As much as we believe in good design and compelling digital creative over here, we know it can be hard to justify it. When you need to focus your budget on what gets you the most impact, it can be hard to make the case for spending extra time and money on a highly qualified digital creative firm to spruce up your user experience.
To ignore good user experience design in your digital marketing strategy, though, is to leave money and opportunity on the table. You’ll miss out on your chance to win over wishy-washy consumers who are always looking for a reason to check out your competitors.
Here are 4 user experience design improvements you can (should) make that will raise the bar for your brand and give your customers some extra confidence that you really value them for more than just their wallets.
1. Talk to your visitors like they’re people (because they are).
You’d be amazed how far you can go just by making mundane tasks more enjoyable with great typography, messaging, and design. Take, for example, jetBlue’s home page. They could have just as easily used “SIGN UP FOR EMAILS” and “SEARCH FOR FLIGHTS,” but by using “Hi” and “Buy” they immediately elicit a grin and a good feeling from me. Before I’ve clicked a single thing, I’m already at ease and thinking, “This might be fun. I like these guys.”
How can this have impact?
Those good vibes will carry over into the rest of my experience with jetBlue. In 3 seconds, with some simple smart copy and clean design, they’ve given me the impression that my dealings with this brand are going to be pleasant and personal, making me much more likely to make a purchase and stick with them.
2. Lead with your brand.
You’ve put time and energy into developing your brand. It’s one of your biggest assets and the thing that sets you apart. Don’t be afraid to use it in big, bold ways in your user experience. This isn’t just on your home page, either. A brand experience needs to run from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen, in every button, form, and headline. It’s how you remind people why they should love you. Satellite internet provider Exede understood this with their recent redesign, incorporating their “People of Earth” brand message into 3rd and 4th tier pages on their site. Instead of a boring old “contact us for help,” they used “Speak to a Human,” and their funny little alien guy follows me around the site.
How can this have impact?
This depends on whether or not you think a strong brand makes an impact or not. If not, then this is unlikely to change your mind. If you do, though, you understand that the character and tone of your brand is the lens through which your customers learn to relate to you, to love you. Making sure your brand is present and thriving in every corner of your digital user experience is a way to capitalize on the incredibly valuable opportunity you have to allow your customers to truly interact with you.
3. Don’t be afraid of emerging technology.
The launch of new browsers with tighter standards, ubiquitous access to low cost high speed internet, and the explosion of mobile usage have all converged to push user interface design into incredibly exciting new dimensions. Don’t be afraid to explore. Whereas 5 years ago a layered, rich, immersive digital experience required limited and insecure technologies like Flash and Silverlight, today the same and even better interaction can be delivered with far more flexible and accessible methods. You don’t have to speak programmer to see this in action on Jeep.com. Without ever leaving the page, I can browse through the entire line of Jeeps, see prices and gas mileage of each, and navigate back and forth naturally using the browser’s back and forward buttons. Easy, and all without a single page refresh.
How can this have an impact?
More clicks = less conversion. That’s a fact. Every time someone has to go to another page you risk letting those little scamps scurry away. By doing as much as you possibly can on one screen, you reduce abandonment in a very palpable way. In addition, it feels GREAT to your users, and it’s COOL. Any time you can make a visitor go “Wow!” or “Huh, I’ve never seen that before,” you’re putting cash in the Net Promoter bank and inching closer to keeping them for life.
4. The world doesn’t sit still, so your interface shouldn’t have to.
Again, 5 years ago, if you wanted something to move in a fluid, natural way, you needed Flash, with all its idiosyncrasies and baggage. Now we can accomplish the same thing much more efficiently. This means we can bring back to the web the almost-lost art of motion in interface. Don’t mistake this for gratuitous animation that can be obnoxious. This is about natural, physics-inspired feedback to user input. Take a look at the website for resort Snowbird. There isn’t much on this site that doesn’t respond to user input in some fluid way. The key here is that every movement has time and friction. Nothing is binary, off/on. Everything from the buttons to the page transitions move as you might expect something bound by gravity to move. They have a definite “feel” to them.
How can this have an impact?
It’s a shame that for so long digital interactions have been relegated to binary states. You can see this demonstrated in its most basic form in the average hyperlink. Untouched: “off.” Put your little hand over it: “on.” Instant binary. Try making any switch of any kind in the real world do that. Try making a light switch go instantly from “off” to “on” with no movement or friction in between. You can’t. Because the real world is beholden to the laws of physics and motion. So when the digital interface your customer uses to interact with you doesn’t follow the same laws, but behaves in an unnatural way, this has a subtle but noticeable impact on their feeling about your brand. The interaction feels impersonal, so they’re left with that impression. But add natural movement, feedback, and response to your interface, and suddenly the entire experience feels more real, and your customer feels like you’re reaching out to them.
BONUS: Keep It Clean
What is your impression of a store that’s disorganized, dirty, with employees nowhere to be found, and generally in a state of disarray? Not good. So imagine how consumers feel when they come in contact with a brand digitally and there are 10 sizes and colors of buttons, no rhyme or reason to the typography, and things shift from place to place without cause. A clean, consistent, and purposeful interface tells your visitors that you cared enough to spruce up the joint before they came by. A cluttered and unkempt user experience will leave visitors with the impression that your brand’s quality and substance are lacking.
The more attention to detail and thought you put behind your digital user experience, the more your customers will feel that you respect them, appreciate them, and are worth their money. A truly well-designed user experience can have measurable positive impact on conversion and retention over the long haul.