If you have had any involvement in the web design industry in the last few years, you will have heard of the terms user-centred design (UCD) and user experience (UX) design. They are both methodologies designed to improve the experience a user has when they interact with a product. For me, any design that doesn’t consider the user has always been a bad design, UCD and UX just put some shape around the ways to achieve the best design solution.
There is a wealth of information online about UX design and the qualitative and quantitative techniques it uses to gather information and data to inform the design process and improve user experience and conversion rates. At Crafted, we use them to the benefit of our clients every day.
The human touch
There is another side to our process that isn’t as quantifiable, and that's the human element of considering the user; to be able to empathise with that other human being at the opposite end of the chain. How can we make them happy? And if we're being completely honest, what is the benefit of their happiness to us?
Without this human element of the design process, there would be nothing to test against, except previous systems, resulting in an infinite feedback loop of sameness. We would never come up with anything new and exciting to delight the user.
Happy by definition
Let’s assume that a bad user experience makes the user sad (or annoyed or frustrated or all the above). Good design should leave you feeling happy (perhaps not 'shouting from the rooftops happy’, but happy in a quietly positive way nonetheless). This made me think that we can use happiness as a framework for website design, a checklist of things a design should achieve for the user.
The dictionary definition of happy is:
So how do we take the definition of happy and apply it to website design?
1. Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment
This is the minimum goal. We want the user to be happy with their experience. If possible, we want the opportunity to offer them moments of delight. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, a tiny unique feature that makes your life easier can be all it takes. Do you remember when you realised that little arrow next to the fuel icon on your car dashboard was to let you know which side of the car the petrol cap was on (if you weren’t aware of this, you’re welcome)? It’s tiny features like this that offer those mini moments of delight on a website too, making the site easier to use and the user happier.
Look for opportunities to build on the basic experience and offer tiny moments of delight.
1.1. Having a sense of trust and confidence
Trust and confidence are extremely important. If a user doesn’t trust your site, they will go elsewhere. The design needs to give the right trust signals, meeting the user’s expectations and backing up the brand. Even without drilling down to the fine detail, visual design plays a huge part in trust. Take two completely different sites Crafted has designed and built, Lay & Wheeler (a fine wine merchant) and Generator Hostels (design-led hostels across Europe).
Both are carefully designed to appeal to their respective customer demographic. Colour, imagery and layout all carefully considered to build trust and empathy with the brand. Both sites have been very successful at converting sales because of that care and attention. Customers are happy that the site meets their expectations and so are more likely to trust the site; switch the designs round and that almost certainly wouldn’t be the case!
Always make sure you are designing for the right user, not for your own or the client’s preferences.
1.2. Satisfied with the quality or standard of
Put simply, it needs to work! Websites that are slow, difficult to navigate, or freeze and break don’t provide a good experience. The less friction throughout the user's journey the happier they will be. Building sites with care and attention from design to development, means the end user has the best possible experience.
Don’t sacrifice functionality for good looks, if a site doesn’t work, no one will care how good it looks.
1.3. Willing to do something
Now we'd like the user to do something that makes us happy too. If we’ve got everything else right, then hopefully they will be willing to buy that thing/get in touch/sign up.
As much as we want to make the user happy, we also want to make our clients happy . Making their users happy enough to become customers is how we meet that objective. Never lose sight of the end goal of the site. The user being happy is helping us to achieve a goal, it isn’t a goal in its own right.
1.4. Used in greetings (Happy Christmas)
OK, I’m not going relate a design link into this one, so let’s move on!
2. Fortunate and convenient, see also: favourable, advantageous, opportune, timely, well-timed, auspicious, beneficial, helpful.
Ultimately, people are visiting your site for a reason, to carry out a particular task for their own benefit. They might want to buy a product, use a service or get information. Whatever it is, we should be considering how we can provide that benefit in the most straightforward way.
Giving your users a good on-site experience builds advocacy. They’ll come back and even tell their friends about it. Beautiful design can be impactful and encourage people to make decisions, don't underestimate its power.
Always be thinking how you can make the users experience better so they want to come back. One sale is great, but repeat custom is even better!
3. Inclined to use a specified thing at random (grenade happy!)
A good user journey makes a process, quick, simple and painless. Think about the sites that you choose to go back to again and again, it’s almost certain that it’s because whatever they allow you to do is easy to achieve. They make you happy to return and, as a consequence, probably make you happy to spend more money with them rather than a competitor.
We definitely don’t want your customers to be grenade happy – we want them to be spend happy!
The pursuit of happiness
Dare to be different. Use data and insight to your advantage when designing, but balance it with empathy and creativity; the right brain and the left working together. Small moments of delight may seem insignificant but can often go a long way when it comes to conversion and loyalty.