UX Design has been a buzzword recently. A lot of people are throwing around this word, but most people don’t understand what it is, or even what the letters “UX” stand for. Applying the principles of User Experience design, or UX for short, can have great benefits for church web design though. Let’s start with a quick overview.
What is User Experience?
User Experience (UX) encompasses everything that affects a user’s interaction with a website. For your church website, it’s the total experience that someone has while interacting with your site and how they feel about it. This shouldn’t be confused with another term you’ve likely heard: UI. UI, or user interface, is what a person sees when they visit your church website—the design itself. And it’s a big part of the total UX.
OK, enough technical talk.
UX matters because a person’s first experience with your church is often through your website. So it’s vital that they find what they are looking for and leave the site feeling positive. If they can’t find the information they need, or if they get lost within the site, they may leave feeling frustrated about your church, all because of a short interaction with your website.
The job of the UX designer is to take the user’s needs into account at every stage of site interaction, while also making sure the church’s needs are met, so everyone has a seamless interaction. But what if you aren’t a UX designer? If you’re responsible for maintaining or updating the website for your church, you can easily implement some UX principles into your work. Here are just two basic principles that can go a long way in improving how your church and guests interact with your website.
Understanding the Problem
One thing UX designers must do well is see the big picture. Rather than seeing individual pages on a website, they understand how that page relates to everything else the site visitor experiences. Keeping this principle in mind should change the way you implement future changes to your site.
For many churches, the website becomes a storage place for useless or outdated information. You might add a page for a new ministry because they asked for it, not considering the consequences of what the visitor to your site experiences. You should be able to answer “why” before making any changes to your site. Ensure that the work has a purpose and is actually addressing a problem the end users are having, not solely a problem the ministry is having. The website is not for the church staff; it is primarily for your congregation and guests. Solve the problems that are negatively impacting your primary users, not the problems the church staff is having.
As someone responsible for maintaining the website at your church, chances are you interact with the site everyday. You know every page and where to find anything on the site in two seconds flat. But the average user is not like you. This is why UX designers implement the principle of User Testing.
If you truly want to gauge the experience your users are having, sit them in front of your site and ask them to perform a few pre-planned tasks. See if they can find the service times. Can they find the date and time of the next Women’s Ministry event? And how long does it take them to find it? It will serve as valuable information for you to see the route they take on the site to find this information. Being in the same room while a church member struggles to interact with the site helps you see things from a different perspective—the user’s perspective. And that’s the point of view that matters.
UX design is meant to solve problems and create a pleasant experience. It’s about staying focused on the big picture and always thinking of what the end user is experiencing. Whether or not you have any knowledge of web design, you can implement principles of UX design to improve the total experience your church has with your site.