It turns out that websites don’t visit themselves. I know it sounds obvious when you say it out loud, but a website can’t view itself and tell you how to interact with it. Instead, you must visit the site and get the information you need. With that in mind, wouldn’t a successful website be focused on the user’s experience? It certainly should be, yet this is often ignored, causing UI/UX issues. Here are three signs your website is not user-centered.
You Don’t Listen To Your Users
If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Similarly, if a user can’t find content on a website, does it exist? If you aren’t considering what a user is looking for or intending to do, you aren’t making it easy for your website to complete its primary job—facilitating user interaction.
All too often, websites are thrown together without ever listening to the users’ needs. Instead, website designers try to fulfill their own specific needs or insert the latest trends and technologies—neither of which immediately consider the user. Good designers take the time to listen to their users and tailor their design to meet their needs.
You Are Focused On The Wrong Things
Ignoring users is a fast-track toward poor web design. If a website is created without user consideration, designers run the risk of not putting enough emphasis on what is necessary or not highlighting the right things. If a user cannot quickly find what they are looking for, they are more likely to find another website that can more readily meet their needs than hunt for the answer on yours.
UX Myths puts it best when they say that instead of making optimal choices, users often guess "because they find it fun." What they mean is that a typical website user will try to quickly find something that will most readily lead them to what they are looking for. The very first link or button that seems promising is the one that will most likely to be clicked, meaning a user will completely miss a better option if they do not find it first.
If you, the designer, consider the user when laying out your links and buttons, you are more likely to put the most important thing in the right place. If you focus on the wrong thing first, you run the risk of leading your user down the wrong path. If they click on something that doesn’t lead them to where they expect, that user is likely to leave and search elsewhere then start the process over again at your website. It is critical to understand user feedback to make sure you are keeping the right focus.
Your Design Process Is Linear
Listening to users is the first and most important step, but what’s next? Even after you understand your users and what they will use your website for, there are still a few more steps to ensure you are satisfying their needs.
The next step is prioritizing those needs. Not everyone is the same, and that goes for your website users. You must determine what user needs to focus on, and that usually involves comparing user needs with your website’s goals. If you are selling a product or service, how can you position your website as the solution to your user’s problem?
That end goal—solving the user’s problem—should be boiled down and segmented. The homepage should have ways to quickly navigate to the solutions of the most important problems users are trying to solve. Each subsequent page should be narrowed down to a specific problem to lead users along a deliberate path.
Finally, you must iterate. The process doesn’t end there; in fact, it doesn’t end at all. Users change, problems change, and solutions change. You must constantly keep one eye on the future and one ear open to the needs of your users. There are many variations to the user-centered design process, but they are all cyclical and include these basic processes.
A solution that worked in the past may no longer be relevant or the best solution for the future. The good news is you don’t really have to be a fortune-teller. As long as you are cognizant of your user’s needs, they will guide you in the direction you need to go.
Keep It Going!
This user-centered approach can be applied to any process beyond websites. For instance, our guide to Understanding Online Writing hints at the same philosophy in its very first tip. Pay attention to the user, and it will pay you dividends!