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.
Custom Content Via E-commerce Heralds The Future Of Marketing
Informative, catchy content is key to ecommerce engagement. It is an affordable marketing strategy with high impact on ROI.
Content does not demand huge resources; a blog can be launched fairly quickly. However, consumer attention spans are pulled in many directions, so they demand the best on offer.
With two hours per day spent by the average person on social media, it makes sense to harness the potential of these platforms for product inspiration and building hype and desirability of your brand. Studies have shown that most consumers value posts written by other consumers above scripted advertising. Advertising does still have a role to play, but the approach needs to be fresh in enhancing customer experiences alongside customers’ peer reviews to build relationships.
Millennials are so aware of an oversaturated market place that they are difficult to sell to. Images and messages are easily crafted and edited into being what they are not.
Likewise, influencer support can be faked or bought. Supposed sponsorship can be off-putting when relied on in excess to lend gravitas to a post. While influencer endorsement is rife, it must be approached with discernment. Fake engagements are equally rife. From buying followers to staging fake boosting of your friends’ posts, fraud is everywhere, but ultimately cannot sustain.
What does sustain is authenticity, and this is what Millennials are searching for. Brands are wise to allow consumers inside the real stories that make their brand what it is.
Consumers value brands that stand for more. Ethics, social welfare, and edu-commerce. Content that encourages development, both personal and communal is a draw card. Enlightening consumers as to how to get the most out of your products means you are concerned about maximizing value. In the age of ecommerce, transparency and authenticity, brands need to be clear on their vision and mission. In this way, a brand can consistently stay true to its values, and build relationships and trust with the consumer. Next level transparency means revealing all aspects of what makes your product what it is; taking pride in manufacturing, reviews, and individual relevance.
Shopping via the ecommerce is undeniably where it’s at for a myriad of reasons. Ease of price and product comparison, convenience, Generation X time constraints and techno affinity are all factors. Consumers now expect a slick, omnichannel shopping facility that meets their unique lifestyles and personal needs. A majority of customers value customer experience over price when choosing a brand. With sound content enhancing ecommerce engagement, the future of marketing has great potential.
Staying Relevant In The Facebook Age Of Meaningful Social Interactions
With Facebook announcing that it is pushing brand and publisher content out of news feeds, how can businesses, especially small and medium enterprises in South Africa, remain relevant?
It was deemed a “rude awakening” early in January 2018 when Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that the social networking platform had changed its algorithm, basically meaning it had changed what users see on their news feeds.
This follows a pretty harsh year for Facebook, where it was criticised for not having the right countermeasure to stop the spread of fake news and propaganda. So now its set of rules has changed; bumping up users’ friends and family members’ status updates and photos, and underplaying public news articles and content published by brands.
But where does that leave the small or medium businesses reliant on communicating their brand messages through Facebook? How do they now reach Facebook users (estimated to be approximately two billion)?
There is still a way
“’Meaningful interaction’ is not something new to Zuckerberg’s focus on how brands engage with their Facebook audience,” explains Jodene Shaer, international business owner and head strategist of social media engagement specialist, Chat Factory.
“There is a place for paid media, but if a brand is trying to be seen organically, then it must feel like it is part of the flowing content people want to see from friends and family. It is pushing for the reason that Facebook was created in the first place – to be social.”
Truly embracing the power of live videos and video content on Facebook – and then creating reasons for the public to engage with those posts – is an excellent move for any business that is budget conscious, Shaer adds.
“The ranking for visibility of organic content is highest when live. Live videos are absolutely the route to go, as followers receive a notification that you are live and there is greater chance of visibility. A big advantage is that you can save that content to the page and it becomes shareable, and can be uploaded to YouTube, where there is still a strong call for business content.
“And it doesn’t have to be high budget either, but it must be authentic, informative, engaging and encouraging. Of all things, ensure that all comments are responded to and shares and reviews are acknowledged.”
Looking beyond Facebook
Shaer believes that smaller local businesses can make their ad rands stretch further on Facebook by moving onto Ads Manager, instead of simply using the Boost button. “The reach is different, so invest in watching some YouTube videos as tutorials,” she recommends. “Boost to unique target audiences and turn the boosting into a science, by watching your reach. Set up smaller boosts and spread your spend across a few posts instead of one big boost. Track your stats and see which audiences work best.”
