Take a look at this image.
Off the bat, you’d write this website off as a total UX nightmare, right? If you agree, you’ll be shocked to know that this website actually does a pretty great job at converting customers. UX principles typically communicate that a website has to be well designed and easy to use, otherwise, there will be high drop rates and low conversion. On the contrary, there are several poorly designed websites, like the example above, that have high and consistent traffic, as well as repeat customers and high conversion.
So, what is the line between usability and poor design? Can you have a user-friendly website that isn’t designed well? The answer to this question is complicated and there can be a fine line between poor design and poor user experience. Usability won’t necessarily convert users, while poor design won’t necessarily turn away customers. For example, LINGsCARS is designed in a unique, eye-catching manner but an optimised user experience is lacking. It might be all over the place but it has personality and this might be enough to draw in customers.
As another example, let’s talk about Amazon. Although Amazon’s website isn’t exactly visually appealing, Amazon is still an e-commerce leader. People use it for purchasing things in a wide range of categories, from household items to clothing and for many, it’s their first stop when they’re looking to make a purchase. How did Amazon grow to be an e-commerce giant without having a very visually appealing website? Their design choices and user flows focus on getting customers to purchase with ease. Whether they’re first time buyers or repeat visitors, Amazon focuses on minimising the steps between browsing and checking-out. The user experience for purchasing is optimised, even though the design may not be.
These examples beg the questions: how important is a “perfect” user experience? Does a website have to be both visually appealing and useable or is it situational? The answer is that there is no straight answer but there are some key necessities, which we will explore in this article.
Usability is one of the most important considerations when looking at these examples. Although customers will deal with less than ideal situations if they want to purchase something, it’s important that an online product or service is as useful as possible if increased conversion is a goal. From a practical standpoint, it’s important to think about what a user’s goal is, what the aim of the website/product is and how the user’s experience can be designed in a way that gets them to that goal as easily as possible. You want to ensure that users do not drop off before completing that task, whether it’s a purchase, subscription, etc. How do you ensure this? At a high level, research your target audience, design a product that meets their needs and continue to test and iterate until you have a version that is intuitive to use.
What sets Amazon apart, if not good design? Amazon takes a user-centric approach to figure out what features customers rely on when making purchases. When deciding to purchase something, customers have the option of comparing products, reading product descriptions, seeing similar products and also reading about other customers’ experiences with a product. Essentially, everything a customer would need to make an informed decision is at their fingertips. Further, Amazon ensures that a customer wouldn’t have to leave their website to find an alternative product. Creating a positive customer experience comes down to understanding your user, their goals and how to meet those goals as easily as possible.
Differentiation is one of the factors that may keep users coming back even when proper user experience design is lacking. Is a product or service unique? Does it have personality? Is it offering something that competitors wouldn’t be able to mirror? These key factors may account for success when there’s a lack of user experience.
In conclusion, there is a fine line between what is necessary and what isn’t when it comes to designing online products with users in mind. There are various examples of apps and websites that are extremely popular and profitable even though they either lack fundamental user experience design principles or are visually unappealing. This leaves us to beg the questions of whether user experience design is necessary when anomalies like these exist but in reality, ensuring a proper user experience is always a benefit.