Lauren Kaye

Content marketing and SEO are becoming standard practice for businesses and webmasters that finally understand they need to improve user interface to create better user experiences. This comes as great relief for talented web developers and coders who want to make the internet a more intuitive and innovative place because their work revolves around making the right content accessible at the right moments.

Where UX optimization evolutions are still slow moving, skilled designers are taking action. A team of students in an intensive web development program at Hack Reactor recently took it upon themselves to create the Reddit Insight tool, a platform that brings new context to the social sharing site.

Brafton recently caught up with the Reddit Insights team – Elle Beal, Alex Gaputin, Patrick Stapleton, Kevin Smith and Bill Shelton – to find out what inspired their project, which took the internet marketing world by storm.

The team admits the response they got was pretty phenomenal, “Once marketing teams picked it up, it went way beyond that what we expected,” Elle Beal said in a recent phone call.

Just a week after the tool had been released, there were more than 100,000 unique visitors, and Reddit Insight was ranking in the top 60,000 domains for overall internet traffic on Monday, June 22, 2013.

Q: Can you give an overview of the Reddit Insight tool and why you felt it was important?
The Reddit Insight tool tacks karma from Reddit posts.

A: We picked Reddit to build out an analytics suite and to showcase our web development skills. Reddit was an untapped resource. There were so many users, but so far no way to track post-performance, karma, etc.

We saw an opportunity for extension with Reddit. It seemed like there could be additional features that would give marketers more data to track. Users could have better graphs and share data. We are potentially thinking about creating a commerce edition. Reddit is this black box that you put your posts on, but you never see what happens. There was no The new Reddit Insight tool provides more context to Reddit users. way to see a post’s performance over a period of time, and now users can.

Q: How did the tool evolve over time to improve UX?

A: The first iteration had a presentation style homepage. It was basically an animated infographic. When we released it live on Reddit, the design was breaking on mobile. Visitors couldn’t open the page or use the program. We received a lot of complaints and took it back to the drawing board. We built the homepage in a day. Now, it has responsive design and calls to action. After implementing these features, we pushed it out again, and that’s when it started taking off online.

The UI tweaks were responsible for most of the new traffic. Then, it was mobile ready. The calls to action improved how long people stayed on the site. In fact, the average time on site tripled once we changed the navigation on the home page.

Q: What elements of UX do you think are most important?

A: Navigation is the most important because that’s how people get around – and of course the content is crucial – you need to make sure those elements are where users expect them to be.

Take the new Google Maps, for example. The user interface was transformed, and now the function for changing transit time isn’t where you expect it to be. This was a drastic change. If you make an alteration, you can’t make something that crazy and completely different.

It’s also important to remember that UX design and innovation are head to head, not hand in hand. You can innovate, or do what users expect. You have to strike a balance between the two.

Q: From your perspective, how important is content to UX?

“Without the proper UX, people don’t get to the content on pages … But without content, it won’t matter if a site has a great design.”

A: Content is extremely important. When we initially released the site, 20 percent of traffic was from mobile devices. But the mobile landing page was broken. On the second release, we added stronger calls to action and showcased our content, which added value to the website. People would then view the content and realize the tool is really valuable.

This showed that these two do go hand in hand. Without the proper UX, people don’t get to the content on pages because they won’t be able to find it. But without content, it won’t matter if a site has a great design.

Q: For any brand managing content marketing with a budget for design/ coding, what is the No.1 piece of advice you have to help them optimize their website experience for visitors?

A: If they already have basics UI connections down, it’s important to include additional features that show it’s built by humans and that it’s not a generic website. Think about functions that prove you’re not selling and encourage user retention. With a great experience, people will come back and use the site over and over again.

Q: What do you see as the future direction of web design/coding?

A: People realize that design and UX are extremely important. There is now huge demand for UX and UI. People realize these practices must work together.

This realization is also hitting SEOs and marketers as Google and other search engines prioritize pages with great UX. Search engine result page domination doesn’t just depend on a company’s use of SEO practices, it requires excellent site design and valuable web content.