February 14, 2024
3 UX Tricks to Make Your Dog Training Website More Effective

dog high fiving a person; blog post on UX tricks

Learning UX tricks might sound like something just for web developers… but they can help dog trainers make better decisions for their websites!

Ok. Confession time. In this article I’m playing fast and loose with the definition of UX (user experience), as I’m lumping it in with UI (user interface). If you don’t have the foggiest clue what I’m wittering on about, here’s a tidy definition of both UI and UX to get you started.

In digital design, user interface (UI) refers to the interactivity, look, and feel of a product screen or web page, while user experience (UX) covers a user’s overall experience with the product or website.” (Figma.com)

UX refers to how easy, intuitive, or clunky a website is to use. The UI is the way the page is laid out, the colors and fonts, and the design of the interactive elements (buttons, menus, etc.). UI is a subset of UX because how the interface looks changes the experience the user has.

The “UX tricks” I’m going to share straddle both UX and UI, so I’ve taken the liberty of mashing them together to keep things simple.

Why UX matters

So, as dog trainers, why do we care about UX (and therefore UI)? Because understanding the basics of UX can be the difference between your website being an effective shopfront for your business or a total sales flop.

Before going any further, the very first thing I want to suggest is this:

Don’t try to reinvent the website wheel. Your visitor has seen plenty of websites in their time. To make their visit to yours a positive, easy one, it makes sense to stick to the accepted web conventions for service-based businesses.

You want your visitor to feel comfortable, therefore the layout needs to be familiar and obvious. If it’s not, you’ll lose credibility and have your visitor hitting that exit button faster than a whippet after a lure.

So with that in mind, the first UX trick is about how you move a visitor through your website…

Hick’s Law

The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.”

Or more simply put: The more choices we’re faced with, the longer (and harder) the decision process is. Hick’s Law suggests keeping choices relatively simple to keep your web user moving smoothly towards their goals. Avoid information overload at all costs.

Hick’s Law is all around us

A real-life example of applying Hick’s Law well might be your experience of visiting a large department store.

Imagine you’re going clothes shopping so you head to the biggest department store you can think of. What’s usually the first thing you see?

The first thing you’ll probably notice are signs (or a map) directing you to the main product categories:

  • Clothing and shoes – first floor
  • Pets and outdoors – second floor
  • Homewares and electronics – third floor

You stay on the ground floor as you’re looking for summer gear.

  • Shoes – to your left
  • Clothing – to your right

You’re looking for clothes, so off to the right you go. Once you get to the clothing department, you find more signs, narrowing down your search:

  • Men’s clothing – to your left
  • Ladies’ clothing – to your right
  • Children’s clothing – straight ahead.

You make your way to the appropriate section. There you find yet more signage:

  • Underwear
  • Formal wear
  • Sports and casual wear

Can you see how overwhelming it would be to have all that information thrown at you as you walked in the main entrance to the store? You’d be forgiven if you just stood stock still for a minute or two, trying to process it all, then turned on your heel and ran for the nearest coffee shop.

That’s exactly what we don’t want to happen to our website visitors

Using Hick’s Law to your advantage

Instead of dumping ALL the information on your home page, try to be specific about the action you want your website visitors to take next.

What is the MAIN goal of your website? Do you want visitors to:

  • Get in touch via your contact form?
  • Sign up for a class?
  • Sign up for your email list?

Make the path to your main goal the obvious choice.

Let’s say you offer both in-home private training and group classes at your facilities. You may want to offer only two buttons high up the page: “In-home training” and “group classes.”

Clicking a button takes you to a page that gives more details about EITHER in-home training OR group classes. From those pages you can direct your visitor to either the contact page or your class sign up page, as appropriate.

Summary

Plan out what you want visitors to do and how you want them to move through your site.

Implement Hick’s Law using these concepts:

  • Minimize choices so people don’t freeze because of analysis paralysis.
  • Break complex tasks into smaller steps to make it easier to move through the process.
  • Make the preferred choice very obvious with a clear design to help reduce overwhelm.
  • Caveat: It’s possible to oversimplify something to the point it no longer makes sense. Use concrete language and clear ideas to avoid this problem.

Your website should clearly guide your visitors and keep information overload to a minimum — don’t provide more information than is needed at any given step of your web user’s journey.

Next we’re going to look at how memory quirks influence how you design your site and write your copy.

Serial-position effect

Have you ever found yourself at the grocery store, only to discover your shopping list is still sitting on the kitchen table at home? You try to remember what you’d written and get the shopping done anyway…

Afterwards, if you compared what was in your bags to what was on your list, you might have notice something interesting: you remembered a few of the first items and maybe a few of the last ones (if you wrote the list just before you left the house!), but struggled to recall much from the middle.

This well-known phenomenon is called the serial-position effect, discovered by Hermann Ebbinghaus, a pioneer in the psychology of memory. The effect is two-part: items at the beginning of a list are better recalled than subsequent items and items at the end of a list are better recalled than previous items. Basically, we forget the in-between items.

Using the serial-position effect to your advantage

If you want your visitor to have a smooth user experience on your site, it makes sense to place items you want them to remember at the beginning (or end) of lists.

In your navigation, place the links to the home-page to the far left and the contact link to the far right of the sequence. Not only does this make them easier to remember, but it also follows the conventions used by most other service-based websites.

SPE and sales copy

Serial-position effects also relate to the feelings and emotions someone experiences while reading your copy or lists. If they initially feel positive while reading your sales blurb, that emotion is more likely to carry over and cause them to remember your product or service favorably.

If you have less positive information to share (e.g. limitations, caveats, or exclusions) put those in the middle of your copy where they’ll cause the least emotional fallout.

Finish up with any special offers, discounts or reiterations of the biggest benefits so your reader is left feeling positive again.

And now for our last UX effect, the important “is it beautiful AND functional?” issue…

Aesthetic-Usability Effect

The world is inherently unfair. You’re probably well aware of the Halo effect: that attractive people are judged more favorably on many dimensions than their less attractive counterparts. But did you know the same principle applies to inanimate objects and even websites?

Yep. It’s true.

An aesthetically pleasing design creates a positive response in your visitors’ brains and leads them to believe the site actually works better.”

It’s been shown that a visually appealing design will make your site appear efficient, organized, and professional. This is an emotional response, not a cognitive one!

Why? Just as attractive people are judged more favorably without evidence to back up those assumptions, web users are more tolerant of minor usability issues when the design of a website is pleasing to the eye.

That’s why it makes sense to have a visually pleasing website. People prefer to interact with things (including websites) that bring pleasure or delight. Looking at beautiful pictures and color schemes definitely checks that box.

A user might struggle to achieve a goal but still say they found the site great to use. This is due to their enjoyment of the visuals overriding the problems they experienced. And any positive feelings towards you and your business are a good thing!

Just be sure to be aware of this effect when doing usability testing. Having a beautiful website can hide minor usability problems and make discovering those issues tough.

Time to check your site

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the home page an information dumping ground? Or does your site thoughtfully lead users where they need to go?
  • Are the menu items and copy presented in a logical order that takes into account the way memory works?
  • Is it beautiful AND functional? (Remember to get non-dog trainer friends to test it for you.)

If you can say “YES!” to all three, you have a website that’s set up to get your clients where you want them to go. Well done!

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