Despite what you might think, user experience is not just a buzzword or a way to get you to pay more for a web design. It’s part of good web design – but it isn’t the same thing.
As a copywriter I am probably highly sensitized when it comes to UX. I spend a lot of time thinking about the messages, the journey and the conversion process. I just realised how evangelistic that sounds!
Good web designers understand that there is a purpose behind the words and work with that purpose. Some even read my words before they incorporate them. So, before I go on, I will state for the record that there are designers out there who understand UX and the value of copy – I can give you a list of ones I’ve worked with if you want.
Most businesses are not web design, UX or digital marketing specialists. Which means they need help and guidance from their agency. This is an investment that will determine what sort of return they get from their new website. Do they always get this guidance?
Where you start from matters!
Ideally the key brand messages and customer journeys are clear before the designer or writer starts work. But often it is just about a business feeling it needs a new website; no goals, no defined business purpose, no analysis of customer needs, no understanding of what works (or not) on the current site, and no clear value proposition that would mean something to prospects.
Some designers seem content to go with this. To be fair it may be all they are being paid to do. They just want something they can paste easily into a design template, without considering the relative impact of different sections of text or how they should flow. Others seem to want to create a work of art, irrespective of what it does for sales or leads. Words become just part of the decorative effect.
I once commented to a designer that I thought they could have done more with the typography – to create an information hierarchy and to highlight key messages. “What, you mean fonts and that?” came the reply. Perhaps WordPress has led to a confusion over the roles a web designer and a website builder. A spell working in print media would probably work wonders.
Please, No Sliders!
Image sliders or carousels are a pet hate of mine. To me they are a distraction. There’s plenty of research to at least flash up a massive warning sign: these are conversion killers! But many designers still love ‘em.
On one project I had a lengthy discussion with the client about sliders. They agreed that sliders would just be a distraction.
Clearly the designer didn’t agree. The site launched, not just with slider images, but with 5 or 6 full screen slider images with 3 sentences of text each. It would be impossible – even for a speed reader – to get through these before the image changed. How many folks will get past this frustrating experience?
How can design become so detached from user experience? What made this designer so hell bent on using slider images, come what may?
Can you read the words?
Designers sometimes like tiny body text (presumably so those pesky words don’t interfere too much with their creation). Some even like tiny text reversed out of a black background, which is virtually unreadable. But what does that matter if it looks prestigious and high end?
These experiences tell me that some designers understand and care about user experience; others want to create beautiful things above all else; others want an easy life.
If I were buying a new website I want to know which type of designer I was hiring. If they don’t, or can’t, talk coherently about user experience, this may be a good indicator. And they shouldn’t wait for you to bring the subject up.