When it comes to your website, one of the main factors in deciding whether it’s a quality website or not is user experience. How do users feel when they click on the link and are directed to your site? Is the information they are looking for easy to find? Are they able to navigate your website with ease? Is the loading time up to par? Is the design aesthetically pleasing and professional? Can they navigate your website just as well on their mobile device? And - most importantly - does your website encourage them to convert? These are all questions we will be looking at today.
Although website user experience is definitely not a new topic per se, it is still one of the most crucial aspects to website creation and deserves a separate article dedicated to its importance. Continue reading, and let us help you improve user experience and create a website that makes users go “Wow, good job”. You can also check out another article we have on UX design tips for some additional advice.
What is UI/UX design?
UI and UX design are two terms that are often confused with each other, because they tend to go hand in hand - we suppose you’ve heard of the term UI/UX designer before? UI is short for user interface, whilst UX stands for user experience (the main focus of this article).
UI (user interface) is the visual layout of a website. It encompasses everything from button design, font, images, layout, colors, animations/graphics and everything aesthetic. UI designers are essentially graphic designers, and it’s their job to create an interface that looks good, has an appropriate theme and reflects the brand as accurately as possible.
After UI design comes UX, which stands for user experience. This concept is all about user interaction with said interface. This includes navigation, understanding of the interface, task accomplishment, conversions and overall ease of use. UI and UX are interrelated because:
1) The two are often accomplished by the same designer, hence the term UI/UX design
2) The user interface must always be designed with user experience in mind - aesthetics is not everything when it comes to website creation
UX design is highly focused on user expectations. UX designers must take into account other websites and applications people have used, and what the general structure of these websites/apps usually looks like. If a user clicks on your website and the navigation looks completely different from the broad industry standard, they might have a hard time navigating the website and click off. In short, the interface should be intuitive, so users don’t waste time trying to figure out how your website even works. Thus, UX designers should at least be aware of user expectations and take them into consideration during the web design process.
The benefits of enhancing user experience
Although user experience is a priority, it doesn’t mean that improving your UX design is a purely altruistic step. Your business/website will reap many benefits if users can easily navigate the interface and are happy with it. The benefits are numerous, but let’s go through some of the main ones:
Increased customer loyalty
If a user is dissatisfied with your website, they are likely to leave and fall into the hands of your competitors, regardless of whether your offer is good or not. On the other hand, if your website impresses the user and provides easy navigation, they are more likely to take up your offer and even become a loyal customer. Moreover, they may recommend your website to others as well, increasing your traffic and customer base.
Increased conversion rates
One of the most important metrics when measuring a website’s success is conversion rates - what percentage of your users convert into customers. As we mentioned above, a bland, difficult to navigate website is unlikely to encourage a visitor to convert into a customer - more often than not, they will click off. However, if you do have that stunning interface and intuitive design, the user will assume that your brand is top-quality and will be more likely to take up your offer.
Better return on investment (ROI)
When the user experience of your website is up to par, your ROI is going to be up to par too. The investment you put into running your business and designing your website will reap many benefits, since your website will accurately reflect the quality of your offer. Not only will good UX increase sales, but it will also help customers make purchases at a faster rate because they will know what they have to click and where they have to go. All of this is beneficial for your ROI and will show you that your investment was worthwhile.
Higher customer satisfaction
A satisfied customer is everything, and customers will definitely be more satisfied if their experience on your website is good. Now, there are some cases where website design can be set aside if the product/service is very good, but customers will not be looking forward to visiting your website, which will still take a toll on your business. It’s better to have a website with UX that reflects the quality of your product/service. Happy customers make a profitable business.
How to improve user experience
When it comes to user experience optimization, there are a multitude of elements to check for. We’ve decided to compile a list of the most important ones, which will get you started on improving your website’s UX:
Your website should make new users feel as though they are following a clear path, and not as if they are stuck in a maze. Although the navigation may be straightforward to you, because you created the website, it may not be so clear for new users. People should be able to move easily from section to section without getting lost, be able to navigate back to the homepage in a straightforward manner and - most importantly - see a clear navigation bar. Also, make sure you have a readily available search function at all times.
Users should be able to find what they are searching for almost instantly - be it a product, service or article. You can achieve this by including your main pages on your navigation bar, which should be visible at all times so users can easily switch between pages instead of using the “back” button.
When we speak about the importance of user experience, we need to take into account ALL users. For example, when designing a website, color-blind users should also be considered when creating the color scheme. Avoid using schemes such as blue/red colors on a grey background, since this may be confusing for those with color-blindness. Likewise, avoid using very small fonts, since there are many people with some degree of visual impairment. Keep your fonts basic and easy to read, and avoid going for the very outlandish, fancy typography. The key to accessibility is simplicity.
Moreover, make sure you have a clear hierarchy when it comes to content, and put the most important information on every web page first. Users should not have to analyze each page in order to determine the most important content - you are responsible for presenting the key points to the user. The same principles should be followed for the mobile and tablet versions of your website, but more on that later.
