UX (user experience), according to Wikipedia, is how a user interacts with and experiences a product, system or service. It includes a person’s perceptions of utility, ease of use, and efficiency. But do you really need to practice UX in order to understand how people interact with your product or service? Without doubt, we need a process to understand how people perceive or use our product. But how to practice UX which is relevant to our product is a different story. And in my opinion, UX is one of the most overrated and misused buzz words in marketing.
UX in marketing can be a painful experience
Marketers today, more than ever, embrace experience as an outcome. Graphic designers want to be called the UX creator or front-end designer. The market is very confusing for how to implement UX into a product development. I am not against using a scientific method to approach design or production especially for ideation and validation. But overdoing UX in marketing or creative design can be a painful experience. It is tedious and unnecessary.
In my professional life, I’ve developed a lot of websites. Most of these websites are the company’s websites for marketing and communication purposes. The objective of these websites are for distributing product and service information. I can say all these websites have very low traffic. To me, if a website has less than 10k visitors per month, I will regard it as low traffic.
By experience, the low traffic websites always share these common characteristics,
1) the home page is always the static content.
2) the website has very little frequently updated content.
3) the home page is always the main landing page.
4) the top traffic referrer is either Google organic or the direct visit.
The experience of the small websites are simple and direct.
Should we build a website like playing lego?
Now let’s look at a typical UX website crash course which teaches you how to use a design tool, design a wireframe, create prototype, map the user journey and persona to the website navigation, develop A/B modeling to test and validate the website usability, version control, etc, etc. All of these are the useful knowledge provided that you are designing for Apple.com or CNN.com kind of big website. If not, then this is how web design works.
The theme template of your website is going to dictate your design. If your developer adopts a common UI framework, the layout grid will limit your design. There are many well developed UI framework as well so it can be implemented by the developer. The UI framework
will provide an optimized color palette and visual elements that support the modern browser experience. Because the scale of the website is small, the navigation is likely a less complicated experience, need not to mention the navigation on mobile will always start with a hamburger menu according to the common practice. And because the size of the target audience isn’t a big crowd, whether or not an A/B test is meaningful could be a doubt. I must say nowadays the website design is more mechanical and the designers have less freedom. We now can stitch different components (frameworks, code libraries, data sources and APIs) to create a modern looking website. Or simply pay WIX.COM to click and drag to get the job done (please don’t).
The fact will always surprise the ego.
For the small-website designers or marketers, how should they practice UX or should they simply follow the developer’s practice to build a website like playing lego? If you are not creating a website for a new business, I suggest one of the best resources to design for usability is to look at your historical data in your web analytics. But please do not obsess the numbers. If you are using Google Analytics, use the users flow report, or the path exploration report if you are using GA4. Following the flow of how the visitors navigate your website will give you the best information of how your website is talking to the people.
After seeing the web evolved in decades, I have a question -> Is a UX person a developer or a designer? An ideal UX mind splits 50/50 between art and science. Can they be co-existed? Should we design for experience, or should we design for usability? Like everything in marketing, the struggle always lies between the emotional benefits vs. the functional aspects.