User Experience (UX) is a relatively new term that’s become more utilized within the last decade. Our definition of UX is built around creating a dynamic, empathetic, engaging, yet simple, experience for users — leading them to complete a task geared towards agreed upon strategic business goals. Whether the user’s task is to complete a purchase, sign up for a newsletter/blog/demo or simply learn something new, the UX strategy simplifies the actions necessary to complete the goal.
Before designing a new or existing website, there are a few UX strategies and fundamentals you need to utilize: establishing business goals, researching and creating audience personas, framing a sitemap and information architecture, strategizing user flows, and building out wireframes to guide a visitor through your web experience. Like we said, a few. Without these fundamentals, a website structure is simply a guess of how the user will interact with it, which in turn, could eventually lead to high bounce rates and low time on site.
The first fundamental step to take before creating a new website is defining business goals, which will help measure the website’s success. Questions we ask to define business goals include: What do we need a user to do/accomplish? How does the website fit into our overall marketing communications plan? How could a new website help differentiate your brand in the marketplace?
Tracking and measuring these goals can be done by following the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Based) framework. This framework was developed by business consultant George Doran in 1981 to guide strategy and content creation. Once completed, these defined goals can be measured through the website’s analytics and user tracking tools.
After finalizing business goals, the next step is to create audience or buyer personas to help define your target audience and inform messaging that creates emotional connections between them and your brand.
Once researched and organized, each persona will have a focused output that includes information about their job title, activities, goals, challenges, influences and more. This knowledge will help guide the user flows and advise how a persona will interact with the website and its content.
Following audience persona research comes structuring the sitemap. The purpose of a sitemap is to gather and organize the hierarchy of the website’s information, otherwise known as information architecture (IA). It’s a bird’s eye view of each web page, outlining how content is prioritized and how each piece is linked together throughout the site.
User flows are visual diagrams that demonstrate how a persona would navigate a website and its content. The purpose of a user flow is to ensure a user is taking the simplest route necessary to complete a goal-oriented action, such as a purchase or sign-up.
Depending on a business’s goals, a user flow starts at the point where a user enters the website. A user may enter from a search engine, social media, banner ad, lead nurture email or a direct website link. The user flow then continues by mapping out each step the user takes until they reach the point where they complete a goal-oriented action. User flows can also be created in tandem with sitemaps to make sure both work together cohesively.
Wireframes are typically “sketches” of each web page’s structure and content placement that are developed before adding design elements, such as imagery, color and graphics. The purpose of a wireframe is to prioritize content and structure flow, ensuring user-friendly functionality. It also provides the designer and strategy team a way to quickly assess whether a structure is worth pursuing or not — without dedicating unnecessary design time early in the strategy process.
For a website to deliver on business objectives, function properly, and ensure low bounce rates and high search visibility, implementing these fundamental UX strategies are vital to a website’s success.
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Greg Amaral, 401-330-2800