Laptop with website
Sam Cranwell
Sam Cranwell
26th Feb 2021

Website Design and UX Features to Look Out For

With the growing importance of digital experiences, the need for improved UX and web design is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’. Web design and UX lean ever closer to making information and products more accessible for users, with an emphasis on personalised experiences. So much so, that users now expect their digital experiences to be intuitive and accessible as standard. 70% of online businesses fail because of bad usability, so it’s important to review your business’ website design and UX. To give you a helping hand, we’ve detailed six features you can implement which will help to provide a seamless experience for your users.

Integrated artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a technology that uses machine learning and natural language programming (NLP) to decipher patterns in user behaviour to create an output. This is demonstrated by platforms like Pinterest. Users search and save results, providing data that AI can translate to more recommendations of the same genre/topic/narrative. AI and UX work together to identify what a user needs and then predict their next move. With AI in the mix, that next move can be made easier through personalised recommendations. For ecommerce stores, integrated AI can be used to display products related to a user’s previous purchases. For brochure sites, it might look like a chatbot which incorporates NLP to help your users as they navigate the site.

From a UX perspective, integrated AI means the scope for personalisation has widened substantially. The more you learn about your users from their behaviour, the more personalised their experience will be. This in turn leads to increased brand loyalty as your users feel your brand is tailored to them. This data and personalisation doesn’t have to stay within the realms of UX either; once you have the data, you can use it for marketing automation to effectively streamline your own internal processes.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) provides an immersive experience made possible through the camera on your device. Digital content is displayed within the space around you, appearing live through the use of 3D pathing. AR has changed the landscape of shopping online for many retailers, due to the prospect of decreased returns and increased purchases. In a press release, Houzz stated that users who engaged with their AR tool were “11X more likely to purchase and spent 2.7X more time in the app”. The increased likelihood of conversions hasn’t gone unnoticed by globally-recognised brands either. As part of their digital shopping experience, IKEA introduced an AR-integrated app where consumers can digitally place an item within their space in real time. This provides their consumers with additional visual detail to help inform their decision, therefore reducing the likelihood of ‘item not as expected’ returns.

However, AR isn’t solely for ecommerce. It fuses real-life interactions using a digital medium, which is why you should evaluate whether your business could harness AR functionality. We worked with Audley Villages to create virtual walkthroughs for prospective residents. The walkthroughs mean that prospective residents can look through the properties in advance, making their viewing choices a lot easier. We even created dollhouse views of Audley’s properties, bringing floor plans to digital life. Using AR in this instance means that Audey Villages’ enquiries are more qualified than ever before. Callers now have the opportunity to ‘walk through’ the properties to narrow their decision, before even stepping inside a sales room.

The central point to AR is to make your offering more accessible, easily providing visual detail to your target audience. Users can engage with your brand far easier using AR than through a 2D site. Similarly, AR allows users to scrutinise details of the product in question, so by the time they’ve made a decision, they have effectively moved themselves further along your sales funnel. It’s safe to say, AR saves you and your users time.

Adaptive design

Adaptive design is based on creating multiple layout variations to fit specific screen dimensions. This is sometimes confused with responsive design, where the same layout is fixed across all screen sizes, but elements will move and change to respond to the required dimensions. However, adaptive design requires separate layouts which cater specifically to certain dimensions.

Adaptive design creates a rich user experience, specific to a device and the context of the user’s visit from that device. For example, a smartphone adaptive design for a coffee ordering app could integrate with other apps, social media features and a user journey map for the purchases. In comparison, an in-store ordering system will have a very specific user journey, only showing the necessities to ensure the ordering process is quick and simple. These two screen sizes have very different contexts, but they are separately accounted for and reflected in the design and UX. Difficulties can arise when some devices don’t quite match the dimensions you’ve allowed for within a layout, but if you’re willing to put the time and effort into providing a tailored experience for your users, there are ways around this obstacle.

Dark mode

Dark mode has been around for awhile, but with ever-increasing screen time, dark mode is a feature you should consider. In AndroidAuthority's 2020 study91.8% of pollers said they used some form of dark mode on their smartphones. Dark mode doesn't necessarily use black and white to differentiate between dark and light mode; it can use a hue of colours, from dark reds to deep browns. It’s incredibly user-centric as it saves battery life for those with OLED/AMOLED screens, as well as reducing eye strain and screen fatigue from bright light. From a design point of view, dark mode’s contrast makes certain elements stand out. By taking advantage of the light areas, you can draw attention to certain elements, as well as making well-formatted content easier to read and scan.

Dark mode doesn’t fit all websites though. If it's text-heavy or requires multiple field inputs at any stage in the user journey, dark mode could worsen UX. For this reason, it’s important to carefully consider readability and usability across your dark mode designs. Implementing a toggle, so users can freely decide whether they’d like to browse in light or dark mode, is the best way to cater for the masses. If you keep accessibility in mind too, you should see an increase in session time, providing more opportunities for conversions.

Microcopy and UX writing

Microcopy specifically refers to small areas of text that you’re unlikely to pay much attention to. It exists in places such as buttons, 404 pages, form fields and anywhere else which impacts the continuation of your user’s journey. This is where UX writing hides in plain sight. If you visit AirBnB’s site, the search bar informs the user how to use the search function with ‘Try “London”’. UX writing enhances the connection between brand and user, keeping them moving through your website or persuading them to complete an action. UX writing compliments UX design through words rather than visuals. Although this might sound simple, UX writers need to encompass a brand’s tone of voice and persuade the user to accomplish a goal, all in a few words.

As you can see in the Tesla example below, the copy is geared towards keeping the user moving. Rather than simply writing ‘Trips’ or ‘Maps’, the UX copy reads ‘Explore your route’ to invite the user to move deeper through the site.

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UX writing provides the continuation of a brand experience within every on-site interaction. It makes the user journey more efficient, intuitive and accessible. Although it’s not part of the sales or marketing process, it serves as a gentle nudge to aid user experience.

Simplified design

UX is used to make digital experiences stress-free and intuitive, so users can easily complete their journey and accomplish specific goals; minimalistic design makes this a lot easier. The less your user has to think about what to do next, the more intuitively they can use your website. We mentioned this in our guide to Mobile App UX Do's and Don'ts: You should only add what’s necessary for your user.

Ad pop ups, cookie banners, newsletter sign-up prompts and personalised ads are commonplace. All these elements mean users have a lot to contend with before they’ve even read your content or viewed your products. The key to simplified minimalistic design is to reduce overwhelming features, and instead, provide an easy-to-navigate experience. The more clutter-free your website is, the more likely user session time will increase.

Remember that the minimalistic approach also stretches to your content. Nowadays, giant walls of text or content-heavy pages are rare, due to their lack of engagement. Breaking up text with media, paragraphing and links will provide a better user experience.

Website design and UX features

With ever-evolving trends in the website design and UX world, it can be hard to know what’s here to stay and what’s a fleeting fad. The features you choose will be a hit if you stick to putting your users first, understanding their context and reflecting on how you can make their experience easier.

If you’re not sure where to start, we’re here to help! Our expert team includes dedicated UX design skills, so we can audit your website and provide effective recommendations in-line with your user personas. If you’d like support with your website or upcoming digital project, get in touch with our expert team today!

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