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What is UX when designing and building websites?

mac monitor with website designs
(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is UX?

User experience (UX) is an approach and process for designing and building websites (opens in new tab), applications, and other products and services. UX focuses on the needs of the end user, ensuring that products are fast, simple, intuitive, and easy to interact with. A UX design approach increases user satisfaction, and reduces friction and frustration for your customers.

UX is closely linked with another discipline, known as UI, or user interface design. UI focuses more on the graphical elements of how a user accesses technology, and is an important part of UX; however, UX goes a step further, and considers the entire experience of users interacting with your services. 

UX is a vast topic, so in this guide, we’ll focus on a specific subset of UX—designing and building websites (opens in new tab). If you want to build a website around a superb user experience, our guide to the best website builders (opens in new tab) is a great starting point. 

What does UX for websites do? 

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UX means considering website function, ease-of-use, information and interactions, infrastructure, and accessibility (Image credit: Getty Images)

Good UX for websites focuses on several key principles that combine to make your site a pleasure to use. You don’t need a big budget, either—whether you’re selling online via an ecommerce website (opens in new tab) or building an information website for your small business (opens in new tab), it’s easy to incorporate strong UX. 

Beautiful and functional graphical elements

Your website needs to look great, so the best UX brings together:

  • Clean, clear, and simple graphical and UI design
  • Consistent approach and formatting for fonts, images, and interactive media
  • Easy-to-use and uncluttered website navigation and interactive elements 

Users can take consistent, useful, easy-to-understand actions

UX puts usability and functionality front-and-center to reduce friction and support desired user behavior:

  • It reduces information overload, so it’s clear what a user can do from any particular part of the website
  • It signposts the features and functions that are most useful to the audience at that moment
  • It embraces website conventions so that everything behaves in an expected and predictable way
  • It supports a simple and intuitive approach to navigating and using the website

Highly valuable information and interactions

UX doesn’t just focus on style—superb content is fundamental to a positive user experience:

  • It understands user needs and desires, and delivers content to meet those requirements
  • It creates content across multiple formats that’s easy to scan, parse, interact with, and understand
  • It considers all parts of the customer journey, and adapts content as needed
  • It provides multiple ways for users to interact with website content

Available, resilient, and fast technology infrastructure

Your website experience is only as good as the platform that you’re building on:

  • UX provides a fast connection and minimizes resources, so websites are quick to load and display
  • It uses resilient hosting (opens in new tab) to maximize website availability
  • It focuses on security, so websites can’t be hacked or compromised

All of our recommended website builders (opens in new tab) are based on best-in-class, secure, and resilient infrastructure.

Accessibility across all types of devices and use cases

UX ensures that websites are accessible for all types of users:

  • It helps sites display well on various device types including desktops, tablets, and smartphones
  • UI adapts and remains functional across different screen resolutions
  • It takes account of accessibility needs like poor eyesight

Now that we’ve covered the main principles of UX-centered design, let’s explore how to implement a great user experience. 

How to implement powerful UX on your website 

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Modern website builder platforms help with UX, but it pays off to plan ahead and think about it in advance (Image credit: Getty Images)

Modern website builders provide the templates, tools, infrastructure, and design elements that help you focus on the user experience. Before starting on the build, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the big picture—so that every part of your website focuses on meeting user needs.

Identify the type of users who will be accessing your website

Designing a great user experience means understanding who you’re designing for. Start by identifying the types of visitors (opens in new tab) your website will serve. Carry out some audience analysis and segmentation, so you can understand the needs, intent, and possible actions of each website reader.

Think about the purpose of a user’s website visit

Consider what a visitor will do when they arrive at your website. Do they want answers to questions? Are they trying to learn about your business? Do they want to compare or buy products? Will they need details of your service offerings? Your website UX needs to meet that user purpose and intent. As you’re designing the website, always be asking “will this help the user take the action that they need?”, and build accordingly.

Provide the information a user needs to make decisions

The quality of information on your website has a significant impact on user experience. It’s important to create, format, and present content in a simple, informative, relevant, and easy-to-understand way. 

For example, if you’re building an ecommerce website (opens in new tab), then detailed product descriptions, comparison tables, and product FAQs all help a user to understand what they’re buying. If you’re running a consultancy business, then staff profiles and case studies help to demonstrate your expertise and build user confidence.

Design navigation and calls to action that are clear and obvious

You want to reduce the “cognitive load” on your website visitors. This means your website should offer a limited number of very clear choices on what they can do next. You can start with designing a navigation structure that’s simple and intuitive, with clear labels that define each section of the website. From there, you can use descriptive links to guide people through the site, together with buttons and similar graphical elements that emphasize “calls to action”.

