The essentials of user experience: Insights from the EPIC web team

User Experience: Go Beyond Beautiful

author: Rory Lorbach

Written by: Rory Lorbach

Web Development Supervisor


  • Best Practices
  • Web

When it comes to web design, don’t forget the essentials.

As the saying goes, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. That’s why, with each website we build at EPIC, it’s not just about the information on the site … it’s our goal to push design/layout limits and deliver eye-catching websites with a unique, seamless user experience. This could include things like custom content layouts, interactive/immersive product tours, dynamic related content, and much more. But while delivering quality, custom design is a high priority, it’s important not to lose sight of some of the basic expectations on the user level.

Going TOO far with custom design will likely make your site memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Not having some of these basic ingredients that a user expects could greatly diminish the time, energy, and expense of the custom design work. These include mobile responsiveness, intuitive navigation, easily reachable contact forms, support content such as FAQs, and site security. Also, while a user doesn’t always anticipate a blog, a blog is a great place to connect visitors with your business in a real-world application.

Make it mobile-friendly.

Mobile traffic currently makes up 57.8% of the global internet traffic, with 40.2% of traffic coming from desktop users. So, while most of the current web-building technologies and frameworks are built with mobile responsiveness in mind, it’s important to consider and understand some of the nuances of the user experience when building a website/application. In short, think like a mobile user! The more complex the layout and functionality, the higher the odds you will have to spend more time customizing that for smaller views/windows on devices.

This means that while most of the content will automatically break down to stack or re-size on mobile devices, not all parts of the experience—especially in custom functionality—will be user-friendly on mobile. It’s about doing your due diligence to verify that this experience is optimized for mobile devices before pushing out a new site or site redesign into live or production environments.

Ultimately, you’ll need to make some compromises. For example, if a robust video loops on your desktop experience, you should consider swapping that for an image on mobile, for faster load times over potentially weaker connections.

Other considerations include:

  • Modifying the way something behaves if it involves a mouse hover, which is not available on mobile devices.
  • Streamlining navigation on mobile. A rich “mega” menu that gives several visual, and text cues may need to be converted to a list with sub-menu items, to ensure that all of the navigation links are readable on the screen.
  • Making sure content stays within the confines of the screen.
  • Where needed, swapping complex interactive content with more static but informative pieces, to ensure messaging can be delivered clearly even if some of the desktop functionality can’t be experienced.

Those are just a few examples of mobile considerations; custom sites should always be tested on mobile devices to ensure the best possible experience.

Make it intuitive

This is where functionality needs to supersede “fanciness.” Users expect to see navigation in specific locations, and deviating away from those can frustrate them. So, while moving navigation to a new spot on a page may seem innovative and groundbreaking, traditional locations have been common in most sites for a long time, usually for good reason. That’s not to say there are no ways to improve navigation, but going too far with custom design will likely make your site memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Make it easy to contact you.

Whether it’s a phone or email icon in navigation or a “Contact Us” button clearly placed on the page or navigation, having some type of shortcut to a contact form is critical to minimizing user frustration. The reality is that people just want to know they can reach you. One of the top reasons a user goes to a site is to find a way to contact someone at the organization, so the more challenging it is for a user to find this link or callout, the more frustrated they will become. So ways to contact should be prominent in the navigation and well-supported throughout the site.

Make them feel supported.

Support content is important if your site offers or mentions any product or service that requires some level of technical support or guidance on usage. A page or section for FAQs may be one way to deliver support. A dedicated area for news or resources is also a great location for documentation that supports the product or service you are selling. Not only does this satisfy a user or purchaser of your product, but it can also build SEO value, as searches can run a wide gamut of phrasing and terminology that could be better captured and matched in more technical content, an article or a blog.

Make it secure.

While not a design element or a visual component of the page, site security is paramount to gaining and maintaining the trust of your visitors and, more importantly, the browser they are using. The most obvious way to gain this trust is to make sure your site has a valid SSL certificate so that the “https” protocol (vs. “http”) can be used in front of the site URL. Proper installation and inclusion of the security certificate will allow users unblocked access to the site. In addition to using a certificate, it’s important to periodically review your site for any potential security vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities could include outdated plugins used to support the site, as well as the version of the content management system (CMS) you are using. Keeping those up to date will minimize the opportunities for those with malicious intent to harm your website—or your users.

Strike a balance.

While layout, interactivity, and beautiful overall designs are all important factors in creating a successful website, neglecting some of the key user expectations might undo all of the benefits of that custom layout or design. Striking that balance is key to optimal performance and the best experience for your visitors.


Work Hard and Be Nice to People


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