Is Your Website's User Experience Design Up to Snuff?

Posted by Kate Jurras on Fri, Mar 16, 2012

Mike 2 resized 600This is the fifth post in our UX and design blog series. Throughout the month of March we'll be featuring posts from some of Boston's most expert thought leaders, answering these questions: "How do you see the field of UX/design changing in the new technology landscape? What’s most important to know now?” This post is by Michael Flint, President of Metropolis Creative, a boutique design shop in Boston's South End specializing in branding, marketing, and website design. Metropolis also hosts the annual Extreme Website Makeover event. Michael actively mentors the entrepreneur community through MITX-Up and is a board member with SEMPO Boston.

User experience design requirements change as users' expectations change. The biggest players have the user experience design bar raised pretty high: Apple, Google, and Facebook for example are delivering generally exceptional user experiences across multiple platforms. Here's what users are currently demanding:

Social Integration
Sharing socially and reading others' experiences are critical in our decision-making. And the marketing line is blurring with gamification, photo/video sharing, and community building. Social campaigns help build communities of brand advocates and keep the conversations real.

Usage Based on Device

UK resized 600This takes two forms: usage intent and content delivery. People use different devices for different things. Smart phones are often used for location-based decisions, tablets for entertainment and business presentations, and desktops and laptops for more time-consuming work, research or play. As we become accustomed to these devices, these lines will blur. My son spent half a year doing his homework on his Android phone after he hacked his computer to death. Apple has an app store for your desktop. Websites are using responsive layouts to optimize for different screen sizes - check out Smashing Magazine for an excellent example of responsive website design. Cross-platform usability will improve across the board.

Two-way Communication

A major part of User experience is two-way communication. There have always been "contact forms" on websites, many of which went into black holes. Live chat has been around for a while now, but seldom used well or consistently. Live chat will continue to grow as people get used to talking to their computers and other devices. Companies who don't allow commenting on their blogs are really missing out. If you can spark a conversation and deliver an honest answer, your audience will trust and respect you. Companies need to closely monitor their social channels and beyond. Any opportunity to engage with someone who cares enough to mention your brand should be seized. Companies will have to adopt better cross-patform listening tools such as Meltwater and Radian6.

How Will UX Evolve?

The big technology leaders (and a few entrepreneurs) will anticipate and develop new technologies that will deliver amazing user experiences. Google is testing video glasses that provide heads-up information on what you're looking at. While we aren't asking for that right now, imagine looking at a store and based on your interests, seeing what is on sale there today. Or being at a party and having a name attached to every face there. Once we have a taste of that technology, we will expect it. Who would have thought that you would use your private Facebook account to sign into most websites a couple of years ago?

What Should You Do?

Watch, listen, and be open to new technologies. You don't need to create a Pinterest account just because of all the buzz, but you should understand why there is buzz. As with any marketing effort, you have to give your audience what they expect. Websites should be re-evaluated annually for both content and UX design to meet your customer's expectations. Many UX upgrades can be done cheaply and easily. Even if a website incorporates the points mentioned above, those technologies (or how people use those technologies) will most likely change within the next year. If you don't adapt, you may miss out on some opportunities with your customers, or worse - leave them unsatisfied and frustrated.