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      What Is User Experience (And How Can You Use It to Build a Site That Suits Your Audience)?

      What a time to be alive!

      Beginners with no coding experience can now build a website with minimal effort and expense. Even better, the options are limitless: You’ve got an entire arsenal of colors, fonts, images, and buttons at your disposal. But with so many design elements to play with, it can be tempting to go a bit wild.

      “A sprinkle of animation here! A dash of cheetah print there!”

      But, as is often the case with things that glitter, it’s easy to go overboard — especially if your creativity is reducing the functionality of your site.

      Whether you want to sell a product or share some blog posts, you’re not really building the website for you. It’s your site’s visitors that need to be happy with the design and user interface. That’s where User Experience (UX) comes into play. Keeping a strong focus on UX while building your site should pay off in higher conversions and lower bounce rates.

      In this article, I’ll give you a crash course in UX and explain what a UX designer does. Then we’ll go over some tips on recognizing good UX design when you encounter it. Finally, I’ll show you how to use UX to create a better website for your audience. Feel free to jump ahead to the section that’s most beneficial to you!

      Ready to talk UX strategy? Let’s get started!

      An Introduction to User Experience (UX) and Why It Matters

      Simply put, User Experience (UX) is how interacting with technology makes a user feel. UX applies to any technology, from an app to a game console.

      When it comes to websites, UX design is about optimizing the interaction between the human user and the page. A site built with solid UX principles should leave the user feeling like they accomplished what they came to do without frustration.

      That may make you think of going all out with the website’s visual design. That might include flashy animations and gigantic image carousels. If you remember MySpace, you probably still have nightmares about animated glitter and MIDI versions of Blink-182 songs . . . yikes.

      A MySpace profile using lots of bright colors and glitter.

      But UX design has a lot less to do with how a site looks than how it’s used. To be effective, your website should be a complete experience — not just words and images on a page.

      Users will forget data, such as how much they paid for the products they ordered. However, the experience of ordering should be pleasant and effortless. That experience will stay with them, increasing the odds that they’ll buy from you time and again.

      If your site delivers a poor UX, you may see the opposite result. Users who become stressed out or angry when using your site will likely head to one of your competitors’ sites. They have many options and no reason to return to a website that’s difficult to use.

      If you’re still not convinced that UX matters to your website, here are a few key statistics:

      All of this serves to illustrate the importance of good UX design when building a website.

      The Role of the UX Designer

      UX is so vital there’s an entire profession dedicated to optimizing it. A UX designer’s day-to-day tasks will vary based on what kinds of projects they’re tackling. However, the goal is usually the same. The UX designer’s job is to optimize the user’s experience when interacting with digital technology while also keeping in mind the well-being of the business.

      To achieve this balancing act, the UX designer follows a process that results in multiple deliverables.

      Before any actual designing starts, there’s a lot of UX research to do. Therefore, the designer may first create one or more audience personas. This enables the designer to understand the user’s needs.

      Next, the UX designer may present a potential user flow diagram to help explore possible ways that a user may interact with the website. They can then translate that information into a prototype. Prototypes may be as basic as a wireframe, a rough blueprint for what a final web page could look like. The designer may also create a more visually-robust prototype or even one that can be interacted with.

      A basic wireframe for designing a website.
      A basic wireframe.

      The UX designer’s responsibilities don’t end with the final design. Once the site is launched, they may conduct usability testing or look into usage analytics to identify and fix potential problems.

      In other words, they’re involved with all stages of a website’s creation and launch.

      How to Recognize Good UX Design

      If you’re handling your own UX design, it’s your responsibility to advocate for your audience while ensuring that you’re still getting what you want from your site. To do that, the first step is to learn how to recognize robust UX design.

      With that in mind, let’s look at some examples of UX in the wild. There are four key elements you’ll want to pay close attention to.

      1. Navigation

      Poor navigational design can render any website useless. Moving through a site should be smooth and intuitive. The navigation menu should also be accessible no matter what device a visitor is using.

      Breadcrumb navigation is one way designers prevent users from getting lost, especially if a website has many pages.

      H-E-B’s website, using a navigation bar and breadcrumbs.

      It’s also important to pay attention to links. Web designers who employ strong UX make sure you can identify links when you see them. This often means underlining them and using a different text color. They’ll also use meaningful anchor text, so you know where the link is taking you before clicking on it.

      2. Content

      A significant part of successful UX is understanding how people interact with different parts of a website. For example, most people don’t read web page content normally. They scan it and then stop to read if they’ve found something interesting.

      Content is scannable if a user can quickly browse through a blog post or sales page and come away with a clear idea of what it’s communicating.

      Content made scannable using headings, short paragraphs, and a bulleted list.

      Keeping paragraphs short is one way to create scan-friendly content. Those paragraphs should be broken up frequently with headings, lists, and images. Designers may also make use of pull-quotes, bolded text, and similar elements.

