A presumed and underlying aim for any website should be to offer respite from this constant visual din and information surplus.
You want users to want to stay on your site and return regularly because they enjoy interacting with it. You want them to find that it’s easy to use and gets the job done. This is the sole responsibility of user experience (UX).
A positive UX outcome is determined by myriad factors. It begins with in-depth knowledge of who your user is, how they navigate the Internet and why they’d be interested in your corner of it.
Once you have a grasp on your audience, the next important question to answer is what is the purpose of your site?
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If it’s commerce, you want the user to be able to admire, choose and buy a product in as few clear steps as possible. If they can’t find the product, they can’t buy it.
If it’s to inform, visual noise must be minimal, images should be meaningful and impactful and text should be pleasant and easy to read.
If it’s an intranet, usability will directly affect employee productivity. Streamlined processes are imperative.
Basic UX guidelines
While keeping a specific audience and purpose in mind, there are overarching guidelines that should always be factored in.
1. As a general rule of thumb, copy should be kept as minimal as possible
- DO write useful copy that supports your website’s purpose.
- DO structure your copy in a way that is scannable. Online readers are scanners. It’s a fact.
- DON’T use long and heavy walls of text – they’re daunting and get ignored.
- DON’T waste words. Text for text’s sake is unprofessional and impractical.
2. Clickable links need to be seen as such
- DO make clickable links/buttons recognisable. People will take as much guidance as you give them. If there’s somewhere you want them to click, make it obvious.
- DO consider borders, colour, size and placement.
- DO code the link to open in its own tab.
- DON’T hide clickable links in heavy text blocks. No one is going to search for them. What they’re going to search for is a friendlier site.
3. Navigation needs to be intuitive and seamless
- DO consider ease of use in terms of your target audience.
- DO ask yourself if people could get lost easily in your site. Test this.
- DON’T sacrifice sensible functioning for wow-factor design. Combining both is first prize but always guide design creativity to support function.
- DON’T make it hard work. Remove as many steps from processes as possible.
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4. Keep going back to utility
- DO repeatedly ask whether or not every single page of a site does what its specific users need it to do.
- DO build with competence in mind. People are busy. Efficiency will keep them on your site. The quicker the user can perform tasks, the better.
- DON’T get distracted. As attractive as a site should be, discernment is necessary when it comes to avoiding frills and design surplus.
- DON’T add elements just because they appear on most other sites in a relevant field. Shrewd design trumps excess every time.
5. Be specific: Refine and polish
- DO consider your target market as you refine. Take into account how you want them to relate to your website. How do you want to make them feel?
- DO stay focused. Be strict and limit or reduce unnecessary clutter. Trim the amount of on-screen choices down to a minimum.
- DON’T be extreme. Simplify yes but don’t sacrifice vital information. The site still needs to be useful.
6. Bring in breathing room
- DO build using the law of white space. It prevents a site from being overcrowded and overwhelming.
- DO consider noise. A site should be as quiet as possible while still fulfilling its purpose.
- DON’T add social media buttons and other widgets unless they are relevant.
- DON’T use a website as a dumping ground for all possible information about a company. It’s the working front page of a business for customers, not an archiving system.
- DO build a website experience that is memorable because it’s enjoyable. It’s noisy out there and distinction is impactful.
- DO remember that a website should be the perfect expression of a product or service, functioning in a way that’s optimal for its specific audience.
- DON’T add flare that isn’t relevant or useful in someway. A site must be memorable yes, noisy no.
- DON’T mistake busy for impressive. Busy sites with too much information are overwhelming, distracting and frustrating. If a giant mass of information is necessary, it’s important to present it well and make it available in as few clicks as possible.
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UX components to consider
Simplicity is central to design. Simple doesn’t mean there’s less to take into account it means considering every element separately.
Colour is symbolic
It means different things in different industries. It evokes emotional reactions. It’s also a great tool for enhancing calls-to-action. Do your research.
Images used must be of the highest quality
Especially where e-commerce is involved because it’s one of the most considered elements for users when placing an order.
Calculate image dimensions because this affects the speed at which a page will load.
Sliders can be distracting and, depending on the site’s purpose, aren’t always relevant.
That said, used properly, they do well to showcase visuals and multimedia.
Buttons for social sharing are tricky
They can be applicable but do add to the noise of a site and offer a poor experience for mobile users. If they are to be used, intelligent size and positioning are important.
Design for fingers – Responsiveness
Responsiveness is fundamental if you consider that as of 2015, 61% of South Africans access the Internet from a mobile device. Websites are no longer only experienced on desktops and this change needs to be accounted for.
Competing elements are a shortcoming
Most websites could do with scaling back. The placement of each image and piece of text needs to be purposeful and useful. It’s a website, not a scrapbook.
Audience aptitude needs to be taken into account
Expecting too much of your user will result in a disconnect between design and usability.
