It’s no secret these days that good website design isn’t exclusively about aesthetics. A unique design with exceptional imagery is all well and good, but doesn’t necessarily add up to a quality user experience. The problem being that now more than ever, web users are unwilling to waste their time on sites that aren’t an absolute joy to work with.
So it’s once again a case of balancing style with substance. Having a site that looks the part and delivers a memorable first impression at a glance is essential. But at the same time, so too is ensuring it gets the job done. In fact, a recent study carried out by Forrestersuggests that an effective user experience can increase conversion rates by up to 400%. So if your website in its current state simply isn’t convincing customers to buy, it could have something to do with the user experience.
Effective Vs Practical
Of course, the average online business owner is likely to lack the advanced skills needed to tackle the more technical aspects of performance optimisation. Hence, it’s common for website owners to assume they’re unable to do much to improve their respective UX.
In reality, some of the simplest and most practical measures that can be taken are also the most effective. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to over-complicate things to make an enormous difference to your site’s UX quality. It’s simply a case of focusing your efforts on what really matters, ignoring everything else along the way.
So for those who feel their UX could stand to be stepped up, here’s a quick rundown of eight simple yet effective ways to make an immediate and lasting improvement:
Go back to basics
First up, don’t make the mistake of assuming more is necessarily better. When a website is underperforming, it’s natural to assume it must be lacking something. And in doing so, fill every available corner with additional visuals and content, just for the sake of it. In reality, stripping everything back to basics can be far more effective. It’s a case of taking a look through your website and considering whether each specific element is useful, valuable or even necessary. If the answer is no, you might want to get rid of it. Today’s web user is all about simplicity.
Give clear directions
In most instances, this can be achieved through strategic use of white space. You have to assume that every visitor who arrives at your website is in a frantic rush to find what they need as quickly as possible. Unless they’re able to locate it in seconds, they won’t look any further. It’s therefore your job to design your pages in such a way that provides clear directions. Show them the way to whatever it is they need, using white space to your advantage. Always focus on reducing the number of clicks necessary to achieve any given desired action.
Put yourself in their position
On a regular basis, it’s a good idea to access your website from a random device and see how it all works. From first impressions right through to completing purchases, put yourself in their position and evaluate the UX first-hand. Be as critical as you can, considering what you would appreciate or dislike if you were the customer. If you didn’t already know how your website functions, would you be happy with its performance and the user experience in general? Once again, the importance of doing this via multiple devices – mobile and desktop alike – cannot be overstated.
Demonstrate your credibility
Today’s consumer is naturally distrusting of any business they are not yet familiar with. You have to assume that when visiting your website for the first time therefore, they’ll be looking for any reason not to believe a word you have to say. Enhancing the user experience also means building a sense of trust and credibility as quickly as possible. Until you do so, you’ll be scrutinised to the nth degree. Use ratings, reviews, customer feedback, recommendations and social proof in general to instantly quell their scepticism. This way, they’re far more likely to be more receptive to the rest of your website and your user experience in general.
Keep things consistent
The framework of your website should be consistent across every page from top to bottom. In a working example, if your address and contact telephone number appear at the top-right of your home page, they should stay there at all times. If your ‘Contact Us’ link appears at the lower-left of the page, keep it there. It’s when customers feel comfortable and familiar with websites that they are most likely to trust them. There’s nothing worse than inconsistencies leading to imbalance and frustration that could easily be avoided. Think carefully about the architecture of your website at an early stage, ensuring consistency is a priority across everypage.
Focus on speed
On the technical side of things, it’s imperative that you ensure your website loads quickly. This means ensuring that your landing pages and each subsequent page bursts into life in no more than around 3 seconds. Studies have shown time and time again that anything more will send the vast majority of potential shoppers in the opposite direction. Irrespective of how gorgeous and feature-packed your website may be, we live in an age where instant gratification is both expected and demanded. You cannot and will not get away with sluggish page loading times under any circumstances. Stripping things back to basics (as mentioned above) can be a good way of speeding things up, but you may also need to enlist help. If your page loading times aren’t up to par, it could be a coding issue, a hosting issue or a combination of multiple factors.
Simplify your navigation system
You’d be forgiven for thinking that in this day and age, the vast majority of people would have relatively advanced computer skills. In reality, this simply isn’t the case at all. Believe it or not, evidence suggeststhat close to half of all consumers worldwide have only the most remedial skills and experience with computers and the Internet in general. So once again, you need to engineer your website with these exact visitors in mind. It’s important to assume that every visitor to your website has only minimal experience with such things, providing them with a simplified and streamlined navigation system. Ensure that every visitor can find exactly what they need in just a few clicks, even if they’ve never encountered a website like yours before.
Use analytics strategically
Website analytics provide all the information you will ever need to make a success of your online business. Particularly when it comes to enhancing your UX, analytics can be worth their weight in gold. Tap into key metrics – cumulative and in real-time – to determine which aspects of your website are having the desired effect, along with which could stand to be improved. If huge chunks of traffic are departing from one specific page, question the cause. If most of your conversions are coming from a select few pages, consider the reason. Get serious with analytics and you’ll be looking at a blueprint for a successful website.
Invite feedback and recommendations
Of course, you could always take the most obvious approach of all, which tends to go completely overlooked. If you’d like to provide your customers with the best possible user experience, why not ask them directly? Rather than simply assuming you understand their preferences, you could always reach out to them for their input. Use an e-mail marketing campaign, invite feedback via social media, request their feedback via your blog – the options are endless. In all instances, you’re guaranteed a few eye-openers that could transform the way you look at UX design.
Enlist help where necessary
Last but not least, it’s important to acknowledge and accept where your own limitations lie. If you have little to no experience with web design and development, there’s still plenty you can do to improve your website’s UX. But at the same time, there’s also a lot you’ll be unable to handle manually. Enlisting outside help may constitute an additional expense, but could also deliver a strong and consistent ROI. Analytics can typically be used to pinpoint UX issues with ease, though it sometimes takes deeper investigation to determine the issue. Particularly if looking at an underperforming website, the quicker you enlist the necessary help to turn things around, the better.