There are a host of really important factors to consider in building a successful website. Your website should be quick and responsive, reliable, easy to use with intuitive navigation, it should be engaging and interesting.
These factors are vital to the core functioning of your website, but if the people visiting your website aren’t the right people, and your website isn’t geared towards your ideal user, the core functioning is kind of moot.
So who are your users and why should you think about them?
Whether you are getting a new website, or revamping your existing website, you might start by thinking about the information you know you should have on there: contact details, meet the team, social media links, all the obvious stuff. As well as ticking all of the core functioning boxes like speed and reliability.
But if you really want your website to work for you, stopping to think about who is going to be using it (or who you want to be using it), and building it with these people in mind is key. This is most likely going to be your customers or potential customers, but it might not be.
Optimising your website with your ideal users in mind, thinking about their intent, and what you’d like to show them when they are on your website turns your website from an online brochure, to a valuable resource.
The User Story
When you’ve analysed who your users are, the next step is to understand why they are visiting your website, and what you want the end result of their visit to be. The end result being the ideal action for them to take when they visit your website (more on that later).
To frame this from your users perspective easily, you can use the User Story phrase. Put yourself in your ideal users’ shoes and fill in the blanks:
- As a ______ (user’s role)
- I want to ______ (why they are on your website)
- so that I can ______ (action).
Let’s break that down a bit. So thinking about your ideal user:
- identify who they are (you may have more than one user group);
- why they have come to your website (again, there can be multiple answers here), and;
- what they want to achieve from visiting your website.
For a design agency, their customer user journey might look like:
As a business owner, I want to see the agency’s quality of work / find out what they are like, so that I can reach out for a quote (if they look good).
And for a software as a service (SaaS) type website it might be:
As a busy freelancer, I want to see if this software is easy to use / does what I need it to do / I can trust it, so that I can start using it (quickly).
So, by doing this you can quickly start to make sense of what the goal of your website should be.
For the agency example, they need to show their work and build trust, then make sure it’s easy for the business owner to reach out and enquire. This means showcasing their portfolio, and building trust by having social links and testimonials, content that proves their expertise and prominent calls to action towards enquiry.
For the software company, it’s really important that the website shows how the product works very early on in the user journey, and then clearly pointing to the sign up or download streams. Clear and engaging content as soon as the user lands which tells the story of the software, and prominent sign up calls to action would be important here.
The User Journey
We’ve just touched a little bit on the user journey; thinking much more specifically about how your users will be using and interacting with your website. For example, assume they arrive (land) on the home page: what is the first thing they will see and what is the first thing you want them to see? First impressions are really (really) important, especially online, where people will close that tab at the slightest ‘off’ vibe.
Assuming they liked what they saw when they landed, what should they do next? Do you want the opportunity to tell your story maybe through an interactive hero section? Or maybe you want them to delve straight into the content and guide them towards the relevant section through the navigation or a call to action?
This is the user journey. Mapping out different routes from when a user first lands on your website, to learning about your services/products, to taking action (whether that is getting in touch, making a purchase or signing up to a list).
And the great thing with your website is that you have the opportunity to guide your users through this journey, to tell your story the way you want it to be heard.
UX & UI
Although this article aims to focus on the theory behind understanding your website users, it is helpful to understand the next steps are putting all of this theory into action, through the design and structure of the website.
You might have heard of UX and UI in relation to web or product design, but still don’t really know what it is exactly. Both refer to the design behind the website or product, but in different contexts:
UX - User Experience. When designers talk about the UX, they are talking about the overall experience the user has when using the website. Basically, how easy (and nice) it is to use and navigate.
UI - User Interface. The user interface refers to the visual design of the specific elements the user will interact with. Things like buttons, menus, and forms.
Thinking about how your users will experience your website and making it really easy for them to find the information they are there for is really important. Online, people can be super impatient, and no one likes trying to use a website that just doesn’t work how you expect it to.
So remember that stepping back and thinking about your users when you are getting a new or revamped website is really useful. It can help you tell your story and drive more interaction from the right people. Tied in with a strong brand and marketing plan, your website will be a powerful part of your business.
UX vs UI (Webflow)
User Stories (Webflow)