20 Essential Tips for Good Software and Website UX

Reading Time: 8 Minutes

Contributed by Sharon Anders

Sharon Anders is a data science enthusiast who graduated from Penn State with a B.S in Computer Science. She currently works with coding schools and small businesses to help people build better websites. She is currently running a content development campaign with Eleven Fifty Academy.

User experience across software applications and websites is key to a company’s success. Apps and websites are your only 24/7 available sales personnel. They create first impressions about your company, products, and values, and they answer your customers’ questions.

Studies show that well-designed platforms can raise conversion rates by 400%! This is why you should make your platforms not only attractive but also user-friendly. Below are some design tips to improve user experience (UX).

1. Begin With Customer Research

User experience design begins with defining your users. Are you designing for children ages 3-5, teen boys, women ages 60-70? Define why your user groups would come to your site or download your app, what they’re looking to achieve, and what their other needs are. The best approach is to create personas to represent each audience segments. This will help you answer basic questions including who, what, where, when, why, and how  your target audience will use your product.

As you research, ensure that you identify the following features among your audience.

  • Demographic characteristics: age, gender, profession and family status
  • Psychographic characteristics: personality, lifestyle, hobbies, interests, values, beliefs and opinions
  • Apps and websites your customers use: It’s especially useful to know what platforms your users enjoy or get the most utility from. This way, you can consider what makes these platforms popular with your audience as you design your website or application.

Google Analytics, qualitative and quantitative surveys, and available statistics are great resources for collecting this information. You can usually get enough survey participants by offering a small incentive like an Amazon gift card.

2. Analyze Your Competitors

Make a list of competitors courting your target audiences with similar products.

Identify what you can offer users that your competitors are not yet offering. (The harder it is for your competitors to offer the same thing, the better!)

Extensive competitor research gives you an opportunity to find inspiration, follow best practices, build on existing knowledge, and identify areas where you can create a competitive advantage.

3. Keep It Simple

Minimalism is a key trend in web design. To follow this popular aesthetic, remove unnecessary elements. Immediately, this will make your design feel inviting, modern, and easy to use.

Is your app actually minimal? Here’s a short checklist:

  • One app, one design language. In an app with a unified design language, a user can efficiently access the information and utilities they need thanks to the designer’s consistency. All buttons have the same look. All navigation elements have the same styling. All pages are predictable with a consistent format and layout.
  • One page, one goal. Information overload will confuse and turn away users. When you notice a tangent, use internal links to direct users to other pages within your website or application.
  • One graphic, one message. Every graphic should support your product branding and each should provide one clear message. If you’re trying to convey two ideas with one graphic, design two graphics instead.

To make your product more accessible to new users, consider adding a skippable tutorial or guided walkthrough.

4. Use More White Space

Ample white space is a straightforward way to improve user experience. Surprisingly, most UX designers overlook this, preferring complicated graphic solutions.

Contrary to what the name implies, white space doesn’t have to be white. It’s simply empty space that isn’t occupied by headlines, text, photos and illustrations. The white space itself can be any calming color that fits with your design and gives users’ eyes a chance to rest.

5. Achieve Element Unity

Element unity is a visual concept that improves user experience drastically. However, you will only achieve element unity if all design elements in your software support a similar visual theme. All elements in your software should have specific roles and should be located strategically. Eliminate elements those that don’t contribute to your platform’s objective.

The best way to achieve unity of elements is by making use of Gestalt’s principle of visual perception. This principle is based on the human tendency to view things in patterns and groups, which is very relevant to UX design.

6. Make Waiting More Pleasant

As a developer, you should pay close attention to caching and minification to improve app performance.

Inevitably, there are situations where your website will load for a very long time before it reaches optimum performance, especially if the user has a slow internet connection. You can make this experience more pleasant for users in a couple easy ways.

  • Utilize lazy loading for images. If needed, develop your app or website so that it loads vital elements that the user can engage with while the rest of the page loads.
  • Play a loading animation that gives people an idea of how much longer they need to wait.

7. Focus on Content

Communication is the most important part of a website, so it’s vital that the copywriting and the organization of information work together in harmony.

To achieve this, make sure you collaborate with the project’s copywriter.

  • Start with copy. The copywriter should do their work first. The designer should then come in and find the best way to organize the information that the copywriter needs the app or website to communicate.
  • Give clear, constructive feedback. For example, instead of telling a copywriter “the header is too long, try asking a question, “Do you think we could use a two-part header? The header could look better if we have one big part that is just a couple words long and then a longer subheader below it.”
  • Try to work with the same team. If you can, working with the same people on project after project will help you to establish smoother workflows, understand each other’s style, and respect what the other person can bring to a project.
  • Give each other some space. Share priorities, share ideas, but then allow the other person some space to follow their processes. Avoid stepping into the other person’s domain by telling the other person how to do their job.

Together, focus on speaking the user’s language, and incorporating illustrations, photos or icons as needed to support the project’s text.

