A website is like a home. It has a unique address, provides a window into what is most important to a company, and builds a relationship with everyone who enters. The User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UX) of a website dictate a user’s perceptions and inform their actions. Imagine walking into someone’s home and seeing clothes all over the place, dirty dishes in the sink, and dog hair covering the couch. Although this may be how many of our homes look from time to time, we tend to tidy up when inviting people over. Think of a website as a home with a constant revolving door of visitors. We never want users to see our dirty laundry! Luckily, we can control exactly what a user sees, reads and clicks.
A Deeper Dive into UI
Successful User Interface Design helps a user engage, interact and easily digest content through visual cues. Whether that’s an eye-catching Call To Action (CTA) or beautifully designed paragraphs, these things help users get to and comprehend content more efficiently. After all, this is the main reason we use websites, to absorb more content.
When thinking about a website, people tend to focus heavily on the Home page. This is the grand entrance, right? Well, it used to be. Let’s revisit our “home” and imagine the “revolving door” on every room. Allowing people to come in and out of the house through multiple locations. This is exactly how a website today works. Today, users typically find a site through search engines.
For example, a Human Resources employee might be searching the web for “Way’s to improve company culture” and come across a blog post by CultureTalk explaining how archetypes can benefit a company’s culture. This might be the exact content the HR employee is looking for, and now he or she want’s to explore the site. However, they are entering without ever landing on the Home page.
If someone entered a bedroom, there would be visual cues that indicate where in the house they are and the type of people that live in it. There would be a bed and dresser, maybe photos of the family, colors, and textures, and the cleanliness of the room to name a few. A website is very similar. Typically a user would notice the logo, brand colors, navigational structure, typography, etc. and be able to easily orient themselves as to where in the site they are, and how to get around. These visual cues are the start of a successful UI.
Developing Habits Through UI
When visiting a website, what is the first thing you notice? Is it the logo, header image, branding elements like color and typography? Typically, users notice all of these things in a split second. As users start to explore the site, they are first attracted to imagery, then headlines, and if still engaged, body copy. Numerous studies have been done about what visual cues help users navigate and find the content they are most interested in.
When entering a home someone has never been in before, would they go to the kitchen if they needed to use the restroom? I sure hope not! Through previous experience, we pick up habits that we may not even be aware of. Using navigational terms like “About”, “Contact” and “Shop” immediately help users find the right information they are looking for. Although it’s fun to “Think outside the box” and create something unique, this isn’t the place to do it. Whenever a unique concept is introduced to users, it takes them time to learn and understand. Unless your goal is to attract the same group of users over and over (like a new blog), the chances are users won’t build a habit fast enough to make your unique navigation effective. Instead, it may frustrate users and drive them away from the site.
How To Be Successful
At the end of the day, a successful website is one that has taken the user into consideration every step of the way. Remember, a website is one more tool that can be used to engage users and achieve specific business goals. Whether those goals are to sell a product, attract new potential clients, or inform the masses of the latest and greatest app, a website can help your company get there faster.
In my next blog, I will discuss how User Experience evokes an emotional response from users. Is your website creating a pleasant experience for users, or leaving them to feel lost and even more confused than when they came.