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.
To illustrate this, consider Amazon: On any Amazon web page, you’ll find a search bar front and center. To the right, you’ll see your cart and account options. When you click on a product, you’ll immediately get detailed information about the item on the screen. The option to add it to your cart is clearly displayed next to the item details on 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 the 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 locate the desired content. A scavenger hunt to find support or contact information. Web forms that are challenging to complete. 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 establishes and meets clear expectations is important. This will influence whether users view your association as a reliable source of information and community. And, in turn, affects their likelihood of doing business with you and referring their peers to join as members.
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 about 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 the 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!
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 lacks visual appeal, many people will consider it less credible and less likely to trust it 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. We must ensure that the information is easy to find and understand, and we should give clear thought to the navigational structure of the information.
Once again, the UI of the website and the information architecture are crucial to ensure the presentation of information in a meaningful way.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most forgotten qualities. Consequently, 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. Additionally, 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. Furthermore, in addition to the desirability and accessibility of a website, the language used is another important factor that influences the website’s credibility.
Moreover, the tone and register of the language used have to be appropriate for the audience. Generally, people prefer simple language and a birds-eye view 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. Importantly, this ties in with all of the previous qualities discussed. Moreover, the more you are able to address these qualities, the more valuable your website will be, and value is central to the experience. For instance, 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. As a result, 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. Additionally, it allows us a way to visualize the important qualities we need to consider when designing a website.
By understanding each quality and how they impact the people visiting your website, you will be better equipped to formulate a strategy with the confidence that it will achieve your expectations.
However, it’s important to note that full adherence to every quality in the honeycomb may not always be possible. Thus, this tool also enables us to identify priorities that can be addressed first, while others can be tackled when factors like time and budget permit.
As for determining the relative importance of these qualities, that is a decision that each individual or organization must make based on their vision and goals.
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