User experience, SEO and your WordPress site.

User experience or UX as it’s often referred to is constantly talked about by designers when it comes to designing and building WordPress sites.

UX has become a bit of a buzzword in web design and nearly everyone cites it as a skill on their website, but what does it actually mean?

According to the Interaction Design Foundation, UX is:

User experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users.

This basically means that user experience is about how users experience and interact with your product.

This could be an app on your phone, a website or a tool that you use.

UX design has been around for ages.

It’s not a term that is exclusive to the digital realm.

User experience is the feeling you get when you walk into an expensive restaurant or even when you use a tin-opener: I am the user, and this is my experience.

It’s also what designers should do, naturally.

If you are working with a qualified designer, UX is naturally part of any project, be it a website or a printed brochure.

In the digital realm, where there are no physical interactions for tangible feedback (you can’t pick a website up and touch it), UX is more about the design and organisation and operation of elements on the website page.

Simply put this might be:

  • Are the links easy to distinguish?
  • Do I know that what I am looking at is clickable?
  • Is the main navigation easy to use?
  • Can the user easily change something?
  • Is the checkout process quick and intuitive?

Personally, I think this part of the design process is so obvious to a professional designer that it doesn’t need to be a separate thing, it should be baked into the process at the concept, big idea and wire framing stage.

UX is part of the design process, not a separate thing.

If we go back to before the internet existed, we mainly designed things that were printed or made.

When you are designing a brochure, the user experience still comes into play, but in this case, we are looking at a paper stock, size, colour, legibility etc.

Let’s say someone designs a brochure for a mass mailout but by the time it’s packaged up, it won’t fit through the average size letterbox.

This is an example of bad UX, probably for the postal worker and recipient equally.

The point here is that this is what designers do every single day as it’s what they’ve been trained to do.

UX is not a separate part of the design process, it’s an integral part of it, and this is what I think confuses so many people able UX Design: we often get asked if we have UX experience, and the answer is always:

Yes, we are qualified designers, so UX is simply part of the entire process and is a consideration from the start of a project, not something you bolt-on at the end.

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There is such a thing as bad UX design, but this often comes into play when general common sense goes out of the window.

There is one simple example of bad UX design that we often experience daily.

How many times have you tried to open a door by pulling it, only to find you need to push it?

When a door has a grabbable handle, it suggests to the user that the door should be pulled, not pushed.

The ‘fix’ for this is often to add a push or pull label to the door, but this just highlights the issue of bad UX even further. You shouldn’t need a label to understand how to operate something.

This sort of thing is a good example of where the look and feel have been placed before the question about how the user will use the object.

UX is valid and important and it should be an important part of the website design and build process, but.

UX design should be discussed during any website project, but the amount of budget required for it should be scrutinised.

You cannot have UX design without testing, so if the creatives are talking about UX design, this should always be accompanied by some explanation about how they are going to test it.

  • How big will the test group be
  • How will the results be collected and measured
  • How appropriate is the cost of this versus the budget or scope of the project?

Neither can you have UX without a User interface (UI). In the example of the door above, the UI is the handle, the UX is what people take away from using it.

So when you have your UI and your UX you can then test this, often with A/B testing, to see what gets results.

The only real issue here is that with websites, you need at least 5000 unique visits per month to get any meaningful data from user testing, so if your website is not really business, you simply won’t have the data.

We’re not knocking UX, we’re saying it needs to be done correctly.

As UX has become such a popular term and is banded about during nearly every website project, it needs to be understood.

  • Without thorough testing, UX design is simply the best guess, so that’s just not strictly UX, it’s design work.
  • UX designers with lots of experience have worked on enough projects to know what works and what doesn’t, so it’s unlikely a designer with 2 years of experience will have worked across a varied enough range of projects to have the experience to do something effective without testing.
  • Copying someone else’s UX simply does not work as people that use that UX may be completely different to your demographic

ux design and SEO

So how does UX design relate to your WordPress website and SEO?

Search engines are getting smarter than ever before, and they now use lots of other metrics to gauge whether your page should rank.

Google uses 100s of factors to determine where your page should rank, these factors are used to greater or lesser degrees depending on the search term.

Good UX means that visitors will spend longer on your website, and this data feeds back to Google and can influence your rankings.

This is not a direct influence over the SERPs, but it does factor and if you are competing in an ultra-competitive niche, little things can make all the difference.

Good UX design ultimately should mean that the site is built well, and this, in turn, can influence:

  • Page load speed – no one, especially Google, likes a slow website, good UX influences website speed
  • Bounce rate – when people bounce straight back to the search results page from your site
  • Dwell time – this is how long someone spends on your page or site – the longer the better and UX can influence this
  • Responsiveness – how well your site works on mobile – your traffic might all be on desktop machines, but Google is indexing your site as a mobile visitor
  • Conversion rates – well-designed and easy-to-use pages encourage visitor conversions
  • Bookmarks – people bookmark sites that find helpful or like, good design and UX influence this
  • Social shares – no one is going to share a poorly designed site as it reflects on their personal taste

Basically, it’s all about engagement.

When you work so hard to get people onto your web page, you want to make sure they engage with it, and this is where UX (and UI) comes into play.

Engagement with your content then feeds back to the search engines so they can understand that they are passing searchers to sites that are keeping the user there: if a site is bouncing users straight back to the search, that page rank slowly (but surely) drops out of the top 10 as Google (et al) reads this data and stops passing traffic to sites that do not engage.

Whilst it’s important, it’s crucial to know what you are getting.

If you are being sold UX as a reason to choose one design or SEO agency over another, you need to ask the right questions about why and how UX design is going to work for your project.

  • How much experience does the UX team have?
  • Can you show me some examples of how your UX work has improved something?
  • What is your prototyping procedure?
  • How is this going to be tested (and re-tested again)?
  • How much does UX add to the budget requirement for the project?

If the answers to the above are not forthcoming, then it’s just going to be designed, and there is nothing wrong with that. It only becomes a problem when you are paying for something you are not getting.