This blog comes with our Membership Site User Experience Quick Audit Chart & Worksheet. Download your copy to help you plan your website improvements!
To start us all off on the same page, let’s first lay out the difference between user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
User Interface refers to what the user (i.e. your member or prospective member) sees on screen. It refers to the elements on your association's website that the user interacts with. UI refers to the layout of the elements on screen, the navigation between web pages, the buttons and icons the user clicks on, and how the content is presented.
To make this more tangible, let's take Amazon as an example: The UI of any Amazon web page had a search bar front and centre, with your cart and account options to the right. When you click on a product, you get specific information about the item on screen, with the option to add it to your cart clearly next to the info to the right. Search, browse, buy. Simple enough.
User Experience, on the other hand, refers to how a user (i.e. your member or prospective member) feels when they are interacting with your website. The tangible UI elements on screen should, ideally, work in harmony to provide a pleasant experience for the user. A website that has complicated or unclear navigation is frustrating to users who can't find what they are looking for. Excessive scrolling to find the content you want, a scavenger hunt to find support or contact info, and web forms that are arduous to fill out. All turn-offs that offer a bad user experience that users will avoid.
To illustrate, let's circle back to Amazon: The UX is far more than the search-browse-buy set up by the UI. Information is readily available and easy to find. The website offers options to get faster shipping, get notifications, return items, read reviews, see similar products, and so many other actions to help you make an enjoyable purchase with confidence, speed and ease. The website even remembers your preferences and offers suggestions on products you may be interested in! This site is smart and "cares" to pay attention to what you like.
User Experience and Expectations
It's the UX of your website and membership site that determines whether your users are happy with your service. How your website sets up and delivers on clear expectations will determine whether your users will come to rely on your association as a credible source of information and community, give you their business, and refer their peers to join as a member. When our membership site's user experience falls flat, our members will find what they are looking for somewhere else and are unlikely to stay members.
Thinking again to Amazon and its user experience: the user experience is predictable and generally positive. You get what you ordered in the time specified. The expectation is set, communication is clear, and a predictable experience creates satisfied customers. When the expected happens, we are comfortable and happy. A successful user experience!
User Experience Best Practices
With this in mind, let's make sure that future improvements to your membership website reflect best practices for user experience.
The following highlights the 7 key qualities of user experience dubbed “The User Experience Honeycomb.” This framework was developed by UX expert and bestselling author Peter Morville who has worked with big players such as AT&T, Cisco, and IBM on information architecture.
A proper UX strategy will touch base on each of these qualities with an understanding of how the website is expected to address them. Several of the properties of each of the 7 qualities may overlap with properties of another, showing how interconnected they are and the strength of a unified overall strategy.
Let’s dive a bit into each of these qualities to understand how they connect to a membership website. No need to take notes; we've got you covered! This blog comes with our Membership Site User Experience Quick Audit Chart & Worksheet. Download your copy to help you plan your website improvements from the following 7 categories!
The purpose of a website must be to fulfill a need. A website has to solve a problem that the user has, namely those of your members and prospective members. Providing solutions to real-world problems should inform the design and content of your association's website. Users are unlikely to revisit a website that was not useful to them.
Your website should be easy to use. There should be as little of a learning curve as possible. A difficult site to navigate will deter people from sticking around. Note that the UI of your site plays a large role here!
This has to do with the visual appeal of your website. If a website is not visually appealing, it will be deemed less credible by many people, and less likely to be trusted as a resource. A busy website is not a desirable one. Keep your design simple and to the point so as not to overwhelm the user with too much information at once.
If people cannot find the information they need on your site, they won't stay long. The information must be easy to find and understand with clear thought being given to the navigational structure of the information. Here, again, the UI of the website and the information architecture are important to ensure information is presented in a meaningful way.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most forgotten qualities. If people have issues seeing, hearing, or understanding the content of your website they will be less likely to rely on it as a credible or reliable source. There are various levels of accessibility standards.
The professionalism of your site impacts whether users feel that your website is credible and can trust the information (or products) provided. Along with the desirability and accessibility of a website, another important factor to the credibility of a website is the language used. The tone and register of the language used has to be appropriate for the audience. Generally speaking, simple language and the birds-eye view is preferred over jargon-filled text-heavy pages. An easy way to write content on your websites is to use the inverted pyramid method.
At its core, a website must give value to the user. This actually ties in with all of the previous qualities discussed. The more you are able to address these qualities, the more valuable your website will be, and value is central to the experience. Think back to the example of Amazon: Most people who have used it would agree that it is a valuable resource for online purchasing, rather than just another online store. Ultimately, this is why people go back because they have found value in the experience.
The UX Honeycomb gives us a starting point for building an effective UX strategy. It allows us a way to visualize the important qualities we need to be considering when designing a website. By understanding each quality and how they affect the people visiting your website you will be better equipped to put together a strategy with the confidence that it will do what you expect it to.
Obviously, we cannot always adhere fully to every quality in the honeycomb, so this tool also allows us to identify what the priorities are so that they can be focused on first, and which to address when other factors such as time and budget allow. As to which of these qualities is more important than the other, that is something that must be decided on by each person or organization, and the vision they have.
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