In my opinion, the holy grail of UX work is to design an intuitive, friction-free experience for the user. 
 
Our job, as designers, is to make it as easy as possible for someone to achieve their goals, and to do this, we must remove any roadblocks that stand in the way.
 
It’s easy to believe that beautiful graphics and fast loading times are all you need to create the optimal user experience, but they’re just not enough. 
 
Sure an attractive layout might catch the user’s eye initially, but functionality and content is what will keep them occupied on the site for longer periods of time.
 
In fact, the simpler and more intuitive a site design is, the higher the rate of user interaction and engagement.
 
Take Reddit for example. Their formula for success includes an ultra-basic layout, but highly interactive and engaging content encourages visitors to check in often, and even better, to scroll endlessly.
 
In addition to engrossing content, usability is also key. 
 
It’s a designer’s job to ensure the user experience is a smooth one, taking into account how the site functions, utilizing optimal page elements and action flows to guide users seamlessly from one page to the next. 
 
Here I’ll outline a few key UX design techniques that can be used to optimize engagement and ensure a satisfying user experience. 
 
Caveat: It’s important to understand the concepts of how and why these strategies work. Don’t just apply them blindly and hope for the best. Try to do an accurate assessment of your site’s needs and user goals before implementing any of the techniques below.
 
Let’s get started.

 

Highlight key elements with contrast

 
In any site, there are certain actions you want your user to take.  
 
Sometimes, it’s to click a button or fill out a form. Sometimes, it’s to spend hours engaged in an article or motivate them to share what you’ve curated. 
 
For example, if your end goal for user engagement is to obtain an email address or social media follow, those fields or buttons must stand out in contrast to other types of content on the site. 
 
Whatever the goal, there is a cognitive process that you can use to help you. As humans, we process visual data in patterns, so highlighting key user tasks by color, size, font or whitespace is proven to draw attention and make them appear more important in comparison to other aspects of the page. 
 
Use bright, bold or animated icons to encourage task completion of the desired actions you are after.

 

Be intentional with UI/UX Animation 

 
Animation is a great tool designers can use to imply certain behaviors, and in fact, it should be implemented as an instructional guide of sorts for the user.  
 
But it must be subtle when used with interfaces.
 
For example, an animated shake of an error message is a great way to get a user’s attention, or make buttons pop-up when hovered over to show they are clickable. 
 
Animation can make a browsing experience more enjoyable, and the more we enjoy something, the more likely we are to stick around. That results in higher engagement, which is your ultimate goal
 
Remember, animation should support visitors as they navigate the site.
 
So, by all means, use them wisely, and tastefully, to delight and compel your audience to stay and explore what you have created.
 

Responsive design required 

 
In our always on’ society, mobile phones provide the instant access we crave with the world around us.
 
Links shared on social media are clicked on immediately, and not always revisited later on a laptop, because by then, they’ve moved on to something else.
 
So, I’ll be blunt. If your site is not mobile-first (or at least mobile responsive), go back to the drawing board and get your sh*t together.
 
Create a mobile-first design process, then embrace context-dependent design at every step of the ideation process. 
 
Your users want what they want, when they want it, and if you’re not able to deliver it to them in the medium they desire, you’ve already lost. 
 

Simplified interaction

 
The goal of design is to solve problems. 
 
When users come to your site, they are looking for a solution, right now. 
 
That sense of user urgency is why it’s incredibly important to make the experience as intuitive and effortless as possible. You want to make it as seamless as you can for them to complete their tasks, and to do that there are several tools you have on offer. 
 
Use UX flowcharts to map out user flows, user personas to discover needs,  wireframes to make out site hierarchies. 
 
Keep in mind it’s your job to do the work, so your user doesn’t have to. 
 
If it’s too clunky, they’ll move on, fast. 
 
Building UX flowcharts for all interactive page elements is a great practice for helping you visualize how your site should look and function. 
 
Everything about your site, from use, to purpose to function should be obvious. Users should be able to identify and complete desired actions easily, and quickly. 
 
The key takeaway here is design is about solving problems: the easier you make it for your users to find their solutions on your site, the better your designs will perform. 
 
There are no hard or fast rules in what constitutes good design, but if in doubt, study experiences you love. Spend time checking out sites that seem effortlessly built. 
 
And if in doubt? Keep It Simple (Stupid)