People can’t use your website if they don’t understand how to.
Long forms are deterrents
Don’t make it difficult and boring for someone to buy a product. Sure, certain information is imperative but don’t have endless fields just because that’s what you see everywhere else. Be discerning.
Ambiguous copy and imagery takes away from pointed messaging
Be conceptual but don’t leave too much open for interpretation. It won’t be received as artsy, it’ll just lack context and be confusing.
Added value sets a site apart
As an example, Medium.com offers readers the function of being able to comment on a single word or sentence in an article. This kind of sensible functionality turns readers into devotees.
The end goal
Ultimately, a site will be a UX success if it’s a rich experience that loads fast, looks phenomenal and works on any device.
Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing refined finishing touches on the grounds that the audience doesn’t know better. Sure, your average user doesn’t know what infinite scrolling is.
That’s not to say it doesn’t greatly improve their experience. People can love a website without knowing why they do.
Remember, viewing a website for the first time is like meeting a stranger. First impressions are made in seconds.
A basic change to your site can directly, positively, effect its purpose (commerce, sign-ups, lead generation, etc.) and improve your revenue. Do what you have to, to convert first-time users into regular visitors.
Crisis Management: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises.
The always-evolving communications environment has intricately linked reputation management with the digital world, and executives must now realise that brand perception functions more like a real-time trading desk with 24/7 news, social media and online conversations shaping brand perception without the participation of organisations.
Put simply, managing your reputation must be an active, ongoing strategic investment that starts well before any risk or crisis begins. Plans and procedures will prove useless if introduced as a crisis erupts. Preparedness planning needs to start at executive level with reputation management practices being built into the fibre of every business at every level.
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises, which cannot be overstated as social media gaffes are occurring faster than we can write case studies to learn from them.
Establishing a preparedness programme
Handling a reputational challenge or crisis effectively starts with recognising the warning signs early. With an established programme, guidelines and procedures in place, your organisation can keep its finger on the pulse of conversations. This allows you to begin what’s known as the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide and act), quickly and nimbly during a crisis.
Recent data shows that 28% of crises spread globally within one hour. The very action of participating in a crisis exercise helps build “muscle memory” and organisations that effectively navigate a crisis are ones with detailed crisis management plans that they are familiar with.
Establishing protocols and systems ahead of a crisis, and then testing and training on them provides discipline and structure.
If the first time you’re reading through a crisis plan is during an operational or reputational crisis, you’re going to be behind the curve and with the pace of today’s digital age, it will be hard to recover.
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Building a digital foundation
In times of crisis, reaching out to those who count the most to your organisation is critically important. This goes beyond determining who has the most followers on social media as people often confuse influence with reach. The former can be defined as the degree to which someone can inspire others to do something.
To prepare, first identify core groups ahead of time: loyal fans, industry influencers, key opinion makers such as journalists and bloggers, and those who aren’t fans. Knowing potentially negative influencers such as those who might be sceptics or critics is equally important as knowing positive influencers.
Consider online monitoring to be your first line of defence to gauge messages about your organisation. When set up in advance, this monitoring provides an understanding of your overall perception and it allows you to adjust quickly to conversational trends.
There is no “one size fits all” content strategy for a crisis. The sooner you can identify and engage with those who matter, the sooner you can begin tackling the situation directly.
When you’re at the centre of an unfolding risk, you must demonstrate a strong voice to counteract the forces of social and traditional media that will quickly shape the narrative. Press releases and news conferences are insufficient to meet expectations for content that exists online.
Leveraging strategic content within the context of a crisis forces you to question how you are engaging your key stakeholders and audience beyond a simple text response.
Your owned media properties, particularly your website and social channels, serve as critical tools to provide information that frames the issue from your perspective, addresses misinformation and, if necessary, apologises for a situation with a clear action plan.
Our goal, as a leading communications marketing agency, isn’t to teach an organisation how to simply tweet through a crisis. Rather, we expect our clients to walk away with first-hand experience of working under rapid-fire crisis conditions that mimic an accurate scenario.
There’s a great deal of nuance around effective crisis and reputation management, including what corporate responses are suitable for different crises. Don’t go it alone. Invest in a partner, which has a deep understanding of the complex variables that have a long-term impact on the public perception of your organisation.
Five variables to address ahead of a crisis
- Who have we maintained consistent relationships with? You must make friends before you need them. Develop a list of important online and traditional stakeholders and maintain steady communications with this group during the quiet times.
- What is your threshold for who is influential? Be aware of the fact that there are people who reside outside your list of key stakeholders who are nevertheless influential and could have an impact on your business.
- How quickly does a conversation need to build up steam to warrant a response? The internet and social media now reflect thousands of smaller voices who can find each other and amplify a message. Recognising how conversations gain critical velocity is imperative to gauge when to respond and a crisis partner can help in this scenario.
