The Rising Significance of UX and Web Design in 2020
The world has changed since the outbreak of COVID-19. For the better? Who knows, but one thing is for certain, we have left the pre-lockdown way of life behind us. The pandemic has reshaped shopping habits, industries and economies all across the world, and pushed us into the 'new normal' of digital lifestyles much faster than we ever anticipated.
Digital has been forced onto consumers and businesses alike, and the way we adapt to this change will shape our success for the future.
Offices have moved to living rooms, meetings have moved to online calls, and many customers have turned to E-commerce. A survey by Engine found that people are spending on average 10-30% more online, and so with more and more traffic pouring online, web design has never been so important (Engine, 2020). Good experiences on a website can be the determining factor in whether visitors convert into customers, and loyalty is created or destroyed.
No matter what industry you work in, the usual operations have changed due to Coronavirus. Shopify's first State of Commerce report showed that online stores currently represent over 80% of sales (Tech.co, 2020). One sector that has seen a drastic change is Retail, having had high street stores closed for months during the lockdown. It was reported that highstreet/in-store fashion stores saw sales dive 40.4% over March, making the online marketplace their primary source of revenue, and this puts enormous pressure on web design (Sky News, 2020).
Looking back on the knowledge I've gained so far during my internship, I've begun to think about how to apply it. Since there are now more than a billion active websites around, I've been looking at what defines good web design, and why is it important? Let's break this down into User Experience principles and Creative.
When approaching any digital project, we always take a step back and try to understand what's most important for users - what are their motivations when visiting our site? To fully grasp these needs, an innovative combination of research and data is required to gather a holistic understanding.
Mapping out the key user motivations and frustrations is an important area to start. Placing them in a hierarchical order will ensure that you're focussing on the right areas for the users and what we want to push as a business. For example, this could be key revenue streams and the solutions for the end customers.
The content we feel has greater potential for our users to increase engagement and suit their needs, we place at the top of the hierarchy, and as a result, will have more prominence on the website.
Keeping the user journey relatively simple, frustration-free and always accounting for their key needs throughout this iterative process has prime importance. Consistency of the web design (not just the brand), is essential to help ease customer frustration and keep them interacting with the site. Website Consistency and design patterns refers to designing the site so that it works in a similar way to other websites.
Consistency allows users to become more familiar with the site in a shorter period, therefore easing their potential frustrations. The fewer barriers for the user, the more likely they are to stay on the site.
In addition to user experience, the creative side of web design is just as crucial for customer acquisition and retention. The design of the website can project the personality of your brand.
Having an aesthetically pleasing website helps create a strong and consistent brand image, injecting the design's personality onto the visitors. This is key because according to a recent study, "94% of visitors form an opinion of the company's credibility based on their visual appeal" (Rishab software, 2019).
If users give your website terrible credit because of its visual appeal, the likelihood of them using your services will decrease significantly.
Prioritising aesthetics over accessibility is a crucial mistake made by many designers. The website needs to be designed to be as easy for as many people as possible. This includes having contrasting colours and readable font sizes and styles.
It's all well and good having a website that looks amazing, but if no one can read the information you're going back to square one.
One of my personal favourites is that sometimes less is more. You don't want to crowd your website with information that can confuse your customers' journey. Make sure you use the correct type of language, keep it relevant, keep it original and keep it interesting!
Adapt. Don't Stop.
These principles aren't new, and you may be following them already, but now is the time to review and refresh. Your website, app or e-commerce store is competing with businesses on a global level, and your customers' expectations are rising.
Constant iteration and optimisation are necessary to make the most of every visit you attract. Tracking tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar make it easier than ever to understand how people interact with your site, and tools like Google Optimise and VWO mean you can quickly test new experiences without development.
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