User experience (UX) has been trending for the last few years, another buzzword thrown into the website design process. Like most web design practices, it sounds great on paper but building better UX into a project takes more than just understanding that it’s a good idea. First, let’s define UX.

User experience is how someone feels about using a product, in this case—a website. It’s how the user engages with a site, their perceptions and emotions while doing so, and ultimately, how that experience influences their decision to return. This is real stuff—88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience (https://econsultancy.com/blog/10936-site-speed-case-studies-tips-and-tools-for-improving-your-conversion-rate). It sounds nebulous, and maybe even a little unattainable, but there are methods that make crafting a great UX a better experience for the project team.

You may not have experience with designing user experience, but you’ve certainly experienced it yourself. Everyone remembers trying to use a website and coming up against roadblocks at every turn. The page loads too slowly, links and content is missing, you get redirected, etc. People rarely return to a website that frustrates them. Who would want to? The problem is, we used to think that good, clean web design would make those problems a thing of the past. But turns out, it’s a little more complicated than that. Read on for details on how UX can be integrated into your site, what it does, what it does not do, and where to go from here.

Practical Application

Good UX is built on a few core concepts:

  1. Research
  2. Usability
  3. Information Architecture
  4. Interaction design
  5. Visual design
  6. Content

These concepts are explored in the beginning phases of project development, and typically are the result of different specialists working together. There are UX specialists, generalists, and hybrid professionals, each bringing a different level of understanding of the above six principles to the table. Finding out what’s best for your site might be a matter of availability and opportunity.

UX isn’t one step in the process, it’s pervasive. It should be there in the wireframe process (where resources like UXPin come in), and in the feedback phase, where getting as many different voices as possible is essential. Each concept is important on its own and as part of the whole of UX, but remove, say, visual design and the content won’t be read. Pull out one piece, and the whole thing falls apart. This is why UX is a team-effort.

QMS makes it really easy to integrate UX throughout the entire process of website development and design. The page editor makes it easy for UX specialists to alter, move, or enhance elements. Which brings us to another great point: UX isn’t static. Your website doesn’t stop growing and changing after development, and neither will your UX. Having the ability to alter UX elements on the site (like clear conversation points) as needs of users change, is essential. Don’t get stuck on one set of methods, web design must be fluid to be successful.

What UX Can Do

If getting customers to stick around and become loyal isn’t enough incentive, UX has been proven to increase ROI, productivity, and all around customer satisfaction. It increases cost upfront in a project but it could actually reduce development time. UX demands more user involvement in the design phase—which helps improve decision making and prioritizing development tasks (http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/why-software-fails).

Leaders in UX consistently outperform their peers. The top ten sites with the best customer experience outperformed their competitors with close to triple the returns. https://www.forrester.com/Customer-Experience-Index-(CX-Index) In a survey of over 700 companies, the average return rate on every dollar invested in UX brought $100 in return (http://www.uxpassion.com/blog/ux-roi-user-experience-return-on-investment/) and the average overall has been found to be at least a 2:1 return on investment.

What UX Can’t Do

UX isn’t one size fits all. It has to be crafted for every individual product, service, or website. What worked like a charm for Google is not going to work for you. It’s not possible to imitate another’s UX approach, you have to cater to your business and your customers for UX to work.

Usability is a key component of UX but don’t get confused, UX and usability are two completely separate things. Involving usability in web design does not check the box for UX. Usability refers to the operation of your website, while UX refers to the user’s feelings while operating the website. They are intertwined but not interchangeable.

Where to go from here

UX is its own beast, not in the purview of typical web designers. It comes with its own pedagogy, best practices, and trained specialists—sought after by experienced digital marketing agencies and fortune 500s. In best cases, a website with excellent user experience has a team involved from beginning to end. UX covers a variety of disciplines and areas of expertise and a UX team might comprise of a UX specialist, a content writer, a web designer, and a usability expert.

The best strategy for UX is to learn more about it. There are countless websites, inforgraphics, books, and articles that cover UX principles and approaches. You don’t have to read them all, but staying up to date on UX trends and methods is a great endeavor for any business. Even if you’re just looking to hire a UX specialist, learning more about the practice will enable you to find the best fit for your project.