AuthorJustyna Weronika Łabądź
You probably agree that UX (user experience) is essential for a website. But, did you also know that UX design is something developers should be doing?
This article will explain why web developers should include UX while developing the website and what it means for your end product.
Table of contents:
Many developers believe usability and user experience are not in their scope. Luckily, they cooperate with UX and UI designers, who will show appropriate, working, and tested solutions. However, sometimes companies can't afford to have those kinds of specialists, so they have to carry out this usability phase individually. In both cases a user-centric approach implemented from the beginning can help you to improve your work. How?
- First, you wouldn't have to apply so many changes because you have already thought about the final user in the programming phase.
- Then, thinking about the UX from the earliest stage of web development can influence the whole team's work, making it as effective as possible.
If you're a web developer, it's essential to understand the value of UX to make sure that your websites are effective at achieving users' goals. It means understanding how people use the websites you build and then designing them accordingly.
You can do some simple things as a web developer to make sure your websites are user-friendly and enjoyable for everyone who uses them. Here are ten fundamental UX tips for doing just that!
1. Keep the website fast, simple, and easy to understand
- The page should load in less than 3 seconds.
Research shows that after 3 seconds of loading a website, 57% of users abandon it, and 80% will never revisit the site. Loading time can impact the drop-off and conversion rate of the website. Faster websites rank higher in Google which helps improve their SEO. It's not easy to determine the best loading time because the needs change from visitor to visitor and depends on their individual experience, personality, digital skills, and expected content. Always aim for the fastest web version, and the other rules mentioned here will help you achieve it.
- Make the code as clean as possible.
Remember that not everyone has the latest computer and the fastest internet connection. Make sure you code your pages in a way that will work for everyone, not just for those with high-end equipment.
- Remove distractions and reduce friction.
The general rule: Less is more. Don't overload your site with content. Nowadays, it is extremely easy to distract users bombarded with thousands of visual, text, and auditory messages. So, don't propose another carousel ride or overwhelm them with frustrating pop-ups. With the overall simplicity in the form, users will repay you by staying on the website for a longer time, browsing the company's content, using its offer or service, and, what is most important, revisiting it.
- Eliminate or reduce shifts of content using several available front-end patterns.
2. Navigation should be clear and point the way
Navigation on the website should always inform the users where they are, how and where they can move, and how to go back. Use some simple rules to stay the best guide for the user on your website:
- Menu tabs on the top
Locate the navigation menu tabs on the top of the page or as a form of hamburger menu on the mobile version. They should look like clickable versions of real-world tabs. If possible, create a menu bar on the top with sticky/fixed top/fixed bottom/static or shrink position. The mega or dropdown menu should disappear when the user clicks outside its area.
The company’s logo is like a road sign, and when everything fails, it shows the way to the starting point. It should always be visible and redirects the user to the homepage. The icons or logo on the top should be aligned with the text.
- Search field
If required by the customer, the search text field and button should be visible on the top of the page, mainly on the right side.
Give the users feedback when they move around the page. Let’s show them different states of buttons: hover and activated when the user hovers or clicks on the proper place. Check if the links are valid, and if they were already activated, show them to the user with a different color.
Don’t mess up the browser history. Be sure that browser functionalities like back and next are working correctly.
Keep an URL address clean instead of changing everything on the fly. For instance, if you have a 3-step form, it is better to have three different URLs for each step.
Like in the “Hansel and Gretel” fairy tale, you can show the user the way back with the breadcrumbs. They can be essential hints informing where users are and the path they came from. Breadcrumbs should always work correctly and take the user to the right places.
- The fold and page scrolling
Put the most important things above the fold. Give a hint to the user that the site is scrolling down by cutting its composition with the fold. Or add a small sign, for instance, arrow down or scroll bar on the right. This way, you can show website openness that continues its content beyond the edge.
