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Visual design, UX and how they shape your website

10.01.2014 | By: Texas Wesleyan University
Learn about how to make a great website with UX and visual design.

Websites are a necessity when it comes to prospective students interacting with your university. When you have a great website, the number of prospects you attract naturally increases, as does the percentage of students who complete the tasks that push them toward the ultimate goal: enrollment.

Because of that, having a high conversion rate (or percentage of users who complete a desired action) is essential. Why? Because it quantifies the value of your website.

So how do you create a great website that contributes to an increased conversion rate? Engaging content is a must, but visual design also plays a major role.

What is visual design?

Visual design is using different colors, fonts and other elements to create a functional page structure for displaying content and improving a user’s browsing process. Most importantly, it provides users with visible clues and encourages them to take actions associated with the related content.

A good website balances great content and great design in perfect harmony. This combination ultimately shapes user experience (UX), which is critical to keeping your users interested in your website.

What is UX?

UX can be defined as designing your website to meet the exact needs of the user, eliminating the frustration and confusion that often come along with browsing websites.

Researching UX helps us find what users really want so we can design the website to meet their needs. Sometimes, UX research can offer a solution even before users realize what they really want.

UX in action

When designing the new university homepage, we collected data from user heatmaps and flow charts to see how they were browsing the site. We also interviewed students to make sure we understood their needs, even if the functions they wanted didn't currently exist on the homepage.

With content strategy also in mind, we rearranged the structure of the conversion sections to make them more visible and make their corresponding call-to-action buttons more prominent based on data from studying user eye tracking.

For current students, we created a quick-link bar that always stays on the bottom of the screen (not just page) so students can easily access the links they use most.

Only when we understand the importance of UX can we can create content and visual elements based on what users need and achieve value and efficiency throughout the entire website.

Erica Zhang is the Web/UX designer for Texas Wesleyan. She has an MFA from the University of Michigan and can be reached at zzhang@txwes.edu.

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