      3. Animation

      Animation is an effective way to stand out from a sea of websites and grab a user’s attention. It adds an element of fun and can contribute to creating a memorable experience for the user.

      However, there’s a right and a wrong way to go about implementing it.

      Subtle animation can provide feedback while you wait for a transaction to complete. An animation can also loop endlessly while you struggle to focus on reading a product description. These approaches create two very different experiences. The overuse of animation can also affect UX on mobile devices.

      4. Responsiveness

      Optimizing a website for mobile users is a must. If you’re like most people, you usually use your phone to access the internet. If you come across a site that you have to struggle to use on your device, you’re likely to simply abandon it.

      Beyond choosing a responsive theme, you can take additional steps to ensure that your site works well on all screens. For example, you can run your website through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.

      Sample results of Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.

      This tool will alert you to issues that are keeping your site from being mobile-friendly. You may find that a particular font is too difficult to read on a tiny screen, for instance, or that buttons are too small to tap easily.

      How to Use UX to Design a Site for Your Audience

      Now that you know what good UX is, how do you apply it to your site?

      You probably won’t be doing intensive market research or prototyping with high-fidelity wireframes. Still, putting on your UX designer hat can help you create a site that both you and your audience will love.

      First, it’s important to be clear about why you have a website and what you want it to do. For example, are you:

      Next, get to know your ideal user or potential customer. Creating a user persona will help you imagine how your target audience may interact with your website. This persona can be as simple as who the person is, what they want, and what keeps them from getting it. Crucially, you must identify what the user needs to be successful on your site.

      Remember that accessibility is an integral part of UX. You may have visitors who use assistive technology, so consider making accessibility a priority when building your site.

      You can also check out your competitors’ sites to see what’s working for them. Is the shopping cart icon always in the upper-right corner? Maybe yours should be, too. You can be creative without reinventing the wheel; users shouldn’t have to figure out how your site works to accomplish their goals.

      Sample results from Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

      Finally, website performance matters for UX. Slow pages will cause visitors to leave before the site has a chance to load. There are many ways to speed up your site, although your best bet is to start with quality hosting.

      Building a Better User Experience?

      Partner with DreamHost. We’ll make sure your website is fast, secure, and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      UX Resources

      At this point, you’ve likely figured out that UX design isn’t something you optimize in one shot. There’s a lot more to this field than we can cover in one article.

      UX Matters’ home page, which uses an infographic for navigation.

      Fortunately, there are many quality UX resources you can refer to as you continue to improve your website:

      • Awwwards is where you can find inspiration. Grab some coffee; you’ll probably be scrolling for a while.
      • UXmatters covers just about everything related to design. There’s content for everyone — from the seasoned UX strategist, UX researcher, UI designer, or graphic designer to brand-new UX enthusiasts.
      • UX Magazine publishes the latest news, timely insights, and UX research for anyone interested in improving their visitors’ digital experience.
      • Stack Overflow is the place for all your burning questions. It’s an open community of helpful, knowledgeable people.
      • Website and Digital Marketing Help is a Facebook group powered by DreamHost where website owners of all levels can share best practices and ideas.

      If you combine these resources with research and practice, you should find yourself implementing good user experience practices in no time.

      Design a Great User Experience

      You don’t need to be a professional UX designer to build a website your audience will love interacting with. All it takes is some understanding of what will make life easier for your visitors and a willingness to build a site that provides that experience.

      UX describes what the experience of interacting with your website is like for users. Optimizing your site’s UX means ensuring that it has clear navigation, creating content that’s easy to scan, testing it for responsiveness, and more. There’s a lot to learn, but there are also plenty of useful resources and knowledgeable designers who can help.

      After that, you’ll be ready to conquer the internet with your UX-optimized website! You can check some of the performance-related tasks off your list early with our high-quality shared website hosting plans.

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      VIDEO: Skillshot Reaches Its Global Esports Audience with Network Solutions from INAP

      The proliferation of online servers and online streaming paved the way for esports to become a billion-dollar industry, enabling gamers to compete with users from around the world and legions of fans to watch along. Skillshot Media is at the forefront of this global gaming phenomenon, building this fast-growing community by hosting online and offline video game competitions for amateurs and pros alike. To support tournaments, global leagues and live arena events, Skillshot turns to INAP to deliver the exceptional infrastructure performance it requires to prevent game killing latency and lag. Check out the video below to learn why Skillshot is powered by INAP.


      “This competitive gaming phenomenon that used to be limited to your neighborhood arcade or couch is now played globally and watched globally, and that depends on exceptional performance,” said Todd Harris, Skillshot’s CEO. “When you’re playing a game, lag kills. Latency is your enemy. Having a partner that can deliver a product specific to the demanding gaming audience, that’s very important.”

      INAP helps Skillshot to combat latency and meet performance expectations, keeping their audience connected and in the game.

      “Performance can mean a lot of different things,” said INAP Solution Engineer David Heidgerken. “From a network standpoint, performance is low latency, low jitter, low packet loss. From an infrastructure perspective, INAP has servers across the globe so we can be where your users are.”

