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The 6 pillars of great UX

The core principle of user experience (UX) design is to make each user feel like the website they’re visiting has been built specifically for them. To achieve this, you need to know who your audience is before building the site. From there, you should tailor your website content to your most valuable users. 

Designers have an advantage here, in that most users have similar online behaviours. Once you’ve worked out what those behaviours are, you can tailor your website design to their specific needs. In this post we’ll take a look at the six key pillars on which great UX stands.

01. The five-second rule

Visitors should be able to tell what your site has to offer within the first five seconds of landing on your homepage. This is the average time users need to form a first impression and decide whether it’s worth engaging with content. To retain visitors, a landing page must clearly convey its purpose, what content is on offer and a strong call to action.

02. First steps

Most website traffic will come from external links such as search engines or site links, rather than from users who know your URL (a great web hosting service will give you the analytics you need). As a result, users are likely to land on your website with a specific goal. Your site should satisfy this goal by providing engaging, relevant and valuable information through an easy to use interface. 

It’s also likely that users who are directed to your site from another source will land on a deeper page of your website. Therefore, all website pages need to be designed to clearly communicate what information can be found there to avoid high bounce rates.

03. Minimal design

The information users are looking for on your site needs to be presented in a clean and simple way (a website builder will help if you need to keep things simple). If any element of the page doesn’t need to be there, get rid of it. In terms of copy, communicating key information in fewer words is more effective than offering long bodies of text that users will skim read. Avoid clutter and keep decorative elements minimal; fewer distractions allow users to find what they’re looking for, faster. 

04. Consistency

Keep design consistent across pages so users can easily find information. For example, the main menu should always have the same elements, no matter which page it features on. Similarly, clicks should always perform the same action – for instance, clicking on a link should always open it on a new window. Consistent design enables your users to learn how to navigate your site quickly and effectively. 

05. Standard design patterns

Designing the layout and navigation for a website requires you to follow tired-and-tested trends. This means using standard design patterns and taking inspiration from successful websites, which will also encourage cross-browser compatibility across devices. Keep any design system files in secure cloud storage for your whole team to access.

06. Structured content

The information you put on your website needs to be arranged and grouped into pages and the resulting structure will form the navigation and logic for your menu. Within each page, you’ll also need to organise information; if content isn’t visible on the screen before scrolling down, then there’s a high chance that users will miss it. 

Calls to action should also prompt users to scroll through to uncover more information. When it comes to a website’s homepage, it should contain a brief summary on the brand and what it does, so that users know what to expect from the site. 

This article was originally published in net, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers. Buy issue 309 or subscribe.

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Karolina has been digital designer at digital agency Greenlight for three years, working with clients including Millennium Hotels and Resorts, Hiscox, Dyson and Currys PC World.