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What Is User Experience in Web Design?

User experience is often used in the context of websites. In the digital world, it’s easy to forget that UX also applies to offline experiences. These two realms are codependent, and a simple oversight can ruin the entire experience.

“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

Nielsen Norman Group

What influences user experience

It’s wrong to assume digital user experience is limited to web design. Building a website with a usable user interface is just a part of the equation. There are several other factors that can make or break the UX of your customers:

  • Your product – perhaps the most obvious part, but so often overlooked. A great product isn’t always a good digital product. Cramming it onto a website without considering the requirements of the online experience can undermine all your efforts.
  • The branding – designing a website without branding is perhaps the biggest mistake a business can make. It’s most common with small businesses, but even medium enterprises sometimes underestimate what kind of branding guidelines are required to build a website.
  • A website – creating a functional user interface is what most think of when saying “user experience”. It’s an inseparable part of UX, and that’s where most of the tangible magic happens. But, as you should already know, it’s not where it starts – nor where it ends.
  • The post-purchase experience – what happens after your visitor converts on the website is arguably as important. In the end, it’s much more expensive to acquire new customers compared to nurturing the existing ones. The post-purchase process is mostly powered by the website itself, but forgetting to carefully design and test it is not uncommon.

Why “user experience design” is a bit of a myth

There’s nothing wrong with designing interfaces and experiences with a user-centric approach. However, the popular understanding of user experience design is dangerous. It’s often packaged as an incomplete service. We’ve listed what factors into user experience above, but you can often bump into UX designers that focus only on the website part. As you’ve learned, this is a great recipe for failure.

How to create great experiences

At this stage, it’s obvious that user experience needs to be at the core of your organisation. You can’t just pick and choose some of the areas we’ve listed above. It’s all in or nothing. Here’s why these areas impact user experience.

User experience in branding

Your branding can influence the UX in various ways. One word used to describe a positive experience is “desirable”. This is one of the key things that your brand will do. It should evoke the right emotions to make people want to purchase your product.

And as with everything in user experience, branding encompasses a multitude of other aspects. Almost every single touchpoint on the customer journey will include elements from your branding.

A customer-centric product

Not every product is a good digital experience when you put it online “as is”. Think of a coffee shop. What is the biggest selling point in brick-and-mortar places? It’s the experience of interacting with a barista. You have a knowledgeable person that can brew a perfect cup of coffee for you in minutes.

How does a plain e-commerce store compare to that? Well, it doesn’t. You just lost a huge, positive part of the user experience by simply putting it online. And your customers are also missing out on the scent inside the shop.

On a website, your product can be quite different. The Internet gives you different possibilities and has some limitations. All of them have to be carefully considered to maximise the value of the experience.

User experience of a website

Findable, credible, accessible, usable… These words perfectly describe various aspects of a website. From findability, which puts emphasis on SEO as part of the user experience, all the way to usability – all of them have a direct counterpart among website elements.

This is why the term “user experience design” can be so misleading. You can’t design findability. And the experience is poor by definition if nobody can find it. Technically, you can contribute to the user experience by simply setting an advertising budget. If all else is optimised, paying for ads can be the missing piece of the puzzle. Acknowledging these technicalities has been a lightbulb moment for many businesses that we worked with.

Nurturing customers with a post-purchase process

A sale doesn’t mean an end of customer experience – neither offline nor online. In a store, customers walk out with a receipt, but they still have to use the product. This part, though, circles back to the product user experience.

Online, you still have a lot of work to do after the money is transferred. You can’t leave the customer without updates. How far you go depends on many factors, but you can send payment confirmation messages, tracking links, and a variety of other updates.

And what if we take half a step back and the customer hasn’t paid but is left with a “full” cart? Oftentimes, you can send them an abandoned cart email. For one of our clients, customers frequently cited “forgot to checkout” as a reason for why they didn’t purchase. There are optimisation opportunities at every single step.

User experience FAQs

Is user experience design the same as user interface design?

No. UI design is part of the user experience. But user experience encompasses a variety of business aspects – from branding, through product design, all the way to post-purchase processes.

Do I need a user experience designer?

The short answer is: it depends. The long: there are helpful and skilled user experience designers out there. If they are aware that UX requires a comprehensive, organisation-wide effort, they can help you optimise it greatly.

Why is user experience important?

By optimising the UX at every level of your company, you’re increasing conversion rates, reducing customer support costs, and improving your brand image.

How to measure user experience?

There are many ways to measure UX, depending on which stage you want to measure. On the website level, there is an abundance of metrics – bounce rate, time spent on page, funnels, and more. Combining them helps you evaluate how good the experience actually is. You can also opt for qualitative measurement by conducting user tests or asking visitors to fill out surveys. These are also great for other parts of the customer journey.