User experience is an impression of a product to users. Mostly it is around the usefulness, usability of the product. However, it is also impacted by the brand itself and also the user experience created by the market leaders which are difficult to change within short period of time.
In the Internet, user experience has a lot more dependencies on controllable and uncontrollable factors. Controllable factors are look and feel of a site, the interactive design of the site, search features and online transaction capability.
Uncontrollable factors include Internet connection speed, the computing power of the users, browser being used by the users and so on.
Regarding the look and feel or layout design of a web site, there are guidelines behind for your reference:
- The layout of different page should be consistent. For example, the locations of important feature should be consistent. For example, the location of the navigational bar, search box, social utility should always be in the same position in a page across the site.
- Logo and color: these are important brand features that should not be changed very often. In addition, such change would better to bundle with some online/offline marketing campaigns to educate people the new brand entity. Or people will just think about if they have gone to wrong/fake website.
- Ad placement. A lot of publisher income is based on ad dollar. It can be either image ad based on CPM, CPC or text ad based on CPC. Nowadays, many users are quite comfortable to see advertisement in a website as long as those ad are non-intrusive and relevant. No one would like to visit a website with more Ad than content and have so many outbound like (Note: Search Engine is an exception)
Next, it will be the usefulness. The primary purpose of an Internet website is to communicate the content to users. There are a lot of competitors in the Internet. Think about there might be hundreds of thousands of website talking about ‘Travels’ and ‘Photography’. User can easily walk away and visit another website by moving his mouse a little bit and do a click. If the content in your website is not solid, comprehensive and updated in a timely manner, people will not stay long or they will not come back.
For example, your website is a camera website introducing new camera. The website should contain not just new camera model and the price. User would expect that there are product specifications, testing reports and user comments, etc. If the website is a news website, a list of editorial picked headlines is expected rather than just a list of headlines by chronological order which is made available by RSS feeds.
On the contrary, usability is about how easy user can access to the information. It is somewhat related to the information architecture (IA) and interactive design of a website. IA is as simple as the sitemap and the page flow of the site. For example a online shopping website, it will mimic the shopping experience in real live. It will give you a shopping cart, you can flow in as much as items while you browsing the product list. At the end of the process, you have to check out, arrangement of shipping and finally got the receipt and walk out the door.
Based on search engine statistics, about one tenth of click in the search engine result page will result in less than 10 second of stay in the destination page. which means the users cannot find the information they are looking for and therefore go back to the search result page and look for other search results.
In terms of interactive design, it is about how easy to navigate in the product listing page and how good the product information (including price) is presented so that user can make a ‘buy’ decision. Lastly, the payment process is a pivotal step. I forgot how many times I give up buying just because either (1) how long it will take to fulfill the transaction; (2) what additional hidden fees will pop up in the check out process. Make the navigation as simple as possible. Look at how other websites are doing and setup focus group, interview your users how to streamline and improve the flow will help you to solve the problem.