Experiment with different templates, tools, and approaches

Small business website builders (opens in new tab) provide a range of tools (opens in new tab) and templates that look great and perform well on any device. This makes it easy to experiment with different designs and approaches, so you can find the perfect style for your business. Use different themes, fonts, and color pallets to match your brand with your visual design elements. That way, you can create a beautiful website that gives your users everything they need. Win-win!

Test out your website experience

Once you have a prototype website up and running, it’s time for a test. Get some of your peers and colleagues to try the website out on different devices to make sure it’s performing as expected. Ask them to carry out tasks similar to a normal user, and gather feedback on what works and what doesn’t. If possible, get some prospective customers to test your site as well, and incorporate their findings into your website development.

Measure how your website performs and tweak as needed

Once you’ve launched your website, measure how it’s working with a website analytics tool. This will show you how visitors are using your site, the pages they are spending time on, and the links they’re following. This will help you optimize your website so that they take the right actions.

Benefits of strong website UX 

Focusing on a best-in-class user experience will really benefit your small business.

UX builds trust in your website, products, and services
The look, feel, and usability of your website has a huge influence on visitor satisfaction. A simple and clean design, combined with clear information and straightforward functionality, shows that you’re thinking about the audience. This creates positive feelings and trust for your business and brand, making it more likely that people will purchase from you.

UX helps you meet user needs and answer questions
Your website is a vital information resource for customers. You’ve spent time understanding user intent, so you can develop content that informs, educates, and inspires them. Your care and attention positions your business as an expert that provides what customers need.

UX makes your business a pleasure to buy from and work with
UX can be a deciding factor that separates you from your competition. Customers are short on time, so a fast, accessible, easy-to-use website helps you to stand out. That can make your business the first choice.

Website UX FAQs 

person working on hand-drawn website design documents

Taking UX into account means creating accessible, simple, and quick websites for customers and users (Image credit: Getty Images)

What are the goals of website UX?

To create a fast, accessible, and easy-to-use website experience, so visitors want to interact with your business website and buy from you. 

What are the differences between website UI and UX?

User interface design (UI) is a subset of user experience (UX). UI focuses specifically on how users interact with graphical elements on a website, while UX looks at the end-to-end experience and includes other areas that influence satisfaction, like content, speed, security, and availability

What are some website analytics measures that show a good user experience? 

Some important website metrics include: 

  • A low bounce rate, so that people don’t leave your website as soon as they arrive
  • A good “time on page”, as that shows people are sticking around and reading your content
  • Multiple pages per visit, as that means people are using your navigation and calls to action
  • A high conversion rate, as that shows people are taking the actions you want

How do I design for a strong website user experience? 

Understand who your visitors are, and what their needs when they visit your website. Then, design your website to meet those needs in a simple, quick, efficient, and easy-to-use way. Test your website, and continually measure how people interact with it, so you can optimize further. 

Can I optimize for UX without hiring a UX expert? 

If you follow simple UX design principles, use a modern website builder, and continue testing and tweaking, that will meet most user experience needs. As your business grows, you can invest in a UX expert who can polish the UX even more. 

Main UX takeaways 

  • Strong UX is based on several key principles that you can learn and implement to create a beautiful, easy-to-use website
  • Spending time on UX helps you build your small business website, meet visitor needs, and maximize user satisfaction, which leads to more sales
  • Modern website builders do a lot of the heavy lifting for good interface design and reliable website security and infrastructure
  • The user experience will help you stand out from your competitors and win customers

Further reading on website builders

Discover the best website builders (opens in new tab), the top choices for ecommerce (opens in new tab) and small business (opens in new tab), and learn how to choose (opens in new tab) and register the right domain name (opens in new tab), and protect your domain privacy (opens in new tab). Follow our step-by-step guide on how to build a website from scratch (opens in new tab), and our advice to help you understand your customers (opens in new tab)

If you're looking for more control or flexibility, utilizing WordPress (opens in new tab) and creating sites with the best WordPress website builders (opens in new tab) is another option. For this, you'll also need the best WordPress hosting (opens in new tab) from the best web hosting (opens in new tab) services.

Paul is a professional writer who creates extensively researched, expert, in-depth guides across business, finance, and technology. He loves the challenge of taking complex subjects and breaking them down so they are easy to understand. He can quote 'The Princess Bride' in its entirety and believes the secret to good writing is Earl Grey tea.