3. Don’t be afraid of the white space.
Don't understand it literally. The background in the white space rule doesn't have to be white - other colors work just as well from a user perspective. White space is the empty, free space on a page without text, images, or embellishments. You can use it to separate elements and create clarity on your site. It works pretty simply: white space helps users focus on the most important things. It allows them to easily track the flow of information and understand what's happening in the interface.
Every page should always have white space on different levels:
- Macro-space - are the spaces between main elements and the area around each part.
- Micro-space - are the small gaps within an element: - Line-spacing in the text - improves the readability, especially for mobile devices.
- Gaps between the paragraphs - short paragraphs are easier to read than long ones; they also look more professional and make the content seem more important if there are many of them.
- Gaps between pictures - thanks to their distance, you can show their relation - similarity, correspondence, continuance or independence, differences, subtlety, rhythm, and grouping.
- Gaps between content blocks - you can group the content into blocks using frames, headings, bullets, and lists. Grouping related items can help users scan the content easily and quickly find what they are looking for on the website.
- Use icons
You can increase the white space and readability of the page by using icons instead of text when possible, especially if you have a lot of information and don't want your content to look too long and tedious. Icons can be significant from the mobile perspective; therefore, include them in this version wherever you can. The bigger the icon is - the easier it is for people to find what they're looking for on your website or app without reading anything!
- If you have any doubts about the components library, contact its designer before coding.
Sometimes there are differences between the components library and the designed screen 1:1. If you have any doubts about which one you should follow, ask the designer.
4. Use recognizable elements
Creativity is mostly a desirable value, but it can lead astray in some cases. In web development and interface design, creativity stops there where we need some recognizable universal signs and elements repeated on every website.
What are those elements?
Links should have visual clues about their clickability. Whatever you choose - to underline them or make the text blue, stay consistent in using one to another. You can add visual hints about what will happen after clicking - if the page will be opened in the new tab or replaced with the new page. Links already visited should have a different color.
Imagine a search text field with an icon of a profile detective smoking a pipe. Finally, this ‘Sherlock Holmes’ image also is related to searching for the answer. Unfortunately, even if it would look cool, it’s not widely recognized, so that it can confuse many users. Hold on to your creativity and use recognizable icons that almost everyone understands. Stick to all-known icons like a magnifying glass, shopping cart, home, heart, or envelope, and be sure they are relevant to the task. You will help users understand the interface quickly and take the proper action there.
Make sure your buttons look clickable! When we see buttons that don't look like buttons, we lose interest. Buttons are crucial elements in any interface because they indicate what actions can be taken on those buttons (e.g., "buy now"). Therefore, it can sound ridiculous, but don't use the shape of a button triangle, diamond, or trapeze. Let's stick to the widely recognizable form that reminds users of buttons in a real-life. Create different states of buttons to inform people about actions they can take or have already taken: enable/able/inactive/hover/clicked//tapped.
- Shapes and elements
The rules of recognizable shapes are linked not only to buttons but also to many other web elements. Use a circle for users' avatars and a smaller one accompanying them to notifications. Apply rectangular fields to form inputs or a search text bar. Some shapes are connected to particular meanings, like stars for rating apps and other digital products. Don't mix up the purpose and use of checkboxes (several choose options) with radio buttons (only one option to choose).
Some colors are reserved for particular elements and actions in web development. Therefore use red for warning or informing about errors, green for accepting, approval, and success of taking action, and blue for links. Please don't mix them up! If you use other colors on a website for its visual style, think carefully about their meaning, the feelings they evoke, about their significantly different shades for many states of buttons, tabs, and links.
5. Give feedback
Feedback is one of the most important elements in user experience (UX) design, and web developers should incorporate it into their work.
It is a communication tool that informs users when they are performing an action. It can assist them in completing the task they're trying to accomplish, or it can let them know whether their action was successful or not. For example, when you click on a button, you want to know if it worked or not. If you move your cursor over a link, you want to know if it will take you somewhere else or just leave the page. Feedback makes it possible for users to learn how to use things quickly and effectively without needing instructions every step of the way.
