As designers who have been in the business for a long time, we think we’ve seen pretty much all of the common UX mistakes it’s possible to make (and we have a good idea of how to overcome them). From simple assumptions about target markets to more complex issues with capturing details or payments, it’s incredibly important to keep on top of any website or project from the start so the finished product is as seamless and intuitive as possible (indeed, if it is possible to ever say anything is in a “finished” state).

Where to start?

One of the first steps for any fledgling project should be to undertake comprehensive and thorough research into your target market and their wants/needs. One of the biggest mistakes to make at the start can be to assume that you know what your users want, or that they understand more than they actually do about your industry/offering.

Core assumptions that a lot of projects start with include:

  • That users will understand how a website or app works intuitively
  • That they will know what they want or what to ask if they don’t
  • And that they will stick with it even if they get stuck

The actuality is most people don’t have the patience (especially in these times of superfast internet and devices) to stay on a website or app if it isn’t returning what they want first time round. It’s much easier to look elsewhere than it is to stick with something that is causing frustration or on the surface not delivering the “right” results first time.

Undertaking comprehensive user research at the start, before anything is set in stone, is invaluable in helping to form design and business decisions that will then help end users on their journey using your website/app. Whilst you will always get users who are distracted/time poor/simply uncertain and not ready to make a buying decision, at least you know that you are building something that will hopefully serve at least 80% of your user’s needs (old and new) and help unsure people return at a later date.

Don’t Just Design for Today’s Users

Controversial – yes! Sensible – yes! You don’t want to design solely for the user group(s) you have today, as you need to future-proof for users of the future. Also, you are most likely to have several types of “user”, which makes it harder to design for all of them at once, especially as not all will be in a buying mindset (for example, information seekers, who may never return once they’ve got the information they need).

You need to find the middle ground here. Whilst it is important to design for the user, remember that user group will include people of different demographics and buying habits, whose needs will change as we move forward in time with updated technologies and needs. Also, different types of user groups may still have an overlap, and you won’t please all of them at once.

When designing for users, you also need to think about user friction. What could cause users to stumble on the site, what will happen if things are ‘too hard’ or cause issues with user flow, and how can you prevent this?

User Friction

Common user friction issues on a website or app include:

  • Captcha forms that are too long, which can be as little as 3 fields when only 1 or 2 will do (although they do need to be relevant and weed out any spam)
  • Fatigue inducing pages filled with nothing but text and little to no imagery. Stock imagery can also be a hanging point, as they do give across a certain “rushed” feel as opposed to custom images.
  • Asking for personal information without revealing why you want it or what the user will benefit from if they give it
  • Arduous sign up processes

Some of these are easily resolved and actually make life easier – such as not writing reams of text for a website if less will work – but others, such as deciding what to ask for on a form – may be harder.

To work through individually the points above:

  • Captcha forms can be reviewed in development by potential user groups to gather constructive feedback and design the most user friendly yet comprehensive form possible within the remit of what you need to know
  • Either make sure the text you write is concise to start with, or work to condense the copy that already exists to make sure it doesn’t “waffle on” or repeat itself. Formatting also works well to make copy more readable and will work well down the line for any organic search engine marketing you want to do.
  • Check with the top management as to why they want personal information, what will it be used for? Once you know this, you can then make it clear in the copy for users. Nothing is more offputting that giving information for no clear reason.
  • Go through the sign up process with the whole team and ascertain what they need to find out and what they will do with the end information. Once you know this, you can start to streamline the sign up process so everything flows well, with no unnecessary boxes to tick or fill in and as minimal as possible with all essential info initially to keep interest – users can then choose whether they fill out fuller profiles once they’ve signed up or completed their transaction.

Don’t Give In

This can be the hardest mistake not to make of all – if you are in charge of designing a project for someone else, don’t just agree to what they want to make life easy. If you think a design flaw could be a potential issue moving forward, don’t be afraid to (tactfully) highlight it. Not only could it harm the project moving forward, it could also be a flaw in your individual portfolio and mean that future work could be impacted.

It can be hard to say no, especially against multiple people in a team who may not agree with your comments, but in this case you need to ensure you have solid evidence to back up your thoughts, such as data, reports and research. Once you have this, work with the decision makers to put your point across, and don’t be deflected.