge to come up with a meaningful, unambiguous way to organize, arrange, and display content to users. The thing that makes navigation difficult to work within Web design is that it can be so versatile. Navigation can be simple or complex: a few main pages or a multi-level architecture; one set of content for logged-in users and another for logged-out users; and so on. Because navigation can vary so much between websites, there are no set guidelines or how-tos for organizing navigation.
Most websites almost always have a navigation menu at the top or in the sidebar with internal links to its most important pages. Some of the websites also have the same or different menu in the footer section at the bottom. A menu item can also have a sub-menu directing to pages that are part of its information hierarchy.
Internal Links Within Content
Internal links are links that go from one page on a website to a different page on the same website.
Both your users and search engines use links to find content on your website and help establish an information hierarchy for the given website.
It is important not to go overboard with internal links. In addition to seeming spammy, this will fatigue your readers and make them less likely to click your internal links, hamstringing the entire link strategy. Instead of just popping a link in any old place, keep them in logical places that add value. Only add links in places where they will genuinely benefit your users and where people are likely to want more information. This keeps the links helpful and increases the likelihood that people will click.
Moreover, search engines take your internal links and the “visitor stickiness” caused by spending more time on the website as a signal to crawl and associate more importance to each of your content pieces. That is why you should never have an “orphan” page on your website, which cannot be accessed from any of your other pages. Search engines will assume that any page without internal links in or out isn’t important enough to index or rank.
User Interface (UI) Design
User Interface Design is the process of making interfaces in software or computerized devices with a focus on aesthetics and style. While UI falls under the UX umbrella, it is a separate process of identifying and applying appropriate styling, colors, fonts, etc., to the interface that users will interact with.
Put simply, UI is what you use to interact with a product, while UX is concerned with how this overall interaction feels.
If your website information architecture is good, but your usability is bad, your website visitors will be able to find what they are looking for but will eventually have to muddle through the sales funnel, resulting in a mediocre conversion. Suppose, however, your website information architecture is bad, but your usability is good. In that case, most of your website visitors won’t be able to find what they are looking for, and the usability won’t matter because they will leave before getting to the sales funnel, resulting in a poor conversion.
Whether you’re an early-stage startup and established scale-up company, our goal is to help you design the information architecture according to business and user needs and validated through user testing to achieve a multifaceted digital presence spanning across multiple platforms and mediums.