One essential quality of any successful website is the user experience. Now, ‘user experience’ as a term is pretty blended nowadays, frequently thrown into the mix when discussing things like ‘user journey’ and ‘user interface’, but it basically boils down to this: there is a website user, and that user has an experience. Simple.
Now that we’ve got the semantics out of the way, let’s dive into what it is exactly that makes for a good website user experience. This is where things aren’t so straightforward, however, as experiences are typically subjective, based on a person’s preferences and perceptions.
You, for example, may prefer to take your time browsing a website, deliberately picking your way through the various bells and whistles on offer. In contrast, others will prefer a more streamlined approach, one that favours succinctness and efficiency.
With this in mind, there will never be such a thing as a website with universal appeal and usability. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t such a thing as objectively good principles when it comes to user experience (UX). These principles cover many different things, from the way a website looks and feels to the way it communicates purpose and meaning. The difference is knowing when and how best to implement these principles, something which is going to depend largely on your brand, your marketing objectives and your target audience.
To show you precisely what we mean, we’ve gathered a few of our favourite website examples demonstrating particularly impressive UX in a variety of different ways.
Based in Amsterdam, ETQ specialises in footwear that is both minimalist in design and their manufacture. What’s really impressive is how this entire philosophy has been carried over to their website, both aesthetically and in terms of functionality, particularly the shop section, all of which seem to favour simplicity above anything else.
Everything has been stripped-down, much like the products themselves, utilising simple, flat colour-based backgrounds accompanied by clean typography and big, compelling visuals. Not only does this perfectly capture the ethos of the brand, establishing identity through design, it also makes sense from a commercial perspective by keeping the focus on exactly what the user came here to see: shoes.
Independent game studio Santo Campo launched their seminal release all the way back in 2016 on PC and home consoles. Firewatch was a slow, almost meditative story-based game that stood out from the big-budget blockbusters of the day because of its arresting art style and atmospheric tone.
To help promote the title, the studio also launched a standalone website — more of a webpage really — that perfectly captured the game’s look and feel through its effective use of artwork and simple visual effects. It’s not the most technically ambitious website on the list, but it’s definitely one of the best at creating an experience indicative of the product the website is promoting.
Species in Pieces is an excellent example of how a message, purpose or movement is sometimes best communicated via web-based experiences. More an ‘interactive exhibition’ than anything else, the website isn’t promoting anything commercial but instead raising awareness of the struggles of some of the planet’s little-known endangered species.
Getting people to engage with ideas like climate change and conservation isn’t always easy. These subjects aren’t immediately attention-grabbing and can often feel far removed from many types of audiences. Species in Pieces, however, works around this by combining learning with interactivity, giving users a gratifying and compelling experience as they effectively ‘play’ with the beautiful low-poly artwork and discover more about these animals, their global numbers and environmental perils they face.
Education of the Future is another experiential website, not used for promoting a product or brand but rather a vision — a look into how advancements in tomorrow’s technology might forever change the way education is delivered to future generations.
The site was developed for the University of South Denmark, and as you can imagine, the interface is fittingly abstract for something so high-concept in subject matter. There is no traditional navigation to speak of, with users instead asked to navigate information points via a floating droid in a three-dimensional isometric space. Yes, you read that correctly.
Kopke uses elements from the two previous examples and applies them to market something a little more traditional — and we mean that in every sense of the word. As the oldest port wine house in existence, Kopke’s website is more concerned with telling that particular story than anything else. And it does so in a very considered and deliberate way.
The website is built around exploration and interactivity, wanting you to take your time as you uncover its many details about the company — its history and heritage — just as they’ve taken their time to hone such a carefully perfected craft. It doesn’t rush you to purchase anything because they understand that an appreciation for the esoteric art of winemaking is a fundamental part of the experience.
And finally, on the other end of the scale, we have Amazon. As the world’s largest eCommerce site, home to hundreds of thousands of different product types and various brands, selling everything from electronics to, well, just about anything, it doesn’t need to tell a story. That’s because people don’t buy from Amazon because it’s Amazon, they buy from Amazon because it’s convenient.. and simple… and quick.
So what is it about Amazon’s UX that’s so good? Well, it plays to those exact same user expectations mentioned above. It’s 1) Convenient — grouping products and other relevant products into highly visible categories. It’s also 2) Quick — providing users with the ability to manually search for a product without having to navigate the entire site. And most importantly, it’s 3) Simple — the whole user journey is mapped out to make finding, browsing and purchasing items as smooth and painless as possible. It’s very unlikely that you’re NOT going to find what you’re for looking immediately and with any confusion as to how to complete the order.
So there you have it, six website examples that demonstrate good UX practices in very different ways. But if there’s one thing that unifies these websites, it’s how they implement these practices, playing to the strengths of their brand, their purpose and the expectations of their target audiences.
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