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What is UX Design? - Essential Guide 2017

UX stands for “User Experience” and it is a design concept that aims to improve the usability and accessibility of an end product for those interacting with it.

What is UX?

The world wide web is a complex place and has become ever more complicated over the past decade as technology has advanced. Websites, in particular, are no longer simply pages with text and links but have evolved into highly immersive and interaction-rich experiences.

UX design is the design process used to create something that is not only visually attractive, but also helpful, easy to use and intuitive to interact with. In web design, UX refers to the ease of use and intuitive customer journey provided by a website. It is built upon a foundation of answering ‘yes’ to the following sorts of questions:

  • Does this website offer value to a visitor
  • Will a visitor find this website easy to use?
  • Is using this website a pleasant experience?

If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, then your UX designer has not done his job properly. The aim of a user experience designer is to ensure a smooth journey for end-users, so that they follow a pleasingly logical progression that triggers a response – whether that is clicking a link or making a purchase.

In order to achieve this, UX designers study how users interact and react to pages, tweaking every element to ensure they get the response they want, often measured by increased page traffic or page conversions.

User Experience designers create pages that are clear and simple, easy to use and that make the customer journey an engaging and linear process, without it feeling too restrictive or guided.

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Functionalities of UX Design

The concept of UX design, especially online, is still a relatively new practice but it is quickly becoming an essential weapon in your web design arsenal. In the right hands a UX designed web-page will subconsciously guide your user towards the goal that you created the website to achieve, e.g. making a purchase, following a certain link or signing up for something.

UX Design Content Wheel

Some of the key functionalities of UX design include:

Eye Catching Design

The first goal of a UX designer is to create a design that captures a visitor’s attention and makes them want to spend time on the website. These pages may include factors such as colour theory principals, high resolution design elements, clear and concise navigation options, quality content and ergonomic page layouts.

Quicker Page Load Speed

A visitor might forgive some design flaws, but they will never waste time waiting for a slow website to load. The added negative of this is that visitors will quickly click off your page if it loads too slowly, which will affect your ranking on Google Search Engine results. It is part of a UX Designer’s remit to make sure that pages are loading fast and retain full functionality. Optimising graphics and back-end coding is essential in achieving quicker load times and a higher Google rank.

Mobile Responsiveness

A UX designed website has not just been tested and proven to work on one platform. No, with more traffic coming from mobile than ever it is essential that websites have responsive designs that optimise across different platforms such as tablets and smartphones. A good UX designer will ensure your site works flawlessly on all platforms and operating systems.

Easy Navigation & Browsing

With a customer journey map in agreed upon with a client, a UX designer can develop designs that are tailored to guide and streamline the way a visitor navigates a page. Consider pages from a visitor’s point of view – what do they want out of it? Why are they visiting your page? What do they want to achieve? How can I make this easier for them? Serious Design Agencies will include UX testing in their services, and slowly tweak your content to achieve the desired result.

Benefits of User Experience Design

There are numerous benefits to a well-designed, UX optimised website. You’ve probably experienced or noticed many of these benefits before – but you might not have realised that you have:

Higher Search Engine Rank

UX designed websites are highly optimised. Although its algorithms are notoriously difficult to unravel, Google does take into consideration the technical specifications of a website, such as loading speed, compatibility to the various devices, compliance to modern Internet standards, etc. when making its rankings. As mentioned earlier, users quickly clicking off a page can harm your ranking too, so a UX designed website won’t just benefit your users, it’ll help your performance too.

Higher Conversion Rates

UX design focuses on streamlining a customer’s journey from start to finish, or in most cases, from arrival to purchase. There are many subtle psychological tics that can be triggered by a well-designed webpage. An example of this could be the modern web user’s preference for reading in an ‘F’ shaped pattern, in that they read the top of a page and then scan the first few words of each paragraph as they skim down the page – a UX designer will always insert a powerful Call To Action in the top left or right of a page as this is the most effective area to do so.