The website should provide an immediate response to user input, actions, or the current status of the web loading, content, and so on.
Some of the most important pieces of feedback you should implement during the web development:
- Informative error messages
The site makes it obvious when and where errors occurred. Error messages explain the problem in plain language, free from jargon and technical terms. If possible, they show what the user should do to fix it or what to do next.
- Successful actions
The website provides feedback when taken by the user action was completed successfully.
- Progress indicator
The user sees the progress of taking action or the website status. For instance, the website warns the user about slow-loading pages (e.g. ‘Please wait…’) or shows that the content is loading by loading spinner or animated skeleton of the content (images, text fields).
- Changing cursor
The cursor changes while the user is taking action on particular active elements on the page. - Standard pointer - looks like an arrow, and it shows that your computer is ready to complete a task. - Text pointer - for the text field, placeholders. - Link pointer - show after hovering the cursor over activated linked elements that follow to other places, pages, and actions (buttons, images, hyperlinks, tabs, labels).
- Different states of buttons
Buttons look differently (for example, by other colors or changing their 3D volume) depending on their state: disabled, enable, hover, activated (clicked or tapped).
- Links already used
Links previously used have different colors.
- 404 page
The website contains a customized 404 page that informs how to find the missing page and links to the Homepage and Search field (if applicable)
6. Support the user
When designing web applications, it's important to remember that your users are humans, not computers. Support them in their actions, inform them what is happening, and prevent them from making errors: conscious mistakes and unconscious slips.
- Make it easy to undo an action.
- Make it easy to redo an action.
- Use tooltips and instructions to help users understand what they are doing and why it matters. - the content should not be trimmed or go outside the tooltip area, - the tooltip text should give proper information, - the text on the tooltip should be free from typos.
- If there is a form field, put a label next to it, so people know what information goes there.
- Give users a way to reset their session if they get lost or make mistakes (like a "cancel" button).
- Don't use color alone to convey meaning — make sure you use text (or use both at once).
- Make your website responsive so that users can view it on any device or screen size without having to scroll horizontally or vertically - or zoom in/out - to see everything clearly (this also means making sure your content is written for all screen sizes).
- The email links should open an email inbox.
- The phone number links should open the phone's keyboard and be displayed on it.
- The filters should be remembered when the user navigates through the filtered records and goes back to the search page.
- Require user confirmation before carrying out potentially dangerous actions (e.g., deleting something).
- Make buttons big enough to hit with your thumbs.
7. A good web design is accessible to all.
There are a lot of web developers who don't know how to make their sites accessible or don't care enough about it to put in the time and effort. But it's so important! Not only does accessibility increase your site's SEO, but it also makes it easier for everyone to use your site - not just people with disabilities. There are many accessibility recommendations included in WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) that can also show success criteria in three levels: A, AA, and AAA. Check some of the most important and learn, when possible, about others:
- Keep your code organized and readable. Use semantic HTML tags whenever possible so screen readers can parse out information more easily when reading aloud or on on-screen display devices.
- The user should be able to navigate the website with a keyboard without using a mouse. That includes all elements like menu, images, buttons, form inputs, etc.
- Make sure any images and non-text content have alt tags that describe what they're showing. When you use ornamental, abstract pictures, motifs, and elements that tell nothing significant to the user, you can skip alt-text.
- Keep all text at least 18 points in size (or 14 if it's bold) unless there's a good reason not to do so (like if you're using an image as part of the content).
- Test the website for color blindness and contrast issues before launching your website, as it may not be apparent to people with specific vision issues if there are no visual cues on the page indicating what's clickable or not.
- Localize input forms labels outside of the placeholder - this way, users with screen readers can read it.
- Don't use flashy graphics or animations that might distract users from the task, like filling out a form or reading an article.
- Use headings to break up large blocks of text into smaller chunks; this will make reading easier for those with dyslexia or other learning disabilities who have trouble keeping.
