How does one go about creating a website that has the best user experience?
Most of us understand the value of good UX (user experience), but what are the key elements / steps to consider to creating GREAT user experience that keep them coming back?
This is a great question. UX has gotten much more visible and I'm very grateful that it has. There are many elements that aren't given time because they aren't immediately obvious when reviewing a site or application.
A good workflow is the number one thing I try to understand, absorb and resolve. The first problem is that many people want solutions without taking the time to find the true root cause of the user's frustration. Updating the branding (aesthetics) can help, but if it doesn't address workflow and tasks, the benefit will be short-lived.
I like to use hand sketches or simple box drawings to have a user walk me through their actual task. If what I've created doesn't match their expectations, I need to get a better understanding of what they are trying to accomplish. I also need to know why they are trying to do it that way (to see if it is a valid task or a work around they've figured out). Then I will take their feedback and make adjustments.
Large issues can start from small things such as button names that are misleading or confusing (or even the order of the buttons). It could just be that information isn't grouped logically on the page as expected. Once you get a workflow ironed out, the layout, graphics and visual interaction (animation or feedback) can be addressed.
This is key to understanding, a bad design or interface will be lampooned and complained about endlessly. It isn't often that a great design is praised (usually not hearing complaints means you are doing well).
You can look at things like how much negative feedback were you getting verses how much you receive currently. You can also look at things like click through rates and other metrics to make some choices. Asking users will always get you some feedback (both usable and unusable).
You can also A/B test small things on a page such as button colors or names, graphics vs. photos or more imagery vs. text heavy. Watching how users respond to those things can give you a lot more insight. If you can test with users on sight, do it. Watching them will not always line up with their feedback. They may say something was easy (but you could see them struggle with it for minutes).
Involving your users will engage them more. Users like to see that their feedback is being considered or applied. Why not share updates with the users in an email blast or on a company blog? Transparency is always appreciated. When users know you are trying to make their experience better they will stay. Great customer service will always keep customers happy.
In fact in summary, my acronym for good usability, design or anything is: S.E.E. - Service Exceeding Expectations.
Thanks for asking.
I suggest you take read of "Hooked" by Nir Eyal - while the subject is broader that websites, it gives very useful insight into how you create a product/service where people keep coming back for more.
If you're interested, I wrote a quick review of the book. https://www.briandorricott.com.au/have-you-been-hooked/