Small Business Web & App Design: Five Common UX Mistakes to Avoid Ross Kimbarovsky | January 3rd, 2017

You’re ready to build. Maybe it’s a website, an app, a landing page, or an email template. Now you just need to figure out the design. And it’s here, in this pivotal moment, before anyone has put pen to paper or pixels to screen, where you’ll either get it right or get it wrong.

Here are the top 5 mistakes commonly made in UX design – and how to avoid making them.

Mistake #1: Prioritizing your own aesthetic tastes.

We have preferences when it comes to the digital media with which we interact. Some people really like interactive sites with lots of video. Some people like a site that’s bare bones with simple, intuitive navigation and straightforward text explanations. Some people like a modern look. Some people are still big on gradients. It just depends.

And those personal tastes are all perfectly valid, but personal is the key word in this discussion. You are not the entirety of your customers and prospects. You do not represent your whole audience. And while it’s certainly within your rights to have an opinion on how a design looks, if you rely solely on your own tastes, your end result will be about you instead of the people you’re hoping to engage. This not only will create low-conversion pages (or app), but will also impact your search results.

Quick Tip: If something about a design is rubbing you the wrong way, frame your response as a question instead of a dismissal, and use the answer to check your concerns. Ask, “Is there a particular reason we would want to use this size image?” or “What was the rationale behind your color choices here?” If the response is grounded in evidence, research, and experience, be sure to keep that in consideration before you make a final decision.

Mistake #2: Relying heavily on fads.

Every year, and especially towards the end of one year and beginning of a new year, you’ll find a slew of articles detailing all the design fads to watch for over the coming months. Some of these are less radical than others. Some represent a significant break from convention, usually popularized by a handful of trailblazers. But much like our wardrobes, what is fashionable in one season can become passe in the blink of an eye.

And this is where trying hard to make your digital media fit with current design trends can backfire, especially when designing digital media intended to be durable. It’s one thing to tailor an email template to the hottest design look of the season, but when you’re spending good money on a website or app, you need to think beyond frills.

Quick Tip: Don’t hesitate to ask your customers what they like. If you’re just getting started, researching the design choices of your competition is a good way to kick things off. Once you’ve got a working idea together, though, consider leveraging a focus group to test your assumptions. For example, all design projects on crowdSPRING include free focus groups that let you quickly test your design options privately or publicly (with your own email list or on a social network like Facebook or Twitter). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run projects, picked a favorite, only to learn that my friends and acquaintances preferred a different design (and for good reasons).

Mistake #3: Not caring about fads at all.

It can be tempting in the face of fickle tastes to say you don’t give a hoot about trends in design, choosing instead to go your own way. Sometimes that pays off. More often than not, though, it can hurt you to not consider those trends at all. After all, there are reasons these ideas became popular in the first place. In one way or another, they’ve worked for people… and people tend to obsessively test their concepts.

For some of your audience, it probably won’t matter that your digital media isn’t the belle of the ball as long as it gets the job done. But for those who need some persuading, the aesthetic you offer can be a tipping point. It’s hard to convince a potential customer of the quality of your service or product if it looks like something out of the early 90’s. This is particularly true with many small business websites. You can be small, but your web presence or mobile app doesn’t need to scream that loudly.

Quick Tip: Reach out to younger friends and family who may not be familiar with your company’s products or services. Given the world they’ve grown up in, they likely boast higher design expectations from the brands they give money. Ask them to take a look at the design concepts and describe your brand in 3-5 words from a quick glance. Once again, quick focus groups can help you to make better choices.

Mistake #4: Assuming general UX best practices will work for your audience.

An effective design, especially when you consider user experience, must be tailored to your expected audience. For example, mobile apps are designed differently for kids and for adults. When designing for elderly users, you must take into account special needs, such as larger fonts, color contrasts, and other techniques that help older people to interact with designs.

You also should consider not just audiences, but how they’ll consume your content. If most of your customers and prospects use Android devices (and not iPhones), there are special design considerations when designing for Android devices.

Many people run into problems here by copying designs of other companies. What works for one audience may not necessarily work for another. There’s not a large margin for error. People’s attention span is incredibly short – just 8 seconds!

Quick Tip: If you don’t know your audience, you should consider sending a survey to better understand their demographics and psychographics. Even if your audience covers different age groups, cultures and sexes, you still would benefit in knowing more about the people who’ll interact with your website, app or newsletter.

Mistake #5: Not adapting your design for mobile.

Even if most of your customers and prospects will be viewing your site, app or newsletter on a big screen, a great many will also view it on a mobile phone or a tablet. Smaller resolutions and screen sizes in the mobile world create unique problems for effective user experience. Thankfully, responsive techniques permit designers to design a different solution for various screen sizes. When we design at crowdSPRING, we always start with mobile design first, and then port it to a bigger screen. This forces us to consider the small screen first and deal with limitations of mobile devices.

Quick Tip: It’s tempting to design for both Android and iPhone at the same time, but there are nuances to those two mobile platforms that require some customization. We typically pick one platform (usually iPhone) and design for that platform. Once we’re happy, we tweak the designs for the other platform.

Do you have additional UX tips or a question? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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