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Why you should never overestimate your users

People don't know as much about you as you do – that's why they're visiting your website. Take the effort to explain what you’re about.

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Rob E
Posted by Rob E
1 November 2017
   

It sounds a bit patronising, doesn't it? When we say we shouldn't overestimate someone, it's generally because they're not quite sharp enough to grasp what's going on.

And while you will find web users who struggle with any vaguely different website navigation styles, for example, that's not quite what we're talking about here.

When we say you shouldn't overestimate your users, we're focusing less on their lack of understanding, and more on your need to actually explain things clearly and simply, so everyone can understand them.

You should never expect that every single person visiting your website will know exactly who you are and what you do – it's really important to keep the practical fundamentals of your business front and centre, so people coming in blind can quickly get up to speed.

How? Well…

 

Explain what you do, without too much jargon

It can be very easy, especially when working on a new website, to get wrapped up in your own brand and products. You're focused on the minute details of what you do, and you come up with some really smart, snappy ways of describing them and grouping them together, or of talking about them in a way that makes you sound incredible. And it all makes perfect sense.

Or, at least, it does to you. If you take a step back, would an outsider have any idea what you're talking about? Industry jargon and brand slogans can all combine to make something completely impenetrable to someone coming to it for the first time.

Sometimes the simplest explanation or descriptor might not be the most exciting, or the most on-brand, but it's the one what will get your message across most effectively – so don't dismiss it entirely. And, most importantly, it means people won't look at your website for a couple of minutes only to click away because they have no idea what you do!

 

Also, not everyone's as web-literate as your design team…

You know how to get to any point on your website because you planned the user journey. Again, it makes sense to you, and it's mapped out how you want your service structure to be represented to people. But is it actually easy for someone who's never seen it before to understand?

It can be really tempting to break things down into endless tiers and sub-sections, but it can also make for a very convoluted user journey.

Similarly, using new and exciting design features or interactive elements can be very tempting, but you can't expect every single user to notice the subtle buttons on your slider, or realise that sections are expandable or clickable, or recognise what a hamburger menu icon is, and so on.

How things work is more important than how things look – and while it is possible to find a balance, focusing on things that look flashy over things that are easy and accessible for everyone is a top-notch way to put people off engaging with your website fully.

Download our guide to creating an effective user experience

 

But don't underestimate people, either

Despite everything we've just said, it's also important not to underestimate people. Much like with most elements of UX design, it's all about finding the perfect balance.

Sometimes the right technical terms, which look like jargon to the uninitiated, are very important for showing knowledge or professionalism – and going into too much detail spelling certain things out can come off as patronising.

Finding the right balance for written content can be difficult, and it once again can mean taking a step back from your brand, and considering it through fresh eyes. This is where user personas can come in handy.

A user persona is a key part of user experience design. It means considering your ideal customer – who they are, what they do, how they've found you, and what they're looking for that you can help them with. Any business will definitely have more than one, so you'll need to think outside the box a bit to consider alternatives to your most common kind of customer.

Think of these generalised personas as specific people – give them a name, and a bit of a backstory, and consider whether your website and its contents will be something that each persona can get on board with. If not, then things need to change.

 

Website user testing can help with many of these woes

Don't just throw your website out into the world and hope it works – thorough user testing before you launch is so important for making sure you've designed a good user experience that actually works.

Internal testing is always the first step – if your own employees aren't quite sure what your new website is saying about them, then you're off to a bad start. But it's also important here not to let ego play a part in determining what changes – if someone's insisting on more technical jargon or objects to a certain phrase because they personally wouldn't use it to describe their job, then it's time to take a step back once again.

Getting insight from real-world users is also essential. Typically, when we undertake user testing, we will design a few scenarios based around different needs of our clients' user personas, and have multiple tests for each scenario, with participants that match those personas as much as possible.

Sometimes when you've spent a lot of time with a website, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees – getting a fresh set of eyes, from the perspective of your potential users, can identify problems that you might never have considered.

 

Easy interfaces and advice content – a quick look at our clients Canal and Infinity

One last thing – we just thought we'd share a couple of examples of straightforward user experience design from our studio.

Canal Engineering

Canal Engineering are a Nottingham-based manufacturer, and part of the John Lord Group. Canal's main services are split into five different divisions, and they wanted a central website that directed people towards the relevant division for them.

The names of each division don't necessarily explain exactly what they do – if you want a staircase with handrails, do you go for their Architectural division or their Safe Access division, for example? So it was very important to make the differences very clear, rather than relying on visitors knowing exactly what Canal did.

Canal provided the content for us, so our challenge was to display it effectively. The homepage is very simple, focusing on the five divisions – clicking the logo for each cycles between a brief and straightforward description of the services, without taking users to a new page each time, instead offering the option to move onto a specific site for each division once they know it's the right one for them.

Infinity Dental Clinic

Infinity Dental Clinic provide dental and beauty services in Leeds. The dental side of their business is the main aspect of what they do, but the website also needed to give equal weighting to the skin clinic.

The homepage has been designed to very simply direct users to either of the two options, with simple explanations of what each one does. While the default top-level nav is for the dental clinic, as this is what most visitors are searching for, it changes to a skin clinic-specific one if users select that option.

Everything is very clear, and explained very simply, with advice content easily accessible on each service page to answer any questions, and some very technical terms are broken down and explained.

Learn more about user experience design

If you'd like some more information, we've put together an ebook that digs deep into how to create a great user experience that looks fantastic too – click the banner below to download it for free. Alternatively, you can just get in touch!

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