You can probably relate to this, but one of the most frustrating things a user can experience is slow loading time. They click on your website in hopes of obtaining the information they need ASAP, and are instead forced to look at a circle animation which seems to rotate infinitely. If your website loading time exceeds 3 or 4 seconds, users are likely to click off and go elsewhere, even if your website is perfect in all other aspects. Many businesses lose out on a significant number of potential customers just because their website takes too long to load, which is a shame to say the least.
But don’t worry, not all is lost. If you want to speed up your loading time, the first thing you need to do is obtain your score. There is a free service on Google which provides you with information on your page speed, both on mobile and desktop. If your loading time is over 3-4 seconds, you can start by compressing your images, since visual file size is one of the main things that can cause a slower page speed. We recommend checking out this article for more detailed advice.
Content may be king, but that does not mean that your website should be text-heavy. When it comes to content, the main message will always be quality over quantity. Users do not like to go through paragraphs and paragraphs of text, so save the long-reads for your blog section if you have one. As we mentioned above, make sure to include the most important information first so users do not have to search your website to find this themselves. Consider using bullet points to create a hierarchy of information that is easy to process. For more text-heavy sections, balance out the content with visuals and plenty of white space.
Also, avoid using pop-ups unless you really have to. If you can get your point across with simple website content, opt for that instead of bombarding users with pop-ups on every single page. Use them when you need to, but not to the point where visitors want to click off your website.
White space refers to any space on your website that is free of text or images. It doesn’t necessarily have to be white, it should just not include any extra elements. It is essential to good website design because it balances out your content throughout your website and creates a comfortable viewing experience if used at the bottom of the page. After all, your website pages should all include at least some percentage of white space at the bottom, otherwise your content will look crowded.
Contrary to popular belief, white space is not “wasted” space. A website that utilizes white space tastefully creates a better viewing experience, helps users to focus on what’s important and even creates a barrier between different elements. Make sure to go through your website and add white space where things seem too crowded and at the bottom of each webpage.
Aside from good quality content, your website should include relevant, good quality images. Don’t rely purely on stock photos; have a graphic designer create headers and other visuals that are unique to your brand. Using stock photography is good in moderation, especially when it comes to blog articles, but make sure that your actual website includes brand-unique visuals. Use images wisely - don’t turn each page into a gallery, but use them to convey a message or balance out your text. People are inherently visual beings, so your images should reflect what your brand is about.
Animations are also important, especially micro-animations related to user actions (e.g. a successful purchase, after filling out a form, loading signs and so on). These visuals guide the user throughout the website and let them know the completion status of various tasks. They also make user interactions more aesthetically pleasing.
Call to action buttons (CTAs) are also a crucial aspect of user experience. Well-designed, straightforward CTAs increase conversions and give your website that professional touch. When creating CTA buttons or links, focus on the wording and the colors. Test out variations and see which call to actions users respond to best. When it comes to design, make sure your CTA buttons are clearly visible and stand out from the rest of your content. Use a different color for your button than your background, otherwise your CTA is at risk of blending in.
Optimize your mobile view
Mobile optimization is key. In this day and age, more and more people are using their mobile devices to navigate the web instead of laptops and computers. Even Google has a “Mobile First” policy, which says something about the way in which users are navigating the web. A bad mobile experience is likely to turn off potential customers, even if the desktop version of your website is ideal. Make sure that all of the aspects we have discussed above are also improved on the mobile and tablet versions of your website in order to maximize user satisfaction and increase conversions.
Further tips for user experience optimization
Make sure any external links on your webpages open in a new tab
Link relevant pages together, especially in sections where users may want to find further information regarding something (e.g. provide a link to a detailed product description for a new product on your homepage, or a link to a blog article explaining a particular feature in more detail)
Make sure the most important information is easy to find, or available on multiple pages so users don’t have to go back all the time
Once you’ve followed the advice in this article, hire a professional to test your website
Conducting a UX audit is a great way to establish what is working on your website and what isn’t. It will help you gain a better understanding of what areas you need to improve in your UX design, and what areas are better to leave as they are. Likewise, a UX audit can help you to uncover various glitches and bugs in your design, which may not be so obvious on a daily basis.
Crazy Egg is a great tool for testing website user experience. You are given a free trial month, after which the app costs $9 per month. The paid version gives you access to a heatmap, which helps you to track user activity such as where each visitor clicks. Likewise, they also have a scrollmap feature which shows you how far each visitor has scrolled down every webpage. Other features include Confetti, which gives insights on what visitors are searching, sources and more, and Overlay - which shows the number of clicks per each page element.
You can also consider using Optimizely, which is an A/B testing platform. The tool allows you to track website visits, conversions and other crucial metrics. You can experiment with your UX design and create different versions where various elements have been switched up, and Optimizely will show you the most successful version of each webpage. This will also help to improve user experience.
On a final note, it is important to communicate with your users. Send out surveys to users and see what they like about your website and what they think could be improved. Communication is key when it comes to user experience, since your users are essentially the best demographic to determine whether your UX is up to par. We hope this article has been valuable to you, and we wish you the best of luck on improving your website’s user experience.