UX Design

6 methods to understand the user in web design

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Credit to Anna Yashina

Users don’t read the articles, they scan the page

The initial approach most users demonstrate when opening a site, is scanning the site instead of comprehensively reading through it. The skimming process is seemingly quicker if the user is searching for specific information. If the user is not looking for specific information, they tend to scan the page for important trigger words. Despite the effort and dedication in preparation of these articles, users will briefly scan over focusing on the primary objective to obtain a solution immediately or efficiently summarise the content. It is not associated with user laziness, rather linked to habits revolving around internet web browsing. Hence, we must design and create pages suitable to scanning behaviour.

Interestingly, designing such websites, require minimal effort. “Our basic principle is to act according to user habits.” A few examples of designs according to habits include the logo being fixated in the upper left and the search button located in the upper right (in countries where reading left-to-right). Users will easily scan pages with the use of subheadings in texts.

Will it always consist of just one rule? Will we incorporate more creative designs? The later seeming more likely.

As long as it is useful, you can make as many creative designs as you want

To minimise potential risks associated with large-scale projects, we can incorporate traditional methods to take a safe approach. The final design results tend to look similar, despite different individuals contributing to various stages across the design process.

Not all icon sets, colours, animations, typographies and trendy designs have to look identical. Users can be surprised but not in a negative way. For example, navigation should not be placed in an obscure place for creative design. A perfect example of a positive surprise is the scroll experience on Apple’s website. The overall look is so simplistic yet effective. “Once I went to the Apple website to review a product, I scrolled the page and nothing happened. I even thought maybe the page didn’t load. Then I scrolled a little more and got it. Looked like this;”

This is a creative design. Whilst undergoing some extensive  research, I discovered some interesting content in relation to “How to present a scroll experience like Apple” in several blogs and YouTube channels. People liked it. I think this is a good example. Once a creative design is completed, there are several ways to determine how useful it really is.

There is no such thing as ‘the user likes this’. Do a usability test

Without a doubt, we will end up cherishing our own designs, however there is no guarantee users will “love what we love. Even the designers in the project sometimes can’t agree.” For example, “I don’t like tab structure at all. Honestly, I hate it. But in the usability test results, it was understood that the tab structure is hard to miss. (Steve Krug mentions it in his book Don’t Make Me Think)”

In essence, by performing user testing across numerous stages of the creative design process to software components will bring everything to light.

Users must understand what the site is for

“Keep it simple”. The aim is not for the user to receive every message that you want to give as soon as they open the site. They need to understand what the site is about for e.g. is the site about renting a car, is it a technology blog or an e-commerce site selling gifts.

“It’s simple, isn’t it? Is it even necessary to mention that? Yes, I thought so too. Until I did some research and come across random sites. Sometimes sites talk about themselves so much like mission, vision, who are we, that the product/service is not understood. Users are like, Ok but what is the product/service on the site?”

“When designing and entering content, remember to get a jumpstart for someone who doesn’t know what the site is about.”

Pay attention to every page, not just the homepage

An amazing start, establishing what the site is about. The next hurdle is the high volume of users with external links. It is uncertain which site page users will click on, so it’s important to have signs on evert page to effectively identify users. For example; we invited guests to our house which has several rooms and entrances. It is important guests understand and realise that they are in our home, regardless of where they came from.

Users don’t wonder how something works

Users don’t dwell on whether certain aspects work well or not. Instead, users tend to focus on what is working and what isn’t. The focus shifts towards the delivery of information, ensuring a better user experience and maintain long-term, loyal users. For example, on an e-commerce site, there is no need for the user to understand and know how a t-shirt is filtered. We use a visual filter in the interface. So just allow the design to do its job and disappear. This is just a basic example, consider this topic on your own project.

And that’s all. You might have heard of these methods before or maybe you just learnt these methods, but now you're able to use them in your projects. Personally, after every project design, I always recognised room for improvement, reflecting back on this precise list.