Website misconception: Design is better than user experience

Have you ever gone to a website that looked so cool but when you tried to do something or move to the next page you couldn’t do that?

It’s frustrating, and it’s a very poor user experience. Yet it feels like it’s something so common. A lot of people seem to think that having a cool-looking website is much better than one with a positive user experience.

And that’s counter intuitive to what websites should be. The user experience, or UX in technology slang, should be the priority for every website. After all, isn’t that the point of the website? To have people do something, whether it’s to sign up for a newsletter, purchase a product or learn more about a service you provide. If people can’t do those things, the website is a complete failure.

So let’s go ahead and dissect this misconception and discuss the ways that you can make sure your website’s UX leads to a positive experience for everyone.

Where this misconception comes from

I think a lot of this misconception has to do with people not knowing a lot about proper web design. They think web design is supposed to be cute and flashy and animations and all of that. And they want that from their designs, and when left to their own devices, that’s what they are going to go with.

They think what they are doing is good for their site. After all, they might just be copying something that they saw somewhere else. And if it worked for that site, well, why can’t it work for this one?

But if you’re not well-versed in web design, it can be pretty easy to go too far with the design. You can get carried away with what you’re doing. You can think that you need to add way more colors and images and all of that than you really should. And you might not be thinking about how different elements are supposed to interact with each other and the user. And that failure to think or text out those user interactions is where the user experience goes upside down.

Simply put, like a lot of misconceptions, a little education can go a long way towards putting this one to bed. So if this is you, take some time to learn a little web design.

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Why this misconception is wrong

And some of that is true. A really good design will attract people to come to the website and look around. But the flip side of that is that flashy design that overwrites the user experience will have the opposite effect. If people can’t navigate to where they need to go on a website, they’re going to leave and they aren’t coming back.

Think about all of the websites that you’ve visited. For the ones that you continue to visit time and time again, is it the design or the user experience that keeps you coming back. It’s probably a little bit of both, but the user experience can make a so-so design feel better simply by making it easy to navigate.

On the other hand, what about the websites that you’ve gone to where the design hurts the experience. How frustrating is it to not be able to accomplish something that you should be able to do just because the way it was designed doesn’t allow you to. It’s infuriating at times. So don’t do that for your users.

Design and user experience need to go together when building a website. But never allow the design to hurt the user experience.

The balance between design and user experience

But there has to be a balancing act between the two. Most government and academic websites are fairly easy to use (they have to be for accessibility purposes). But you won’t see them win any sort of website design award.

And this is where the talent of a web designer really comes into play, and it’s one of the reasons why I highly suggest people hire someone else to build their websites. They know what they’re doing. They know what’s going to work, what won’t and at least have a good idea of where that line is. It’s their job.

If you’re going to be designing your own pages, especially those of you using the block editor in WordPress, you need to understand where this balance is. You’ll need to find that line between great design and great user experience. Because whether or not a page helps or hurts your website and business greatly depends on whether or not you understand this concept.

Get people to test your website

So how can you know if your website’s user experience is positive enough for everyone or a pain in the neck? Well, you always start with testing.

And not just testing with yourself. You likely know just how to navigate through your website and all of the intricacies that it might require. You know too much about the site to be a qualified person for testing it out.

So instead get the help of friends. Ask them to go through and try things out. Have them try to purchase something and checkout. See if they can sign up for a newsletter. Or just simply, can they easily navigate from page to page. Then take their results and figure out what, if anything, you need to change with the website.

And don’t just stop with friends who can use a mouse. Also have them try it with a keyboard to start seeing if your website’s accessibility is good enough as well (because that’s also a part of accessibility). If they use a screen reader, even better. You can truly make sure that everyone can use your website.

While there are a lot of good practices on paper that you should be following, testing it out with people who have never been to the site is a great way to make sure your user experience is as good as it can be.

User experience will keep people on your site

And all of this boils down to the fact that the user experience is going to keep people on your website. And it’s also going to keep them coming back.

You could have the flashiest and coolest-looking website on the internet. But the fact of the matter is that if your website does not allow people to accomplish the things they need to do on your website, they are going to leave and they aren’t coming back. Period. End of story.

So when you’re designing that new page or updating a page or even trying to create a website yourself, always keep the user experience at the top of your mind. Always test it versus the design and bring in outside help to test as well.

A great user experience will lead to a great website and better results for your business.

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