Katy Cesarotti | Gallery Design Studio Editor + Copywriter
Without strategic user experience (UX) design, a website is like a luxury car with no engine. It looks pretty, but it’s not actually useful for your audience (and no one will be interested in it).
Beyond flashy visuals or cool features, digital interfaces create an experience for your users.
User Experience and User interface design (UX/UI) creates seamless pathways through content, so that users can fulfill their needs or solve their problems online. It includes digital interfaces like websites, apps, and B2B portals.
UX/UI design may sound like a fancy buzzword, and it’s difficult to choose one catch-all definition since it combines a bunch of different disciplines like: communication design, interaction design, information architecture, marketing, branding and usability design.
User experience is like the framework of the house: the supporting walls, the layout of the rooms, that determines the homeowner’s walkpath.
UX design is about usability and function, and determines what kinds of features your digital interface has.
User interface is the surface, like the visual appearance in a house like furniture, fixtures, and decorations that shapes how the rooms appear to users. User interface is the surface of the interface that users “see” such as colors and icons, while UX design determines the flow between pages.
Effective UX/UI design works in layers, from the “surface” of how a page appears, going deeper to how it functions.
1. Visual design
How does the website appear to customers? If your website looks straight out of the early 2000s, customers will think you’re behind the times. Classic fonts and minimalist styles will help your website stand the test of time. Branded visuals will wow your customers and hook their attention. Online users are skimmers—they want to be able to quickly scan a webpage to find what they need, or determine if the website is worth staying on. Clear, simple designs allow users to engage without friction.
2. UI design patterns
UI patterns are best-practice solutions to common design “problems” or tasks your customers might complete on your website. Common UI patterns include:
Customers expect certain features in certain places—a search bar in the top right, or contact information—and get frustrated when they can’t access the information they need. Effective UX design balances the fresh and familiar, so that customers get an engaging, original experience without feeling lost.
Great platforms should accommodate all of your audience. Accessibility standards use formatting to support the visually or hearing impaired. Offer information in multiple formats, to support different learning styles and ways customers take in information.
3. Content & terminology
The next layer is the actual content—what goes on the page. What’s the best way to communicate to your audience: text, graphics, animation, infographics?
Great UX makes information easy to consume, with plenty of white space and bite-size “chunks” of information in each section. By visualizing data with charts and graphs, or using visuals where possible, you make it easy for customers to “get” your value. Give users enough content to make informed decisions and feel confident, but keep it straightforward and simple.
Users should actually enjoy using your digital platforms. UX creates delightful, entertaining, or polished materials to engage your customers on a deeper level. Emotional connection matters. For example, a nonprofit that lays out the strategy behind its initiatives is clear and informative. But with a testimonial with a human element, they can make their users feel something, combining intellectual and emotional impact.
4. Information architecture
Information architecture determines how the content is organized, sorted, and categorized. By determining how pieces fit together, you create a pathway that moves users through your website (and closer to a purchase).
Usability refers to how customers get around your website, and fulfill their needs. Is it easy to “land” on your site from a search engine and navigate between pages? Does the layout make sense? Customers should be able to get anywhere they need on your site in only a couple of steps, otherwise they’ll get frustrated or distracted and click away. Easy-to-navigate digital interfaces, with clear menus and paths, allow customers to find the information they’re looking for.
Beyond creating a great site in the future, information architecture needs to be adaptable, so your digital presence can grow with your company. A flexible framework allows your company to add, edit, and remove content as the needs of your users change.
5. User Research
Your target audience should be the foundation for all UX decisions. The user’s goals, wants, motivations, and hesitations should determine the “why” and “how” behind the experience. Talk to your users to understand their pain points and requirements: what do they need from your digital presence? How can you streamline your experience?
Great UX design is content-specific: you need to think about how users find your page, what their needs are at that moment, and how you can move them through the journey to build your relationship. For example, a software platform might offer a whitepaper that offers specific information for one subset of customers, like media companies. The landing page where customers find and download the whitepaper should focus on that one call-to-action, making it easy for customers to get the document they searched for, without clutter or distractions.
With polished UX design, your website will not only wow customers—it’ll create a meaningful, relevant experience that addresses their needs.
About Gallery Design Studio
We help B2B marketing teams, in software, financial services, and healthcare, with their ongoing communication design needs. Conveying complex information clearly, concisely and in a visually engaging way.
About the Writer
Katy Cesarotti is a copywriter at Gallery Design Studio. Katy believes that, with clear and concise copy, innovators can spark emotion and drive action in their readers. She’s written for magazines, blogs and cutting-edge startups.