In this introduction to user experience design, Hamilton Jones, Digital Editor at Macmillan, explains what UX is, why it’s important and how it works.
How have UX trends shaped website design and why have some of our favourite homepages changed this year? As 2015 draws to a close, Hamilton Jones gives us some last-minute answers.
For many years, website page design has been dominated by above the fold design, a trend deriving from traditional print media. More recently, with the overwhelming uptake of mobile technology and higher resolution displays, scrolling has become king and the fold is being considered obsolete by many digital marketers.
But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves, as the first part of a website that a user is going to see, above the fold is still a key consideration in website design, particularly for information hierarchy. Good hierarchy doesn’t mean cramming all of your best and most important content at the top of the page, instead it should see information displayed strategically throughout the page to be served to the user at the most appropriate time and in the most accessible way.
Now that reams of information aren’t being put into the first 700 pixels of a page, we are starting to see some beautiful website designs that have a cleaner and simpler aesthetic. Some of the most popular trends of 2015 have been the long scroll pages, tile/card layouts, interactive storytelling, hero images and large typefaces. But different pages call for different approaches to layout and design.
Take for example our homepage. People that land on our homepage could be looking for any of our services, so we need to ensure that we create a story where they can understand our brand, discover what we offer and navigate quickly and easily to the section of the site they need. By introducing a long scroll web page with hero images we are able to serve content about each section of our website as the user moves down the page, providing them with enough information to understand what the section offers, but without giving them so much that they won’t want to read it.
When a user enters one of the landing pages within Information & Support, the layout changes to be much shorter and focuses on click interaction and pagination. Instead of being general like our homepage, these pages are more specific but don’t contain in-depth content, therefore act as signposts to guide the users to specific pages.
Moving down to article level and the pages become very specific. These pages are much longer and often contain a large amount of information. Here we have bigger type-face at the top of the page so the user knows immediately if it is the right content for their needs. These pages also focus on scrolling due to their length, so the user can take in the information without distraction as that is the main purpose of the pages.
Now that 2015 is coming to a close however, it will be interesting to see how website designs continue to change and evolve in 2016, and the changes that we at Macmillan will make, to continue to ensure that our users are getting the best possible experience from our website.
Questions about this post? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @mac_digital. We’d love to hear from you!
You often hear creative directors say that the work can only be as good as the brief, and while I’m a stickler for a well thought out and enlightening brief, I don’t think it’s as black and white as all that. I’ve seen good creative transcend a poor brief and I’ve also seen a great brief go to waste with safe or bland creative. Even strategists will sometimes work backwards from a great idea and write their brief to fit, which goes to show that it can be an evolving document.
But in the day to day workings of a creative studio, good briefs generally result in good work. And it’s easy to understand why. A brief is like a treasure map – you want to make it clear that there’s gold in them thar hills but you also want the treasure hunter to work hard to find it.
When it comes to being in the right space to think up the best ideas, trust plays a huge role in creative thinking. Clients put their trust into the team to read, understand and take on board their requests, and creatives work best when they’re given space to interpret the information and develop ideas based on their understanding of the problem.
This means giving the team a clear and thorough explanation of the challenge you face or the problem you need to solve and a detailed description of the audience you’re trying to reach. What makes your product or service unique and why should anyone care? Tell us something interesting about the audience. What makes them tick? What gets them excited? What makes them mad? Great creative ideas spring from human truths and it’s these nuggets of insight that really get the creative cogs whirring.
As an example, when developing the Old Spice campaign, research into the body wash category showed that a lot of women buy body wash for the men in their lives, which meant there were far more women buying men’s body wash than men. The audience for men’s body wash, funnily, wasn’t men at all – it was women. Women who wanted their men smelling good. That was the audience insight, the human truth that led to this:
In their 2014 short film on briefs, Basset asked creative directors of the world’s most prestigious agencies to describe what a good brief is:
‘A thought starter…’
‘the shorter the better’
‘a clarity of purpose’
‘an open statement of ambition’
‘most importantly, it has to inspire the people who are given the task of solving the problem’
This last one really stuck with me. When you’re reading a brief and you feel the client’s excitement and enthusiasm for the project leaping off the page, it makes you want to get to work immediately. It makes you want to create something brilliant, something that will do justice to their passion. So write your briefs with passion – let your enthusiasm for the project shine through the words. The work will be all the better for it.
Letting our supporters know the amazing things we did in 2013, celebrating our successes and setting out our aims for 2014 and beyond, Macmillan’s Annual Report is a big deal for us. We want to make sure we get it right in terms of tone, content and presenting it in a way that is engaging and clear.
We took a good look at the structure and language this year and how we could make the report as clear and informative as possible. Our creative principle of ‘for and by real people’ is also to the fore, with some great photos and stories of how we’ve helped people live with and beyond cancer.
And our refreshed brand with painted panels and pop colours give it plenty of life and positive energy. Well done to everyone invoked in the project and let’s hope it inspires even more people to support us.