Real Life UX on the Web

There are things we do on the internet which we would never do in real life. I bet you wouldn’t inform people you barely know on what you’ve made for dinner yesterday or you wouldn’t walk down the street half-naked showing off your butt muscles. We all got used to the fact that virtual reality follows its own rules. But some of those rules are actually universal and many experiences we have in everyday situations have their online equivalents.

Kermit from Muppets shopping.

Let’s see what real life can teach us about creating positive UX.

Help Pops Up from Every Corner

Give users a moment to at least scan through the website before the pop-up appears.There’s nothing which irritates me more in a clothes boutique than a hyperactive shop assistant who rushes to advise me as soon as I enter the store. “How can I help?”, “What are you looking for”, “You can’t miss our new special offer.” Stop! I didn’t even have a chance to see what the store offers! Usually when shop assistants approach us too soon, we simply want to get rid of them. It’s the same with websites pop-ups. When they pop in the user face just after they enter the site and cover the whole viewport, closing the intruder is an immediate reaction.

Conclusion: Give users a moment to at least scan through the website before the pop-up appears. The exact time when it should be activated will depend on the type of information the site covers and the average time the user spends on page. And remember that pop-up doesn’t always have to cover the whole page.

Example of a pop-up.

Pop-ups which appear too fast get even more annoying, if No, thanks message is replaced with a text suggesting your lazy (“No, I don’t want to learn new things”) or stupid (“No, I don’t want to improve my business).

Lost in the Tabs

Shop assistant’s help in case you don’t want it is equally frustrating as lack of advice when you actually need help. Huge, three-storied electronics shop, dozens of departments, millions of products and me looking for… electrolytic capacitor, which I don’t even know what it looks like. Lost, I’m looking for someone who can help me find that damn thing, but there’s no one to be found – I’m leaving. Users will do the same when they get lost looking for some information on the website and no help will be offered to them.

Conclusion: Planning website information architecture make sure it will be easy for the users to find what they need: neatly organize the sections in the menu, include search input and do some basic task-based usability tests. And even when you think visitors won’t need any help, provide it anyway: FAQ, microcopy, online chat – these are the basics.

Online chat offering help on Chop-Chop website.

Pop-ups don’t need to be annoying. They can actually be quite useful in offering users help. As long as they’re subtle and not pushy, of course.

What’s Done Can(n’t) be Undone

Whenever it’s possible ensure website visitors that the decisions they make aren’t final.I’m indecisive: I’m never sure what I want and the chance I’ll change my mind soon after buying something is pretty high. That’s why I spend hours in fitting rooms and choose only those stores which allow exchanging and returning products. If at the cash register I learn my decision will be final, I’m much more reluctant to make it. Most users feel the same about any decisions they have to face on websites. Knowing it takes one click to do something, they expect it won’t take longer to undo it.

Conclusion: Whenever it’s possible ensure website visitors that the decisions they make aren’t final: newsletters can be easily unsubscribed, account settings changed, posts on forums deleted and products they bought returned.

Sketch website with free trail.

In case of software and SaaS, there’s no better way to comfort indecisive users than offering them a free trail.

Labyrinth of Steps

For me the gold cup for the worst user experience will always go to City Councils. Whenever I’m forced to visit one, the scenario looks the same: first a long line to one office only to learn I had to wait in another, then I’m sent to a consultant who directs me to wicket where I learn I can’t pay with credit card or don’t have appropriate documents to do what I came here for. Nightmare – I went through that labyrinth for nothing. Website users may feel exactly the same filling online forms or going through checkout. If they complete numerous steps and at the very end learn they won’t be able to finish successfully, they will be frustrated as hell.

Conclusion: Limit the number of actions the user has to go through to minimum and always state at the very beginning what the next steps are and what is needed to complete them.

Checkout process with steps on Schuh website.

Well-designed checkout is not only quick and easy to complete but also transparent – seeing the following steps user knows from the very beginning that no unpleasant surprise awaits them at the end.

What Am I Doing Here?

Don’t focus on what you like, focus on your visitors’ preferences.“Yo, girl! What’s up? Wanna buy some great stuff today?” – imagine how would you feel being a 26-year-old woman addressed by a shop assistant like that. I felt quite awkward, to be honest. It was equally strange, when once I entered a restaurant where I was welcomed by a waiter so stiff and stiltedly polite, I felt intimated. I left both places almost immediately. Similarly, users may leave the website when the copy or images make them conclude its not addressed to them.

Conclusion: Spend quality time on determining who the target website user is and do UX research to make sure the copy, color palette and images are adjusted to the visitor expectations. Don’t focus on what you like, focus on your visitors’ preferences.

targeted-web-copy

You can win customers with witty and original website copy as long as you’re sure what kind of sense of humor they have.

Offline Inspiration

Other websites are usually the first thing most of designers refer to looking for inspiration to creating user-friendly and functional UX solutions. I’m not saying it’s wrong. On the contrary! But maybe sometimes it’s worth to think of what makes our everyday customer experiences positive and try to transfer these on the web.