Cost Efficient

A UX Designer is the Swiss Army Knife of designers. You’ll potentially get serious value for money as their responsibilities and abilities can stretch to include:

  • Web page design
  • Website development
  • Optimised content creation
  • SEO Services
  • Marketing services

Easy, Fast, Reliable

UX Designed websites don’t just offer benefits to the website owners but for visitors as too, who will find what they need quickly and without hassle. The best bit of all is that if done right, nobody will realise anything has been done at all. Simple and structured navigation helps customer’s makes the right choice and believe it was theirs too make.

How to make the most of UX Design

The key rule for getting the most for your money is making sure you find the right UX designer and design agency for your needs.

Identify your assets, your goals and your budget. Be honest about these with your designer(s) and you will be able to formulate a customer journey map that is more impactful and more aligned with what you want to achieve.

Your role is to provide clear and consistent feedback whilst working closely with them. Listen and talk: Listen to their suggestions and talk about your needs. The key to success is the proper cooperation between you and your designer.

How to Choose the Best UX Design Company

The following tips should help you find the UX design company best suited to your needs:

Do your research

Don’t just contact the first company you come across. Take the time to research companies, agencies and freelancers to make sure you understand the talent available in the market. Compare prices, packages and what you get for your money. Research is the key to getting what you want – after all, you wouldn’t want to hire someone with a track record that isn’t aligned to your business and requirements.

Interview

You shouldn’t hire a designer without speaking to or interviewing them first. Spend time getting to know the person you plan on working with and ask any questions that you think are essential. You’ll be spending money on this service and want to make sure you’ll get value for money. Some questions you might want to consider are:

  • How experienced are they in UX design?
  • Have they built any website in the same industry as you?
  • How many revisions do they offer and are these revisions included in your deal?
  • Do they offer aftersales support? If yes, what are the terms and costs for this support?
  • How long will it take to deliver this service?
  • Is their cost final or are there hidden costs for amends, aftersales or maintenance?

Be realistic about your budget

Be clear with designers about your budget and listen carefully to what they can offer you in return. If your budget is limited, let the designer know about it in order to get cost and service accurate proposals. This way, you know what to expect. Rates vary though and so you may get a better deal if you shop around. You should also weigh up your potential costs with the potential financial benefits associated with UX design, including more traffic, more advertising potential and most importantly, more conversions.

Trust your instinct

If you think that something doesn't look right, then it probably isn’t for you. At the end of the day it is your website and you should be happy with what happens to it, so if you have any hesitations or second thoughts, you should definitely ask more about it. If the replies are not good enough for you, then move on to the next UX designer.

Compare free quotes from leading web design agencies today!

Companies offering UX Design

The following agencies offer UX services to the UK market:

  • Foolproof: London based UX design agency offering product and service design for large brands.
  • Spotless: An all-encompassing UX & UI agency based in London offering research, design and training services.
  • Akendi: A user experience consulting firm, providing innovating UX strategy and usability testing in London, Cambridge and Manchester.
  • Webcredible: Upcoming UX agency located in London, who create people-centred designs.
  • Pomegranate: A leading digitial UX firm who fuse function, emotion and design to generate memorable websites.
  • Clearleft: Brighton based agency who design engaging and persuasive online experiences
  • Bunnyfoot: UK based consultancy with almost 20-years of experience in creating profitable online customer journeys.

UX Design Prices & Rates

Like other web designers and developers, UX designers can charge by the hour or by project. Both have their pros and cons. The average rate you can expect to find is about £35 p/h, but the beyond this, rates can be quite diverse, ranging from £15 p/h on the lower end and up to £150 p/h for large, established agencies.

The rate a UX designer charges is entirely dependent upon their experience, their past client satisfaction, the overall complexity of the project and how quickly you need it completed.

In order to get a better price we suggest you ask for a fixed project cost rather than an hourly rate. This not only avoids potentially costly amendments further down the line, but means you can split the payments into parts and release each sum based upon the progress.

Next Steps

Now that you have mastered the principles of UX design, you can read up on the people implementing it with our report on the roles of Web Developers, Software Engineers and Computer Programmers.

Or why not find out how much a website might cost you?

We’ve also researched the importance and costs of freelance designers too.