Is User Experience an ‘added extra’?

I remember a boss of mind telling me, “I know you’re in to the whole UX Design thing, but it’s just not what we do as company, we aren’t geared up for it”.

If you are any kind of web development-aware person, you are probably think, really? Hard to believe, that in this day and age, people believe UX Design is some kind of luxury, some sort of add on, like DAB Radio for a car. That success can be achieved without this new fancy fad.

Ah well that depends on your idea of success, doesn’t it? Bashing out a good looking site in as quick a time as possible is many peoples goals. sadly these people are misguided. You see the web has matured, as has it’s users. We are no longer a generation that is sucked in by cheap promises and sites which drama s much info as possible in front of the user.

A generation has grown up learning how to block off certain signals on websites and applications. They know the setup of the average site and use these common factors to navigate their way across the web. Old, cheap tricks no longer have an effect. The biggest indicator of this is how SEO has been forced to grow up and get smarter but the all knowing Google. Having switched on to the fact SEO specialists were finding holes in the search algorithm and exploiting them for search rankings, Google have stepped up its intelligence in finding and indexing pages with correct practice. Including proper syntax, context and content. The ‘field of dreams’ idea is over (if you build it they will come… You haven’t seen Field of Dreams? Loser).

Well… Not entirely, it would read something more like, if you build it intelligently, they will come. What I mean is, once upon a time, you would build a site and then consider SEO and usability as separate areas. Today they have to be seen as one and be thought of from the word go.

For instance, Google is now paying attention to how long a user is spending on your site. A well structured site, that is easy to use = attention and retention. A site that makes no sense and doesn’t have any targets or aims will fall flat.

User experience is in fact at the very heart of a Website.

Research the user, understand their needs, set some goals, set information priority and set a pathway that achieves this in the most painless way as possible. Better to have an aesthetically challenged site that was easy for the user to use then a good looking site that doesn’t hit its aims and objectives.

And you see thats normally where I find Designers and Web guys that care about UX differ. A designer thinks a good looking site is what matters, when in reality it goes:
1) Content
2) User Experience
3) Aesthetics

Design is last on the list! How a user interacts with your site is most important. I’ve lost count of the times a designer has wanted to add something to my wireframe because he “saw it on another site and it looks cool”.

For a website, user experience is everything. With the user a site useless. It is core to every site.