8. Structure properly the website
As a web developer, you have the responsibility to build a user-friendly site and easy to navigate. Think about a clear and understandable structure to provide the best user experience. Check out some of those tips:
- Put all headers in the appropriate order: if you already used H1 and want to use H6, you should already use headers from 2 to 5. All headings and sub-heading should be short and descriptive.
- Divide blocks of text into chunks - make from them shorter paragraphs, create bullet point lists where possible, and add other content like images, animations, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, and maps that will keep the user interested in the website.
- Each page should be clearly labeled with a descriptive and valuable title.
- Make sure your website has a clear call-to-action button. Button labels should start with action words (they always should include a verb).
- Put an effective navigation system in place so that users can quickly move from one part of your website to another without getting lost or confused about where they are currently located (e.g., by using breadcrumbs, fixed menu, or logo directing to the homepage).
- Keep the most critical information on the top of the site, above the fold.
- Never use more than three typefaces or three different point sizes for a font. Choose the most straightforward typefaces that all devices and browsers can display.
- Keep lines of text to 18 words - 50-80 characters – max! Text in the header must have a minimum amount of px.
- Differentiate sections by headers, contrast, colors, and white space.
9. Optimize for mobile devices
There are many reasons why web developers should optimize the web for mobile devices. The most important is that nowadays, mobile users make up a large percentage of the total user base, and they are essential to your bottom line. Research shows that even 50% of users could use mobile devices to search the web and possibly see your website this way.
Another reason to optimize your website for mobile is that it's easier than ever before. It only takes a few lines of code to make your site responsive and compatible with any device with a responsive design.
What are the most common rules you should include in mobile optimization?
- The icons and links should be large and far enough apart that clicking on them is easy.
- The buttons that change or delete data should require more effort to tap to prevent accidental tapping.
- Locate all buttons, especially the CTA, in the middle.
- Ensure the information is fully displayed on the screen in vertical and horizontal mode.
- Allow taking actions in one click. Most users operate the phone with one hand.
- The hover effect should not be visible on mobile.
- It should also be easy to navigate - users shouldn't have to tap too much or zoom in and out too frequently while browsing.
- Use big, legible fonts and button labels that are clear, concise, and easy to read.
- And finally, make sure that everything looks good on small screens!
10. Performance, functionality and design are all equally important.
Many factors contribute to the user experience, but performance is just as important as functionality and design. Let's face it: a website is not just a collection of pages. A website is an experience, and you can shape that experience by ensuring that every element on your site has its role and place.
To employ all functional and aesthetic website aspects effectively that support its performance, you need to keep in mind a few things while developing:
- Keep the design consistent across all website pages, from headings to typography, fonts, image style, and colors.
- Achieve unity of web elements and content. This unity can be visual when all design elements support the same theme and conceptual when the content supports the subject matter.
- All elements have their role and function - of course, they could be purely aesthetic, but they should never distract the user from taking action. Locate elements strategically and thoughtfully, and get rid of those that are redundant or even make the user feel confused.
- Keep the balance between information content, white space, and aesthetic elements.
- Use colors to group and structure items on the page.
- Avoid complicated background in website design.
- Use consistently the same groups of icons - like vector, 3D filled, or outlined.
- Cluster together related information, functions, and visual elements.
- Aesthetic elements follow web functions and don’t disturb them in performance.
- And the last general tip: make the website pleasant to look at!
User Experience is one of the essential parts of any website or application. You might have a great product, but nobody will use your product if the user experience is terrible. Web developers should include UX while developing a website because it makes it easier for users to move through the site.
The web is a prominent place. There are hundreds of billions of websites out there, and there's no telling how much more will be created in the future.
Including User Experience in your website development will help you create a better user experience and make your site more interactive. Your users will be able to navigate through the website efficiently, and they will find it easier to access all the information they need.
UX is a factor that can determine whether or not your site will be successful. If you want to develop a high-quality site, you should pay attention to it.
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