- What is the timing of your response? You don’t always have all the answers and that’s okay. Often, a community just wants to know that you’re listening to them.
- Where will you publish a response and notify stakeholders? Sometimes, a response on Twitter, or Facebook proves sufficient, although other platforms such as a website or a blog helps to frame issues more comprehensively. A crisis partner will help determine the best way forward.
Why You Should Sort Your Social Media Policy (Like NOW!)
Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
With 2 billion active users on Facebook alone, sharing our toils, tribulations and triumphs online is becoming second nature. There are, however, downsides to the rise of social media. Habits online have the potential to affect your work and your business if not monitored appropriately.
Recent research combining a survey of 2,000 UK respondents and analysis of work-related Twitter posts has highlighted the behaviours of employees online that could lead to damage for the businesses who employ them. Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
The Risks of Social Media
Lost Working Hours
The average person now spends 25 hours a week online, with almost two hours a day (116 minutes) being used to browse social media platforms.
With so much time being spent online it’s almost inevitable that people will habitually reach for their phone to check Facebook during the working day. The survey research suggests the average person spends 52 minutes procrastinating every day, with most of this time being spent on social media.
Across the working year this amounts to 225 hours lost per employee, a total of 7 billion lost hours from the UK working population of 32,344,000. Failing to set clear boundaries of when employees can use social media in the workplace may cost you a lot in the long term.
15% of employees say that they have previously shared something negative about their work online, and a further 5% said they would do so in the future. This means that one in five workers think it is acceptable to take to social media to air their grievances with their company.
The volume of tweets found in Twitter analysis that contain negative work-related phrases illustrates how widespread the problem of employees complaining online is. In 2017, 8,186 tweets containing phrases such as #ihatemyjob, #worksucks and #hatework were sent, a 43% rise on the volume of similar posts in 2015.
It is not only negative posts from employees that pose a risk to your business – they might also be inadvertently sharing confidential information. Off-hand comments on social media about what they have done with their day may lead your employees to unintentionally reveal information about a client, future plans or other information that you would not want in the public forum.
This could result in lost business if a client feels their security has been compromised or may give your competitors important insight into your working practices, which they can use to their advantage. A clear policy on what is acceptable to post in relation to work will help prevent these risks.
How Can a Social Media Policy Help?
Social media policies should be issued and explained to all employees. Their purpose is to ensure proper usage of social media, in a way which will not negatively impact on your business.
A social media policy can set out when usage of the platforms is appropriate and what employees can share with regards to your company. The policy may not guarantee adherence, but it does allow you to set out proper practice to all your workers in a clear, accessible format, which can be regularly consulted.
Is Your Content Golden Enough?
Take a breather for a while and read our ‘gold-to’ guide for best digital practice in business.
Leading digital researcher, GroupM, suggested in their annual ‘State of the Digital’ report that marketers should convey a brand message “within the first second” of every social video. Not to take the shine off your expectations, but if today’s CMO’s don’t level up and grab consumers’ attention on-play, your video is going straight to the dump heap. No stickiness, no interest, no shares no thumb stopping. Nothing. Nichts. Nada.
Golden content is what we strive for: Videos, podcasts and solid written content with that Midas touch; content that will seize that first second and shake the shares out of it. Take a breather for a while and read our ‘gold-to’ guide for best digital practice in business:
1. Hold it Before You Load It
You know what you want to sell, and you have a strong message to go. Stop right there. Before you dive for the upload button, do the 5-point sense check first:
- Is this post too long, too short, too strong, too soft?
- Will the post deliver better results on Facebook / Instagram / Twitter or YouTube?
- Do I want audience engagement or audience awareness
- What do I want to get out of this post?
- What do I want my audience to feel and/or do with this post?
When you’ve answered these questions, and you’re clear about the what’s and how’s then, by all means, take that upload button and give it horns.
2. Get off The Island: Let Video, Audio & Lit Work Together
One of the great benefits of digital is the opportunity to collaborate your communication in the same post, using audio, visual and literature, to get your message across. When you create a podcast, use your literature platform to support the podcast, with a strong rationale, call to action or written article.
Same applies to video: You should have a transcript or article supporting that video, to better land your message. And if you’re featuring written content as the star attraction (blogs aren’t dead, yet!) it will benefit greatly from keywords, images and diagrams that grab attention – or better yet, a throw forward to a film piece that adds juice. Golden content is not an island, it doesn’t need to live alone in order to make an impact.
3. Get The Experts On Board
From your social media to your online video it is vital that your brand is authentic and in a way that fully represents the values of your business, brand, and offering. Choose the right agency to help you create content that is truly Golden and help streamline that content to ensure it works holistically in delivering your brand message to your target audience.
Working with the right team can make all the difference when it comes to creating above average content that connects with your audience. Choose an agency with experience in creating content that is Golden. Speak to So Interactive for expert advice on creating golden content for your brand.
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