The Importance of UX
This post is all about web usability. On the web, people aren’t very patient, and rightfully so. Speed and ease of use rules the web. If your website doesn’t live up to those standards, chances are there won’t be many return visitors. That’s why user experience (UX) is so significant. Above the Fold, written by Brian Miller, has an entire chapter on website usability. He touches on navigation, breadcrumbs, text links, search functions, submission forms and many other important aspects of usability. The thing that I want to shed more light on (i.e. the one I find most annoying when done poorly) is submission form design.
Submission forms are present on nearly every website. Whether for contacting a company, registering for a service, or checking out at an online store, there is no doubt that you’ll be filling out a lot of forms on the web…
…and probably a lot of bad forms at that.
Form design is more about usability and intuitiveness. Aesthetic takes a bit of a backseat. UX for the Masses wrote an article entirely about form usability. They broke it down into 7 main things to pay attention to with web submission forms:
You should maintain a fairly standard look to your form. Don’t veer from the norm, that’s what people are used to. Additionally, forms should be kept short. Longer ones get tedious and users are less likely to complete them.
If your form has to be long, break it up into smaller, more manageable sections. Web users scan, so having appropriate subheads and input labels make it easier for them.
Keep labels right above or to the left of the input. If users can’t figure out what label goes with one input, they will likely become frustrated with the form. Also, be sure to denote an optional field from a required one. And make it obvious.
Have a logical order to the inputs. Name fields are typically first. If they’re buried somewhere down in the form, it’s not very intuitive.
Provide clear explanations for certain fields. A common input that is explained in many forms is the Security Code on the back of a credit or debit card. Give the user more information when you think they need it.
Make sure that errors are shown. If something was missing, show the user exactly where that is. They also need a clear way to remedy the error. Having errors with no easy way to fix them is irritating for the user.
Action buttons (like ‘Submit’ or ‘Next’) should be easy to find. Showing the user that the form was successfully submitted is also an important thing to remember. ‘Reset’ or ‘Clear Form’ buttons aren’t very useful. In fact, if a user accidentally clears the whole form, chances are they won’t want to start over.
The full article goes much more in-depth with each aspect of website submission forms. A lot of thought and consideration for the user has to go in to each form design. Poorly designed forms are obvious and never result in a good user experience.
Usability in Action
Every company should consider how user-friendly their website is. Many companies will even hire a UX expert to ensure that their site works well for the user. I analyzed Target.com on its usability. Target recently went through website redesign which really improved on their UX. It used to be so confusing that I actually left a comment on the website a couple of months ago. Now, they’ve created smarter navigation menus that make it easier to get around the website and find what you want.
The homepage has several ways of navigation. The main navigation bar is always present at the top of the website, even on the 404 error page so you always have a way to get back. In the main body of the homepage, there are four big sections that provide other ways to navigate around the website. These are more for people who are just browsing and don’t have a specific item to locate.
When you hover over one of the broad designations at the top (I hovered over ‘Home’ in the picture below) it reveals many more subgroups so you can choose a link more specific to your needs. It is a little overwhelming to see so many options, though.
When I clicked into a main group and then to several following subgroups, I got a breadcrumb trail to show me where I came from. This is another useful tool that helps users find their way around a website with ease.
If a user is looking for a specific item, the search function is very helpful. When you search for something (I did a pretty broad search of “pets”), it gives you pages of images of items related to your search. It also allows you to narrow the search down into specific categories.
There’s only one thing I would change. When I am looking through pages of product images, I like to be able to change the number of results per page. I’m adept at mindless scrolling, so being able to do this without having to click ‘Next’ as often would make my experience that much better.
Overall, Target did a great job with the website overhaul and it resulted in a very pleasing user experience. They have a very intuitive website with categories that make sense and easy to follow navigation cues. It’s never hard to find your way back, and the multiple ways to find a product make is a nice website for online shopping.