Enhancing Web App User Experience

User experience has evolved since the days when websites were just made up of simple text and links, there was no expectation of an experience. Instead, the focus was that the website worked and provided the needed information. Today, users access full-blown applications online that help them manage their life day-to-day, in addition to enhancing their productivity at work. User experience designers today need to dig deep to uncover use cases and build workflows that improve efficiency for their customers. A modern web application user wants to complete tasks with minimal fuss and effort and within the shortest time possible.

Why is user experience important?

To deliver a good user experience, you need to deeply understand the needs of your customers, their motivations, abilities, and limitations. The idea is to empathize with the user to create an intuitive product that improves their workflow.

Various crafts are incorporated in the user experience design process, including customer journey maps,  information architecture, visual design, accessibility, usability, and interaction design. It is crucial to understand how each facet in the UX process shapes your customer's overall experience and how to implement it. 

Following are some reasons it’s important to pay close attention to the user experience of your products:

  • A carefully designed user experience promotes positive interactions. When your customers enjoy interacting with your products, you, in turn, get high customer satisfaction, retention, and conversion rates.

  • It helps create a two-way relationship between you and the user while allowing you to define your customer's journey.

  • By designing a seamless experience for customers, you can improve their productivity and strengthen their resolve to stick with your product.

8 ways to improve user experience

1. Use a consultative approach to build the best experience

You must understand your customers before implementing the components that facilitate a good user experience. Getting to know your users' habits, skills, and needs with research is important to map out their journey. Consult your products’ current and prospective user-base  to establish what problems they experience and how they would like to have them addressed.

Your user experience design should be guided by qualitative and quantitative data about your potential customers. Use polls and surveys to find out what could be the missing features in your offering and what you need to improve on. It’s easier to launch a product that people already want than trying to convince them they need something new.  

2. Make a good first impression

New users to your service may need a simplified experience for their first use of your product. Clearly direct your customers to what you think they should do next to get onboarded.  Celebrate their first wins with an experience that provides delight in the process, and provide the right amount of help along the way.

 With complex experiences, such as enterprise apps, you may need to provide additional documentation as they go through the flow for the first time. Provide contextual links to help content that is too lengthy to fit on in the user interface. Enterprise users are comfortable opening instructional documents when learning complex tools.  Consumers of B2C services will be more impatient and will expect the flow through your product to be obvious without reading additional documentation. Regardless of the skill level of your customer, your user base will see guidance when they start using your web application as a signal that you care about their experience. 

3. Keep the flow consistent

When a user interacts with your product, aim to keep the process consistent so they can effortlessly find their way through the happy path of the customer journey. Online users can be easily thrown off task and generally want to complete actions quickly. A straightforward design structure lets customers get to what they want without having to remember how to use your product. The likelihood of the customer completing the journey and meeting their needs is high when the flow and interface is consistent.

To maintain a consistent experience, you should have the customers' journey mapped out. This helps you understand what customers need at any point when interacting with your product, and you can respond appropriately to meet their needs. 

4. Provide guidance

As enterprise applications grow increasingly complex, you need to find intelligent ways to walk your customers through the user journey. Use clearly defined calls to action that help users easily find what they want. When your calls to action are clearly marked, users can easily navigate the website and find what they want and where they expect it to be.

Modern web applications can include complex feature sets and interaction. Provide just-in-time, in contextal guidance to meet your customer’s workflow needs. Power users, such as enterprise customers, may use your product in a non-linear manner. It’s important to not force these users through flows but allow them to explore and link to additional resources when they need it. Linking users to the proper documentation while they’re completing a task can reduce contacts to support. 

You should provide a life-line in the case where a customer cannot get unblocked on a workflow. A chatbot solution that directs the customers to the proper documentation, especially if they are looking for complex code examples or other technical information that is too dense to fit in the interface by default.

5. Designing for scale

Web applications, especially those designed for enterprise, must accommodate more controls to meet your customer’s use cases. Your application should scale gracefully to avoid becoming overly cluttered. Savvy customers may need a full suite of options to accomplish their tasks. User experience designers should spend a lot of time iterating through different design solutions to integrate these options to an interface in an elegant, yet discoverable manner.

Visual hierarchy in an web application design should bias towards the key tasks your user is trying to complete. Strategically placing focus on the most used actions will also help your customers complete their tasks more efficiently. Use whitespace to help users easily find what they need while allowing the important things to stand out by improving visual hierarchy. 

6. Focus on accessibility

Web accessibility refers to the process of designing and developing a website in a way that does not block access for people with disabilities. When you focus on accessibility you consider a range of disabilities, changing abilities, and situational limitations. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards detail how to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to services. 

Engineering teams and user experience designers should improve accessibility by focusing on code, design, and testing. Designers should focus on ensuring there is enough contrast on screen to make the text legible, or not rely on color alone to convey important information to users. Developers should implement best practices when writing their code to support screen readers, keyboard navigation, and other assistive technologies with semantic HTML and ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications).

7. Ask customers for feedback

For a business to be successful, it needs to pay attention to what its customers are saying. Constantly asking for feedback from your customers will ensure you are able to keep up with their changing or growing needs. Use clever ways to get feedback from customers about their experience with your product. Your customer support team can be an invaluable resource for gathering customer feedback.

You can also poll users to ask them directly about their experiences using your product. Consider questions like, “What should we do to improve your experience?” The questions need to be straightforward but not leading. Instead, they should allow users to explicitly give their opinions and critical feedback. You can then use the responses to evaluate your user experience design and make any suitable adjustments.

 8. Serve your app–fast

Customers expect your website to be lightning fast and will quickly turn to a competitor if your content loads slow. CDNs, or Content Delivery Networks, can improve site speed by delivering cached content from servers closer to your customers, decreasing web and application load times. Fastly’s fully configurable CDN gives customers fine-grained control over how their content is cached. Fastly’s Dynamic site acceleration (DSA) features come standard for speedy content delivery that makes a positive impact on conversion and retention rates, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and ad revenue. Image Optimizer can be used in conjunction with Fastly’s full-site delivery to speed image load times and deliver an array of just-in-time transformations. 

Want to improve your user experience and delight your customers with faster web and application load times? Talk to an expert today to see what Fastly can do for you.

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Jennifer Fleming
Director of Product Experience

6 min read

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Jennifer Fleming
Director of Product Experience

Jennifer has worked as both a hands-on designer and leader in the web for more than 20 years. She has evangelized user experience and built design teams for consumer-focused companies such as Ebates, Stumbleupon, GreatSchools, and Ofoto. An avid outdoor enthusiast, Jennifer can usually be found hiking or camping on the weekends with her dog and family.

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