A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good. Martin LeBlanc
You open a business:
- You have decorated window displays where prospective clients can have a look at your wares as they pass
- There’s a front door where customers can come in and browse
- You have shelves, perhaps racks along the walls
- Your products have labels on them explaining about the product and also the price
- You set up the shop so customers weave in among your range, interact with the products
- You have change rooms set up at the back of the store so customers have to wander through the store to try things on, perhaps finding other items they hadn’t thought of, or didn’t know you sold
- You also set up displays with products which complement each other, or are similar to each other.
Then there’s the counter, with your point of sale cash register to receive payment, strategically filled with little add-on buys, specials, or a window cabinet with more expensive items.
The whole store comes together, it’s easy for customers to visit, see all your products, interact, ask questions and of course make a purchase.
Now you’ve decided to take your business online. Your online space should be set up exactly as you would a bricks and mortar shop. This is your User Interface.
This is your user interface; the interaction between your customers and your website.
Most websites have similar features in their user interface:
- navigation menu
- about us page
- contact us page with a contact form and contact details
- shopping cart page
However, whether you have these features or other facets in your website layout, your customers have to know how to ‘use’ your site, the same as when they walk into a physical store.
Being ‘tricky’ or innovative with your website layout will only work if it’s clear and easy to use. Making it confusing or difficult to find things, clunky, or with no clear flow or call to action will result in your customers not finding the information, products or services they want, leaving the site without even looking and worse of course, not buying anything! Chances are they won’t be back.
As with designing a physical shop layout, your website needs to be laid out and planned before the build and design commences. By taking the time to plan the layout, you are prompted to consider content, images, and most importantly the user flow right from the initial visit on the homepage to the end call to action, whether it be to purchase, subscribe, sign up, become a member or gain further information.
Take the customer on a journey, as you would in a shop, introduce them to your business, tell them a little about your brand, connect with them, show them your products, inform them how your brand can solve their pain, frustration and need.
Don’t try to be overly clever, too fancy or over complicated with your website. Focus on the simplicity of use, guide your customers, take the time to think about how they are going to use and interact with your site. Be very clear on the goals your business wants to achieve online and plan the website to suit those goals.
If you already have a website, visit it through the eyes of your customers or prospective new clients. Is your user interface clear, do you understand the business, can you access the information you need, are the products or services easy to find, can you interact or ask questions if you aren’t sure, can you obtain a quote, is the pricing transparent.
Part of your brand identity is putting together an avatar of your ideal client or customer, and creating a great website is understanding your customer and your avatar. Has your business an avatar? We explain more about this here.