Digital Marketing

What did UXpect?

by Ben McRae

UX, short for user experience, is up there with SEO/SEM and responsive design as one of the trendiest web-related terms in the marketing world. And why not? Good marketing focuses on a specific audience’s wants and needs; UX brings that philosophy to bear online, tapping into the hidden preferences site visitors demonstrate. But with any new wave of information comes misinformation, especially when it relates to a topic as capricious as the internet. Check your expectations about UX against the list of common misconceptions below.

Misconception: It’s all about the home page.
Reality: The percentage of users who touch a site’s home page has dropped significantly in the last few years, and that number is still trending downward. To understand why, it’s important to note that for most sites a huge chunk of traffic is what we call “organic”—meaning that it comes from search engines. As search engine algorithms improve, they’re more and more able to direct users to specific subpages that contain the content they’re after. Additionally, returning site visitors are more likely to bookmark relevant pages or use their browser’s auto-fill URL bar to hop back to subpages they’ve already visited.
Pro tip: First-time visitors are the most likely audience to see and be affected by your home page, so tailor its content to communicate your site’s core value propositions. Keeping this in mind can be a big help when trying to resolve arguments about home page real estate.

Misconception: Keep your key content above the fold.
Reality: The research is in: People have learned to scroll. They expect it. Many users scroll even before reading a single line of copy, just to get a sense of what kinds of content are on the page. Besides, in a world dominated by multiple devices, there’s no way to define what exactly “above the fold” means—even desktop monitors have different screen heights.
Pro tip: Screen position still matters, but higher up doesn’t always equal better. Let the natural flow of your content define where various elements are placed. Putting a big “register” button above copy explaining why someone should register for an event doesn’t make logical sense, and it won’t garner more clicks simply because a user sees it first. In fact, it may be more likely to be ignored, since it’s presented without context.

Misconception: More navigation choices mean fewer clicks and, therefore, better UX.
Reality: It’s hard to resist the impulse to keep every page a single click away, but the reality is that for complicated sites this is usually impractical, solvable only by adding multiple navigation bars and side menus that can often overwhelm visitors. The dreaded extra click is a small price to pay if it means reducing user confusion. Confusion leads to frustration; frustration leads to abandonment; abandonment leads to the dark side. (That one may have gotten away from me.)
Pro tip: Check out the April 2016 issue of Inner Circle to learn more about crafting a winning information architecture (that’s fancy web-speak for the way a website is organized).

Misconception: Responsive design is all about stripping out unnecessary content for mobile users.
Reality: A good responsively designed site doesn’t cut any content for its mobile viewers; it simply reorders and resizes the material so that it’s more easily consumed. Usually, this means stacking each content piece on top of one another in a single column. Choosing the order of the collapsed content is an important UX consideration worthy of a thoughtful conversation. Remember, a desktop user’s priorities may differ from a mobile user’s.
Pro tip: If you find yourself tempted to cut material for mobile viewers because it isn’t necessary, that probably means it’s worth cutting from the page entirely—from mobile view all the way up to desktop. Remember, less is usually more!

At mdg, we aggressively pursue outstanding online user experience on behalf of our clients. Good UX means more engagement, fewer bounces, and, ultimately, better ROI. We encourage you to do the same—just be sure to challenge your expectations along the way.