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Enhancing User Experience with JavaScript

User Experience is about the feelings and responses a user gets or anticipates from interaction with a product, system, or service. This includes emotions, perceptions, behaviors, physical and psychological responses, and more. It is no longer effective to simply present the information to the user; they need to be engaged and intrigued yet feel comfortable and confident while having a simple and efficient experience with your website, product or service.

So why is this important to you and your company? Well, your users are your customers or potential customers and if you are not thinking of them, you are probably failing them. Think about it; if your website is static and dull, what perception does that offer your user? If your product is hard to manage and navigate, how do you think that will affect their emotions? Do you think it is unrealistic that a user would choose your competitor's service because they offer a more engaging and personal experience than you do?

There are many aspects that affect User Experience such as content, navigation, interactivity, colors, web forms and more. In this post, I will touch on how JavaScript can be used to improve user interaction and promote positive emotions and perceptions and how that can benefit you and your company and set you apart from the competition.


Content is King

No matter what you do to your website or service, if you don’t have quality content, you are just wasting your user’s time and doing your company a great injustice. However, just having quality content is not enough either, you must present it in an effective and simple manner so that users can find and absorb the information without having to spend the whole day looking for it.

A common and effective solution in this area is to use some type of dynamic area where content is displayed and hidden either automatically or by user interaction or even better yet, both. Two familiar solutions for this are one, a scrolling or rotating content area and two, a tabbed content area. This provides a more user friendly method of displaying large amounts of content without overwhelming the user. An added benefit is greater user control and an enhanced user experience that comes from animation and interaction employed through JavaScript.

View an example of a content slider

Another effective Javascript solution for content is the use of modal windows. Many of us can probably remember the excessive use of pop-up windows for advertisements in the not so distant past. Well, modal windows offer similar functionality with a much cleaner and streamlined experience without the intrusive and uncontrollable nature. Typically you wouldn’t use a modal window to display an advertisement but rather to display a simple web form, enlarged photo or any other type of meaningful content.

Using a modal loads the content in a window that actually lives within the same page meaning a user does not have to be directed to another page and then click the back button to get back to where they were. Having simplistic and efficient solutions like this means the user is getting what they want in the shortest and easiest possible way which typically keeps most people happy.

View an example of a modal window


Navigating with JavaScript

Navigation and links to other pages are very important elements to every website. Not only are they used to connect all the pages of your site but also to create call-to-actions and entice your users to follow the path you would like them to follow. Most links will be easily distinguishable by having some type of color or font formatting that sets them apart from the rest of the text and in the case of navigation, located in a familiar area such as the header or sidebar of the web page.

Good designers typically provide for some type of user feedback when the cursor hovers over a navigation link, but most effects like underlining or bolding text have become common place and sometimes get overlooked. Animation effects like fades, scaling, and sliding can be incorporated using JavaScript to create a more engaging user experience by providing a more interactive feeling. Small changes to navigation with creative JavaScript animations enhance the browsing experience and can make users feel more connected to your organization simply through that experience.

View an example of a button with JavaScript effects


We Need Feedback

Ever clicked a link and nothing happened? So you click it again and nothing happens — again. If you are like many web users, you may think that the link is not working and navigate to another page or even another website. In many cases, there actually is something happening after you clicked that link — only you have no indication. Meanwhile, the server is working to process your request, then you click the link and start the request over again. Unfortunately, this is an all too common problem that results in lost business and leaves bad impressions.

In a lot of cases, this can easily mean lost customers and potential revenue. A simple solution would be to use Javascript and dynamically show the user some type of indicator that something is happening when they click the link. This can be accomplished using text with an animated icon that indicates something is loading. By implementing this simple solution you keep the user informed and confident that their request is being processed thus significantly reducing the risk of them leaving the site and you losing their business.


“Information's pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience.” - Clarence Day

These are just a few of the many ways that JavaScript can be utilized to enhance the user experience of your website.

Today, it’s not enough to provide just the bare minimum. Negative experiences are communicated quicker than ever before with the rise in use of Facebook and Twitter. And while it’s just as easy to quickly react to negative posts, the best approach is to be proactive. Providing a good user experience starts with designing interfaces based on your target audience and then updating the experience by requesting feedback from users. It’s difficult for most of us to disconnect enough from our organization to critically examine the user experience we are providing.
 
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Author

Michael T. Whalen, Director of Solution Delivery
Michael T. Whalen

Director of Solution Delivery

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