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UX as a competitive brand advantage: don’t get carried away by all the bells and whistles!

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In a fast changing digital world, it is difficult for publishers to keep track of where their consumers are actually consuming content. As a result, publishers can end up focusing on the wrong areas when it comes to considering the User Experience (UX).

What’s more, many also confuse User Interface (UI) with User Experience, concentrating on how their websites look, rather than what they actually like to use.  

To use an analogy, it’s like the difference between a good looking glass ketchup bottle which is difficult to get the sauce out of and a more practical plastic bottle which opens from the bottom so the sauce comes out easily! 

In the words of Apple’s Don Norman who came up with the phrase User Experience about 20 years ago: “The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.”

According to Matt Sanchez, Publisher, Co-Founder and CEO of Say Media, one of the main issues is that publishers tend to focus on the look and feel of the desktop home page which only accounts for around three per cent of traffic for most companies. “It’s not where people are spending any amount of time, unless you are a big news website,” says Sanchez. He also believes that many publishers are too focused on areas such as maintaining control and custom development which are of limited importance.

Increasingly, content is being consumed via mobile devices with around 60 per cent traffic now on mobile, rather than desktop. However, it’s important to note that a significant portion of that mobile traffic is on social media platforms where publishers don’t have any control and where many of the ‘bells and whistles’ of a publisher’s design are completely stripped out.  

For Sanchez there are three main areas where publishers should be focusing in order to improve the customer’s User Experience. These are speed, simplicity and functionality. 

To increase speed it’s important that publishers put less on the page and resist the urge to include too many embedded widgets and too much advertising technology. Shifting to https and http2 will also helps to speed up the site as well as improve user engagement.

People now demand immediacy with research from Facebook showing that 80 per cent of users drop out if they wait for more than three seconds for the content to appear.

When it comes to simplicity Sanchez says the less you put on the page the better.

Finally, when it comes to functionality it’s important not to get carried away with all the bells and whistles and to stay focused on the actual content. Concludes Sanchez: “Publishers need to produce rich content across all channels and move away from only considering the desktop experience which is of less importance.”

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