User experience design is a broad multidisciplinary activity. It could, for instance, be applied to the experience created for a first-time Mazda driver. How did that car make them feel? Did they feel comfortable and in control? Was it an improved experience compared to their other driving experiences?

I would even argue that it was user experience design that made Apple so successful, to begin with. They were not the first computer of their day. They took a product that was so often overly complicated (and in fact, only an elite group of people could use the first computers) and made it more intuitive and user-friendly than most other PCs. Apple was also able to price their computers in a more affordable way then their competitors could and consequently made their products more accessible to the mainstream. Simply put, they cared about what people wanted. Fundamentally caring about what people want is the key to success for most product design scenarios, including the one we want to focus on: your website. Following these 5 steps will aid your cause in building a superior website:

1.The Labeling Strategy on Your Global Navigation Should Be Short, Sweet and Immediately Understood

The global navigation is your user’s primary control system or menu. This system is constituted by the labels, be it in the header or footer, that are available on any page and enable travel to different pages. The more short and clear you are with your labels, the better. And this goes for the dropdown menu as well. When at all possible – minimize. Websites are scanned. It’s important to note this, so you know that the longer the words you use, the less likely people are to pick up what you’re trying to communicate. If possible, you should try to keep to five labels only.

2. Your Homepage should answer fundamental questions, value your user’s time and convince them to be on your website instead of somewhere else.

We acknowledge it’s not that easy to retain your user’s attention, our window of opportunity could last only a couple of milliseconds. But when you’ve applied the following, you’ll have a better time of capturing your user’s attention:

a. Tell the user what your website is about and what it is used for.

Niel Patel (who The Wall Street Journal calls a top influencer on the web) will tell you that, “A mere 6 to 12 words stand between you and a lower bounce rate.” Our brains are always asking – what is this? Let’s answer that as quickly and cleverly as we can without sounding like everyone else. We can also use quality HD imagery to enhance our message, and connect with our user on a visually appealing emotional level.

b. Suggest a path the user should take to get started.

This usually comes in the form of our call-to-action. Don’t make your user have to think about something or else you’ve lost them. It should be very clearly clickable and 100% obvious what that click action will do.

Consider: What is the ultimate purpose of your site?

c. Convince the user to be here

Simple but effective, don’t forget to use the word you. You’re the star of the show and we’re all about helping you. You have all these unique benefits and they are highly desirable to your clients – just look at these positive testimonials and pictures of people having the best time. Testimonials have been proven time and time again to be the most effective tool for building your case. Don’t underestimate them.

3. Use Website Conventions to Your Advantage. Put familiar things in familiar places.

We don’t like change because we work from mental models. Mental models are conceptual maps that predict an object’s behavior based on past experiences. Since the birth of websites, we’ve all been wired to look for a global navigation menu at the top of the site. We know that the last label is usually going to be a “Contact Info” label of sorts. Bevelled objects are clickable buttons. We know that clicking a logo will take us to the home page. If we aren’t aware of such conventions, put our goals above our users or try to be overly experimental, we could miss key connections with our user.

4. Be Consistent to Your Brand Voice, Look and Feel.

This is actually the most important UX principle. Apple products are based on a very detailed book of Human Interface Guidelines and all of their applications follow this book. The result has meant that people who use their products have been able to use them right out of the box and without having to read a manual. It’s very confusing to jump from one look to the next on your website and it can actually cause your user to feel lost and skeptical.

5. Prototype: Always Test Your Website. There Will Be Blind Spots.

Before you start forking out money to put your website into the development phase, I hope you’ve made a prototype and tested that prototype first. It is sometimes difficult to be objective and UX design is highly dependant on testing your work. If you don’t have access to an ideal testing environment, put your website in front of your mum, in front of your peers, whoever is around you. A helpful tip to get good feedback is to give the person testing your website a task and ask them to narrate immediate thoughts that come to mind as they navigate. Make sure to take notes on the testers’ reactions and, even better, film their screen clicks and facial expressions. If you continue this method of testing with as many people as you can, you will be able to identify your website blind spots better and create a more positive user experience overall.

In the end, you will find that considering your user’s experience as they navigate your website is actually just good customer service. And like any good host, we want to be able to anticipate our user’s needs before we invite them over. Make your user feel at home and welcomed enough to stay a while and hit that conversion point.


Samantha Matheson is a UX/ UI Designer on Team GMD. When she’s not designing websites and campaigns, you can find her painting, rummaging through vinyl records, and attempting to befriend your dog.