Summary: In a groundbreaking study titled ‘Factors that Improve Online Experience,’ conducted by Sathish Menon and Michael Douma from the Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement, provides invaluable insights into the current landscape of UX.
This comprehensive study (2008) reinforces established usability principles and sheds light on user perceptions, highlighting significant disparities between designers and users. The research offers a wealth of information by surveying a diverse range of audiences and juxtaposing their perspectives.
Note: In 2023 these findings are still highly relevant.
Summary of Key UX enhancers:
- Avoid the Designer vs. User disconnect: Designers often underestimate the thresholds for an effective website. While designers tend to rely on a “they’ll figure it out” approach, users require transparent designs prioritizing intuitiveness over extravagant aesthetics.
- Navigation ease of use is key: Access to comprehensive information is pivotal in enhancing visitor enjoyment. This study underscores the importance of bridging the gap between user expectations and website offerings, as well as the significance of maintaining clear orientation within the site.
- Visual Design matters: Both designers and users agree that good visual design is important. Visitors seek websites that are up-to-date and visually appealing. The study recommends focusing on clear design and efficient delivery of current information, rather than overly intricate graphics.
- Speed is a UX enhancer: Speed is critical for SEO. In addition, website visitors value speed with ease of navigation. The study reveals that users look for accurate, fast, and user-friendly sites that swiftly lead them to the desired information. Even in the age of high-speed internet, rapid site performance remains paramount.
- Content that everyone needs: Visitors prioritize a wide range of topics on websites. Unlike designers and organizations, users strongly emphasize the importance of offering diverse and interesting information. Strategic cross-linking and sidebars can aid in helping users explore a variety of content.
- Orientation challenges: Designers overestimate users’ ability to maintain orientation on websites. Maintaining clear menus, prompts, and decluttered interfaces can help users navigate with ease.
- Personalized support matters: Contrary to designers’ beliefs, users desire personalized assistance on websites. Incorporating features that provide guidance and support can significantly enhance website effectiveness.
- Addressing the information gap: While users claim to find the information they need, there’s a notable gap between what they seek and what typical websites offer. This gap can be addressed by strategically providing existing information in an easily accessible manner.
There are specific interaction design techniques that can help with this problem. I discuss a few here: progressive disclosure (giving users what they need, then offering more) and forcing functions (limiting choices to help users get what they need).
This study underscores the crucial need for designers and developers to align their efforts with user expectations. By prioritizing Human Centered Design, transparent navigation, and efficient information delivery, websites can offer an improved user experience that resonates with visitors.