“One way that South African SMEs could also make use of InstaStories, as these are gaining organic reach. They could also look at varying hashtags, but using a few to reach a very specific audience.
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“We’ve seen the opening up of the use of LinkedIn and had people return to using the power of Twitter, so it’s worth investigating how to maximise other platforms while trying to keep your budget low.
“None of this should put a small business off, but should create exciting and challenging opportunities to shift how social media is used and explore the outcomes of each post, to truly develop a social media presence,” she adds.
Shaer will be one of an entire panel of dynamic, expert presenters speaking at the upcoming Madex 2018 show, the ultimate marketing, advertising, design, social media and all that good stuff expo.
How To Market Your Hotel
An integrated digital marketing strategy that provides multiple channels to communicate on will help you to reach more potential customers.
It’s imperative these days to enable customers and guests to interact directly with your brand in real time – and your ROI will reflect this success. To achieve this, your marketing team should utilise a number of different channels in order to achieve an integrated digital marketing strategy.
Why? When potential customers are only able to use one means of communication or booking platform, such as a hotel’s website or blog, Facebook, Twitter or a third-party booking site, their frustration could cause you to lose their business.
Your digital strategy
By engaging in an integrated digital marketing strategy and addressing multiple channels with a clear, consistent message, you are bound to reach the maximum number of potential customers. Through the creation of a larger online presence, your engagement reach will be far higher, solidifying your company’s brand in the best possible manner.
Your first step in achieving an integrated campaign is to determine your target market. The second step according to Robert Nienaber, managing director of Suiteres, is to “create a message – tell a story about your product or service and what makes it unique.
For instance, the history of your establishment’s location, the nature/wildlife, your amazing food or historical rooms or perhaps the owner’s unique story. Tailor that story for your target market to captivate them – they will buy into your brand as a result.” Be sure to keep your message consistent across all mediums, be it written, photographic or video.
According to Ivo Kittel, head of Development & Design at Suiteres, different channels can be described as such: ‘These consist of website and online booking systems, third-party channels – such as online travel agents or your global distributions systems – and social media platforms that support the aforementioned and drive traffic to them.
‘Print media, events and other offline techniques can also assist by driving clients to visit your website or to engage with you on social media. All these channels should be strategically linked for best effect.’
An unusual hero in the travel market? Smart phones and tablets, on-the-go devices that allow users to review and recommend hotels on social media profiles, as well as third-party sites. Together with the integrated digital marketing strategy, this increases potential customers’ connections to hotels, airlines, car hire companies or event organisers.
What’s more, a key driver in drawing in new customers and causing previous ones to return, is the offer of regular perks, benefits, freebies and discounts via a newsletter.
Bear in mind though, that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Each company will have differing concerns and requirements, and these are what you should use to build an effective marketing campaign. The following should be noted:
- Effective communication between marketing team members is essential. There needs to be collaboration across the multiple channels you’re utilising. In doing so, your overall offering will be streamlined and have maximum effect.
- Choose your key channels, those that will receive the most attention and marketing spend. These need to be the channels that garner the most hits or collect the most bookings – also known as ‘converting’.
- Determine your target market and get as much information as you can on them, over time. For instance, which platform do they opt for first? Do specials lead them to make a booking, and if so, what are they? This and any other informative data assists you in your decisions and allows you to use your marketing funds in the best manner possible.
According to Vanessa Rogers, head of Communications at Suiteres, ‘The above-mentioned strategy should ideally be supported by a skilfully crafted PR campaign – one designed to complement and support your marketing message.’
Taking this into account, you should consider having relevant articles published on third-party websites and print media or arrange for a client to be interviewed on radio or a streaming site. These forms of PR are more cost-effective then an advertising campaign.
The details matter
Importantly, customers need to know they can contact you quickly and easily, whether they are making a booking or requesting additional information. One thing you can be certain of: if a customer is unable to communicate efficiently with you, they are very likely to book elsewhere.
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