      “Often people just think of performance as speed, but it can be just making someone’s business better,” added Josh Williams, Vice President of Channel and Solutions Engineering. “As the games have evolved, as the technology has evolved, we’ve evolved with that. We’ve been able to adapt and support our customers in those gaming verticals. The core of our business has been letting the gaming publishers be able to focus on what they need to, and that’s that gaming experience, rather than having to worry about what’s going on on the back end.”

      Laura Vietmeyer


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      Networks and Online Gaming: 3 Ways to Improve Performance and Retain Your Audience

      What makes or breaks the technical success of a new multiplayer video game? Or for that matter, the success of any given online gaming session or match? There are a lot of reasons, to be sure, but success typically boils down to factors outside of the end users’ control. At the top of the list, arguably, is network performance.

      In June, 2018 Fornite experienced a network interruption that caused world-famous streamer, Ninja, to swap mid-stream to Hi-Rez’s Realm Royale. Ninja gave the game rave reviews, resulting in a huge userbase jumping over to play Realm Royale. And just this month, the launch of Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem was darkened by infrastructure issues as the servers couldn’t handle the number of users flocking to the game. While both popular games might not have experienced long-term damage, ongoing issues like these can turn users toward a competitor’s game or drive them away for good.

      Low latency is so vital, that in a 2019 survey, seven in 10 gamers said they will play a laggy game for less than 10 minutes before quitting. And nearly three in 10 say what matters most about an online game is having a seamless gaming experience without lag. What can game publishers do to prevent lag, increase network performance and increase the chances that their users won’t “rage quit”?

      Taking Control of the Network to Avoid Log Offs

      There are a few different ways to answer the question and avoid scenario outlined above, but some solutions are stronger than others.

      Increase Network Presence with Edge Deployments

      One option is to spread nodes across multiple geographical presences to reduce the distance a user must traverse to connect. Latency starts as a physics problem, so the shorter the distance between data centers and users, the lower the latency.

      This approach isn’t always the best answer, however, as everyday there can be both physical and logical network issues just miles apart from a user and a host. Some of these problems can be the difference between tens to thousands of milliseconds across a single carrier.

      Games are also increasingly global. You can put a server in Los Angeles to be close to users on the West Coast, but they’re going to want to play with their friends on the East Coast, or somewhere even further away.

      Connect Through the Same Carriers as the End Users

      Another answer is to purchase connectivity to some of the same networks end users will connect from, such as Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner, Telecom, Verizon, etc.

      A drawback of this option, though, stems from the abolishment of Net Neutrality. Carriers don’t necessarily need to honor best-route methodology anymore, meaning they can prioritize cost efficiency over performance on network configurations. I’ve personally observed traffic going from Miami to Tampa being routed all the way to Houston and back, as show in the images below.

      Network routing
      The traffic on the left follows best-route methodology, while the traffic on the right going from Miami to Tampa is being routed through Houston. This is one consequence of the abolishment of Net Neutrality.

      Purchasing connectivity that gets you directly into the homes of end-users may seem like the best method to reduce latency, but bottlenecks or indirect routing inside these large carriers’ networks can cause issues. A major metro market in the United States can also have three to four incumbent consumer carriers providing residential services to gamers, necessitating and IP blend to effectively reach end users. However, startups or gaming companies don’t want to build their own blended IP solution in every market they want to build out in.

      Choose a Host with a Blended Carrier Agreement

      The best possible solution to the initial scenario is to host with a carrier that has a blended carrier agreement, with a network route optimization technology to algorithmically traverse all of those carriers.

      Take for example, INAP’s Performance IP® solution. This technology makes a daily average of nearly 500 million optimizations across INAP’s global network to automatically put a customer’s outbound traffic on the best-performing route. This type of technology reduces latency upwards of 44 percent and prevents packet loss, preventing users from experiencing the lag that can change the fate of a game’s commercial success. You can explore our IP solution by running your own performance test.

      Taking Control When Uncontrollable Factors are at Play

      There will be times that game play is affected by end user hardware. It makes a difference, and it always will, but unfortunately publishers can’t control the type of access their users have to the internet. In some regions of the world, high speed internet is just a dream, while in others it would be unfathomable to go without high-speed internet access.

      Inline end user networking equipment can also play a role in network behavior. Modems, switches, routers and carrier equipment can cause poor performance. Connectivity being switched through an entire neighborhood, throughput issues during peak neighborhood activities, satellite dishes angled in an unoptimized position limiting throughput—there’s a myriad of reasons that user experience can be impacted.

      With these scenarios, end users often understand what they are working with and make mental allowances to cope with any limitations. Or they’ll upgrade their internet service and gaming hardware accordingly.

      The impact of network performance on streaming services and game play can’t be underscored enough. Most end users will make the corrections they can in order to optimize game play and connectivity. The rest is up to the publisher.

      Explore INAP’s Global Network.


      Dan Lotterman


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