There has never been a better time than now in online marketing when it comes to website creation and publication.
With a few Google searches and a few hours you can grasp the basics of hosting, content management systems and have a WordPress site up and running. Luckily for us design-challenged folks out there, there are tons of great templates, designers and masters of making things look cool, so we don’t have to worry about it too much.
But this convenience has blinded us to fundamental aspect of marketing: the importance of the user interface.
What is User Interface?
User interfaces are all around us and can be found in physical and digital products of all kinds.
A user interface broadly describes any system that enables humans to interact and control machines or technology. Likewise, the system must be able to provide output that lets the user know the effects of their interactions and controls.
Some examples are:
- The steering wheel, gas and brake pedals and gear shifter are the user interface for automobiles.
- The remote control and various buttons on a TV are a user interface.
- The navigation, content layouts, forms, buttons and other aspects of a website or app comprise the user interface.
User interfaces (UI) are closely related to user experience (UX). A poorly designed user interface will make the user experience sub-par and this leads to all kinds of problems.
Your customers are coming to your site to get something of value to them. Maybe they want to read your latest blog post or they want to buy your product. Our job as marketers isn’t just to get them to the site, it’s also to make the process of them obtaining what they want as easy as possible.
If we haven’t designed the user interface well and therefore given them a bad user experience, what are the chances they are going to stick around? We’ve crunched the numbers and the odds are somewhere between me getting a date with Kate Upton and a snowball's chance in hell.
Give your users what they want in an easy-to-find and easy-to-consume format or they will hit the back button and find another source that can. High bounce rates will eventually hurt your SEO and rankings and cause your online business to start circling the toilet.
User Interface Guidelines
Depending on what kind of digital property you are developing, there will be different user interface guidelines that you should or have to follow.
For example, if you’re making an app that you plan to offer on Apple’s App store, then you will have to follow their user interface rules. Failure to do so could cause your app to be denied.
This goes for operating systems, browsers and all kinds of software products. If you want to build a complimentary product like an app, add-on or theme, you will have to adhere to the original programmer's requirements.
Otherwise, products on the same platform would lack a consistent look, feel and experience. This would harm the overall platform and make it a bad day for everyone involved.
Even if you’re not developing software or other products around a platform that has set user interface guidelines, you still need to make sure that you provide a system that promotes a good user experience and helps you achieve your goals.
Because of the proliferation of computer and mobile technology, most user interface requirements are hard wired into designs. And even if they weren’t you would make sure they are added.
You know when someone comes to a website they expect to see navigation, certain pages (about us, contact, FAQs), call-to-action buttons, social media sharing buttons and so on. Your goal as a marketer is to make sure the user can interact easily with your site or app as well as get feedback from it.
For example, if you want people to sign up to be added to your email list, you would provide an easy-to-find submission form. After the user fills out the form, they should then be sent to a confirmation page or given some other form of confirmation that their submission went through.
You know the feeling when you click a button and nothing happens. The typical and completely rational human response is to click 50 times, with optional slamming the mouse against your desk. If there is no confirmation that your interaction was completed, you’re going to short circuit and bail.
Keep the Customer in Mind
Job no. 1 is for you to see your site, app or software through the eyes of a new customer.
Pretend that this project isn’t your baby and that you know every line of code, inside and out. Come at it like a complete newbie and make sure that things are as simple as possible.
Don’t make it any harder than it has to be to get that conversion!
When you approach your designs from this standpoint, user interface issues will work themselves out. If something is missing, add it or find someone that can add it for you. If there are 50 elements when there only really needs to be five, start cutting!
This will take trial and error, so don’t think you’ll achieve UI and UX Nirvana overnight. Test different looks and designs if you think that your user interface is hurting conversions. Track your tests and results and work on constantly improving.