You want your site to be cool, fresh, and exciting, but more than anything else, you should want your website to be effective. If visitors think “Wow, that looks neat” but leave without reading an article or buying a product, your design has failed. Often, visitors choose not to interact with a website because the user experience (UX) is poor — and when that is true, the UX is typically poor in one of a few specific ways.
UX is perhaps the most important aspect of web design. It is the combination of beauty, reliability, and utility with clarity and relevancy. If your website isn’t gaining the attention you know it deserves, you should start by looking for the following huge (and common) UX mistakes so you can improve the customer experience.
Designing for the Wrong Site Visitor
You spend more time on your website than anyone else — and rightfully so. It takes time to build a website that appropriately addresses your audience’s needs and wants. You are your own most frequent site visitor, which means you might fall into the trap of designing for yourself. Sites that fall victim to this often look attractive but fail to provide much value or usability.
Because your goal is pleasing site visitors (and likely sending them down a conversion funnel), you should be sure to integrate usability testing into your website development and design process. During your research, you should spend time researching when and why users drop away and conduct A/B testing to discover what real users (not just you) prefer.
Focusing on Cool and Clever Rather Than Clear
Everyone wants their website to look cool and creative, but there is a point when cleverness and cutting-edge design inhibit clarity and conversion. Innovation is positive and necessary, but not if it results in confused site visitors who leave before interacting positively with your content or products.
The first solution — and the less exciting one — is to avoid taking risks with your website design. The more familiar your website looks, the less likely users are to get lost or confused. Another option is to perform ample user testing, tracking paths and hesitation to understand where your website is unclear.
Building Webpage Jails
Not too long ago, web developers realized that it wasn’t difficult to disable the back button and keep visitors on their sites by force. You can also constrain users’ navigation by hijacking control of scrolling, plaguing visitors with popover advertisements, or locking the page and demanding users download dedicated apps.
This design practice is unprincipled and leads users to develop aversions to your brand. Webpage jails do not take user preferences into consideration, and more often than not they fail to compel users to participate in the wanted action. Instead of depriving visitors of their freedom, you should make your wanted action clear without overwhelming your users.
Departing From the Familiar
For more than a decade, standard web design places a navigation bar at the top of every page, more navigation tools at the bottom, and perhaps a menu or two along one side. Most sites follow this prototype for a simple reason: It works.
Just because something has been done before doesn’t mean it is evil. If you deviate too much from what users have come to expect, they will get lost, confused, and upset. While you can add to existing prototypes, you shouldn’t replace what users have come to expect — and if you do, you should conduct plenty of research and testing to ensure users can easily understand your new design.
It is easy to design webpages for typical computers, but mobile devices come in all shapes and sizes, so some designers decide not to bother. Unfortunately, doing so eliminates vast swaths of potential visitors who lack the patience to navigate an unoptimized webpage using their mobile devices. In fact, in 2016, mobile device usage surpassed desktop usage for the first time, and you better believe that trend has not reversed.
However, design rules on mobile are not the same as design rules for desktop use. Mobile users behave differently than computer users, which means when you develop your mobile site, you need to learn a slew of other mistakes to avoid. As long as you are diligent with investigating user activity and testing your designs, you should design a terrific mobile UX.