Whether you’re designing your own website for the first time or are working with a web team (shout-out, Gulf Coast Pixel!) for a site refresh, it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward before you anxiously hit that “Publish” button. I’m Arielle, a product UX designer, and I’m here to give you some tips and talking points to consider.
Let’s begin with the big picture.
Will this resonate with my audience?
This may sound like a no-brainer, but the number one thing to focus your website around is the audience you’re looking to serve. It’s easy to get lost in today’s shiny new tech, hitting an ROI, or doing what everyone else is doing. As a website designer, I would often hear, “Well…what does it look like on Airbnb/Google/Apple? Let’s do that.” While these companies are definitely top-notch, their designs are specific to their audiences and may not resonate with yours. It’s necessary to reflect on why you’re here in the first place. Find solid ground by remembering what your audience expects from you, their needs and wishes, and the tech they feel comfortable using.
If you want to get an idea of what your audience thinks without risking anything, get some insight through user testing. Set up some time to review with customers and get their feedback. In most cases, simply asking family and friends to take a look at your project will give you an idea of what may be confusing or unnatural. This will set you up for success in the long run!
What is the competition doing?
If you have multiple design concepts at your fingertips and the million dollar question is which one to choose, it may be time for a little extra research. I like to begin by seeing what my design will be up against. Not only is comparing your website to your direct competitors a great way of justifying the decisions you’re making, it also helps determine how you can differentiate yourself from the crowd.
So, what can you do that sets you apart from the competition, without risking being so different that you no longer relate to your audience? One example is my biggest pet peeve with the software industry right now: the extensive use of the color blue. Everywhere you look, no matter what industry the software is solving for, the competition will most likely have blue in their brand. This, however, is no accident; plenty of research backs up the psychological benefits of blue. But how does one stand out without risking performance? A good compromise may be to choose a design that still has a color palette that *leans* blue – like using teals, aquas and greens – to let your brand appear like a breath of fresh air while still reaping the benefits of research.
Now, let’s zoom in on the details.
Is my website experience consistent?
You want to strike the perfect balance between keeping your design interesting while also creating familiarity. The easier it is to learn the patterns of a website, the less your user has to think and the more they will enjoy the experience as a whole. A lot of frustration can be born from inconsistent elements in your website, say, a button moving from one place to another. People may realize, even subconsciously, that they’re having to think harder to get anywhere on your site and eventually leave it sooner.
In the end, you also want to keep your web team’s workload in mind. It can add time and frustration when a development team has to account for dozens of different page templates and elements across a website. I usually find that images are the biggest offender. At one point, the main website I was working on had four different image sizes for article thumbnails when the design could have called for one. Having too many extraneous pieces makes scaling your website more miserable for your design and dev teams to keep up with, because you’ll inevitably want to change your design bit by bit, creating a lot of duplicate work.
Is my website accessible?
No matter what you are making in the digital empire – be it a website, app or cutting-edge software – it’s important to make sure you’re not overlooking the percentage of your audience that may have difficulty with certain text sizes or color combos. In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to keep the text on your site no smaller than 10px font (this can even change to 12px minimum depending on the font you choose). Other factors may influence the size of your fonts, too, like using larger font sizes for an older demographic or for sites with heavy walls of text.
Colors are a big factor for accessibility as well, not only to account for those with color blindness but also to avoid certain color combos that are, well…not good for anyone. For colors to pass the test, they need to have high enough contrast to be legible. Without this contrast, users with certain color blindnesses may not be able to differentiate one color from another and your information could be lost in a sea of gray. Every element on your page, from buttons to icons to text, should have the right amount of contrast against the background color they’re on in order to stand out. Sites like WebAIM Color Contrast Checker provide an easy way to double-check the accessibility of the colors on your site.
So. Is it time to hit the “Publish” button?
Hopefully these few questions have shed some light on your website design and how it might perform. My best tip for you moving forward is: every once in a while, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re acting in the best interest of your audience. Your fate is usually in their hands!
If you have any questions (or tips of your own!) please share in the comments. Now go forth and conquer the internet!
We are grateful for our guest blogger, Arielle McMahon! She & Jenn met at ACTIVE Network in Dallas, Texas and had the opportunity to work together on many projects.
Arielle entered the art world in her kindergarten drawing contest, and has been there ever since. She has harnessed her creativity over the years, starting with a fine art degree and going through the paces as a web designer, visual product designer and now as a full-stack user experience designer at Omnitracs. From campaigns that excite and lift hearts to software that makes people’s lives easier, Arielle loves being able to use her passion for art as well as logic to create experiences and memories with others. Her other passions include movie quoting, board gaming, drawing, dessert eating and, of course, puppies. Connect with Arielle over at LinkedIn and Insta.