Having an online business presence is imperative, but just having a website is not enough – your website must deliver everything users are looking for when they visit it (or they will just leave the site). It is essential that your website design and content provides the user with a great website User Experience (UX).
What is User Experience?
User Experience is the term used to explain users’ interaction with any product or service, which will result in the individual feeling either positive or negative toward it. This encompasses all aspects of the usage of the product or service – which for the purpose of this article is your business’ website.
The User Experience includes both usage and perception; the ease of use and efficiency of the website, as well as the way it looks and makes the user feel. Initial negative perception of a website can sometimes be altered should the user go on to experience it fully and find it positive – but realistically, most users won’t continue on a site they don’t think is of use to them and will click away without spending any time navigating it.
The term User Experience is often interchanged with Usability, but this is not correct. Usability refers to the technical concerns of a website – the efficiency, speed and ease of it – and while this does form part of the overall User Experience, it is not the entirety of it.
What Makes a Good UX?
A good website User Experience delivers exactly what the user wants, when they want it and how they want it. This means that the design of the website should be intuitive and uncomplicated. The website should load quickly (incredibly important), include all of the content a user expects it to contain, and be easy to navigate and understand.
For a website’s User Experience to be positive, the basics need to be in place. Surpassing expectations and including aspects to really delight the user can be applied after the foundations are laid and the site works exactly the way it should.
If you’re really looking to ensure that you deliver a great website User Experience to your audience every time that they visit your site, you may wish to consider hiring a specialist User Experience Designer. These professionals are able to predict a user’s interactions and journey through your website, and tailor its design for maximum UX satisfaction.
Why a Website User Experience is Important
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to wait ages for a website to load, and then not being able to find what you’re looking for, and (crucially) the website not being optimised for mobile. Users will quickly leave the site and head somewhere else. Chances are that what they’re looking for can be found elsewhere … on your competitor’s site instead.
Aside from being a driver away from your online presence, a poor website User Experience can give the perception of unprofessionalism, negate the call to action from your marketing, result in a loss of competitive advantage, and essentially result in loss of sales.
Basic UX Aspects to Easily Introduce to your Website
There’s are basics that can be applied simply to your website for immediate UX improvement:
- Removing any large images or files that are slowing loading time
- Ensuring the ‘look and feel’ of your website is consistent to your brand aesthetics
- Sense-check all copy for any typos or errors
- Click through all links (both internal and external) on the site and make sure they all work
- Check the formatting of your site works on mobile browsers
- Install an analytics software program into your website’s coding to track user journeys through your site
- Ask your audience! Check in with a few people to see what they’d expect to find on your business website, and what they would change
Fixing the foundations of the site can have an immediate positive impact but this is not to say that it will be enough to gain continued competitive advantage or provide a fantastic User Experience every time. It is always recommended that a specialist website User Experience designer and developer are involved in order to ensure that all aspects are covered.
Centering Humans with User Experience
While developers work to improve UX across websites, it is worth noting that this is not always simply a technical concern. As a User Experience encompasses the entire user journey, considerations must be made to more than just code.
User Experience designers and developers come from a variety of professional backgrounds and their work is multidisciplinary, including programming, visual design, interaction design, accessibility and psychology. Those working in website User Experience must centre human behaviour in their provision, with everything down to how most people would scan a page for text to how big the text needs to be for ease of reading to be considered.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing describe the key to great marketing as “putting the customer at the heart of everything you do”, and providing a great, human-centred User Experience is one such way to do exactly that.
How Does UX Impact SEO?
If a search engine directs a user to a site and they find it doesn’t answer their query, that’s unsatisfactory – but not necessarily as frustrating as being directed to a site and finding it doesn’t work, it’s not secure or that it does contain the information required but that it’s too difficult to navigate to find it.
As a result, updates to the Google algorithm over the last few years have included a spotlight on usability. This includes, but is by no means limited to:
- The time it takes for a page to load – the quicker the better, including across mobile devices where many businesses miss the mark
- The time it takes for images or other content on a page to load – again, the quicker the better
- The navigation of the site – is it easy to find your way around? Do internal links work?
- Accessibility considerations – can the site be easily navigated with a screen reader? Can disability-friendly software be easily integrated into it?
- A detailed sitemap setting out all of the content on the site
- Mobile responsiveness – does the site format correctly on a mobile device or tablet?
Google judges these through various tests, but also through user’s genuine behaviour on the site. Statistics found in Google Analytics such as the amount of time spent on a website, bounce rate and click-through rates all indicate the level of User Experience being presented to those visiting the site.
Businesses can (and definitely should!) monitor their own Google Analytics to gain an understanding of traffic, conversion and other performance, but also to understand where areas of their website may fall short of expectation and to identify where there may be room for improvement or change.
A site that provides a good website User Experience will always be ranked above one that doesn’t – even if the content is not as relevant or as high-quality. As a result, it’s imperative that brands look to combine a fantastic User Experience with appropriate content to demonstrate relevancy and quality backlinks, mentions and references to prove authenticity and authority. Together, this will benefit the business with high organic search ranking and heightened exposure.
Why is Mobile Responsiveness so Misunderstood?
Websites format differently depending on the device on which they’re being viewed and now, of course, there’s more choice for consumers in devices than ever. Where traditionally, websites were formatted to present best on a desktop PC internet browser, today over 60% of all search traffic happens from a smartphone; and that’s before you consider the differing sizes of laptops, notebook computers, tablets, smart watches and even devices such as Google Lens.
Despite smaller and mobile devices having been around for several years now, there’s a definite lack of businesses keeping up by ensuring that their content displays properly. This results in a poor User Experience on some devices; and with Google’s update around accessibility, means that they’re more likely to be ranked down on SERPs.
The coding behind a site now can be made mobile responsive fairly easily but for more complex websites or content, it may require a specialist developer behind-the-scenes. This is always worth investing in as, SEO aside, a poor User Experience presented on any device can be devastating to conversion rates and customer experience and so should always be a high priority.
If you’re unsure of how mobile responsive your brand’s website is, a simple test may suffice to give basic results. Loading the site on several different devices with varying screen sizes, connections and browsers can help identify any immediate issues and give an indication of the differing User Experiences across them. However, these tests are only an indication – there may be more that can be tackled or improved and so ideally a specialist should be hired for more in-depth testing. It is no longer enough for a website just to be well-presented for those on a full-size internet browser.
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