8. Make Your Software Mobile-Friendly

Currently, more than 50% of online traffic originates from mobile phones. Actually, platforms that aren’t mobile-optimized lose five times traffic; therefore, you should optimize your app to make it mobile-friendly. For this, ensure that all buttons can easily be located (especially CTAs), all information is displayed on the screen in horizontal and vertical mode, and actions can be taken in one click.

This illustration by Stéphanie Walter captures the principle of responsive web design. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

9. Adapt Software Design for Short Attention Spans

You shouldn’t overwhelm your users with a lot of information. User attention span is simply the amount of time someone can concentrate on a task before becoming distracted. A recent Microsoft study found that the average attention span of humans has dropped from 12 to 8 seconds. This means you have a short time-lapse before losing your visitor. As such, designers should cope with this by ensuring that users get all the information as quickly as possible.

10. Work With Customer Feedback

Most businesses have the challenge of listening to what users think about their products or services. The same applies to design. Ignoring customer feedback deprives you of the opportunity of becoming a better fit for your target users. Interestingly, 70% of businesses that deliver excellent customer experience leverage customer feedback.

Fortunately, you can simply collect customer feedback about your app by using relevant forms that deliver user reviews to your email. Use questions such as “What would you like us to improve? How would you rate our app?” and more to trigger user feedback.

Use the A.C.A.F. model for customer feedback: Ask for feedback. Categorize feedback. Act on feedback. Follow-up with customers who gave you the feedback. (Don’t miss the last step!)

11. Use Recognizable Icons and Understandable Paths

This tip is self-explanatory. You shouldn’t let users guess the meaning and outcome of various icons and paths. For instance, if your app has a printer function, use a widely recognized printer icon. Similarly, if you need to send someone to a different page, instead of simply “click here,” explain where you are directing them. For instance, phrases such as “visit our about page” are explainable.

For a great UX, you should make navigation very smooth. Note that the ultimate goal is to have maximum conversions, which is only possible if users find what they are looking for. Keeping your navigation simple and clear allows users to find the shortest route to what they are looking for. Platforms cluttered with inappropriate categories often perform poorly. For instance, in a finance platform, instead of using a general “Finance” category, use separate subcategories of “Banking” and “Investment.”

13. Prevent Errors Instead of Fixing Them

If possible, you should design while ensuring that you minimize potential errors. Errors are bound to happen when users engage with the software interface. In some situations, they occur when users make mistakes or if the app fails genuinely. Regardless of the cause, these errors highly affect user experience. Therefore, make sure that you eliminate all error-prone possibilities and notify users before they commit some actions.

14. Don’t Struggle to Solve Everything at Once

UX design is not a linear process but rather an iterative process with several phases, including ideation, prototyping, and testing, overlapping with several back and forth stages. It might be important to revisit some design ideas as you understand the problems, users, and other project details. Making a perfect design after one iteration is impossible.

15. Provide Quick Interaction

To improve user experience, you should facilitate quick interaction between the software and the user, especially in some tasks, such as registration and purchases. A longer and convoluted process will decrease customer interest. Therefore, shorten these processes to increase conversion. For instance, the registration process shouldn’t have many steps. Avoid including email codes or text messages, as users will immediately lose interest.

16. Avoid Double Scroll

Double-scrolling, which occurs when there are two scrolls in the same direction, is a poor UX design. Some platforms have a combination of vertical and horizontal scrolls, with one on the frame. This makes it confusing for most users and mostly leads to errors. Double-scrolling also makes it difficult to use the app on devices with swipe/touch interfaces.

17. Conduct Regular Audits

Regular audits are important for any UX developer. This involves comparing current versions with previous models, evaluating changes, and drawing conclusions, especially for highly interactive software. Keep in mind that new ideas keep emerging and trends change regularly. Therefore, periodical analysis and reviews allow you to make your final UX better and wholly user-oriented.

18. Remember That You Are Not the User

Testing your software with real users is a crucial part of the UX design process. Unfortunately, most designers assume that their audience uses their interfaces as they do. As such, they project their reactions and behaviors. However, those who will use your software have different goals, different mindsets, and backgrounds. This is why user research is important. That said, the best way to overcome this false bias is by conducting usability testing.

19. Adapt Your UX Process

Learn to adapt your UX process to the product you are designing. If you don’t know, the UX process is a make or break in UX design, and there is no universal UX process that fits all design projects. Without a proper UX process, you will be moving in the dark. A solid UX development process makes it possible to provide a great user experience.

20. Create a Usable and Accessible Design

You should design for a wide array of users who will interact with your software. Most designers often prioritize appeal over accessibility and functionality and aesthetics over usability. While you should make your software appealing, users will prefer usable products. Therefore, leverage the accessible interaction design, allowing users to navigate and understand your software with ease.

The Bottom Line

A good UX design should benefit you and your users and achieve its main goal of leading users to conversion points. To design UX properly, you should understand your goals and audience deeply. If you are struggling with this, check out these UX design basics for a start.

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