Optimizing the User Experience: 6 Web Design Tips for 2015

February 4, 2015

As a publisher, your digital-first strategy is all about providing an experience to your readers. You likely know what qualities comprise a good reader experience, but how do you translate that into your design? 

Start with these tips, whether redesigning your website or just giving it a fresh update:

  1. Put Content First. You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh!” Or maybe not, because content might not be what comes to mind when you think design. For most people, design is about presentation of content, but here’s the thing: if you don’t develop quality, relevant content and use a web platform that features efficient workflow to support multiple revenue channels, the user experience will reflect that. Who cares if the site is pretty and responsive if the content is of no value to the reader? Therefore, your design should be built on relevant, engaging content. The design should enhance the presentation of that content and allow rich interaction. Now we are getting somewhere.
  2. Be Responsive. Need we talk about mobile statistics? It’s a no brainer that your site be optimized for mobile traffic. This one says it all: “70 percent of mobile searches lead to action on websites within one hour. That's assuming that the website is mobile-friendly, otherwise 40 percent will choose another result.”
  3. Hire a Navigation Expert. Of course, this person must also be a web designer or developer—and ideally, he/she is part of a team that will provide you with comprehensive web design, content management and support. A navigation expert is not a title, it’s a quality that your design person or team should possess—and it requires an understanding of your brand, as well as an astute understanding of how people operate on the web—namely your audience. Visitors won’t stay on your website if they can’t easily find what they are looking for, and they are more likely to stay longer if they have fun finding what they are looking for. That’s where key elements of navigation design come in.
  4. Balance Art and Functionality. It’s a visual world. That’s not changing, especially when you consider the insane popularity of content that includes multimedia elements, like video and image galleries. But, it’s not just about multimedia; it’s also about branding. If your website is highly functional, but doesn’t evoke your brand identity or engage readers with visual pleasure, it’s probably falling short of it’s potential. Meanwhile, if your website is a virtual feast of eye-candy but readers can’t get to the content and the community with little effort ,it falls short of it’s purpose.
  5. Get Poised for Growth. Publishing today is about revenue diversity. A web design that allows for additional revenue streams (even if you’re not quite there) is a design that will grow with you. Make sure key elements are in place, including advertising diversity, eCommerce and the framework for events and buyers guides.
  6. Integrate for a Community Focus. Today’s online experience is a social experience. Readers want to interact with your website via their favorite social networks. They want to read blogs and articles and develop a dialogue with other readers. They want to give product reviews, answer polls and know what everyone else is reading. Your website design should include capability for all this—social integrations, comments, reviews, surveys, most popular content, etc.

Some might argue that you can’t design a user experience—and we would agree with them, but you can design a website that allows your audience to easily engage with content and each other, while enjoying the journey. You give them the tools and what they do with them creates the experience.