5 tips for improving user experience on your website

Posted by Rob Kendal on 08-Jun-2016 10:53:01

Having a great looking website that really shows off your content, company, products and services is hugely important, but how many websites have you visited that despite doing a great job with the former list, manage to put you off because of a terrible user experience?

You load the site and parts are broken or not working quite right, maybe they're super slow, or even worse they just manage to hide the information you're looking for in some obscure place that's a nightmare to navigate!

By following our the tips in our article, you'll improve your users' experience and help show off your products and services to their best, keeping your visitors coming back for more.


Cover image for CreatedRed's article on tips for improving user experience

Your website matters

Your website is a valuable, important piece of your overall marketing puzzle. It's often the first port of call for potential clients to encounter you and it needs to represent you as a company and a brand, your values, but most importantly get across your message - what it is you're selling, to whom, and why they should consider you in their purchase decision.

Let's look at some common user experience issues and some steps you can take to correct them and keep your users happy.

1. If it's broken, FIX IT!

A welder fixing a pipe representing fixing your broken website's partsYour website can have all the amazing content in the world and look the absolute business, but if something's broken there's almost no faster way of turning off a visitor (read: prospective client) then if something they're trying to access isn't working quite right, or is just downright broken. 

Some common things that can cause problems on your website are:

  • Broken links - you click 'visit this page' and get met with either a 404, or even worse...a blank page!
  • Weird / broken functionality - again, clicking a button, or interacting with some elements on the page and everything goes screwy or looks / feels broken;
  • Images not being found - usually caused by being misnamed or being deleted from the server, missing images appear on your site as little broken icons and can cause big problems for your visitors, especially if they form a key part of the page's particular message;
  • Pages not loading or half loading - sometimes a behind the scenes script or piece of code (e.g. JavaScript) can run into problems for whatever reason and stop running. The problem is that if the page is heavily reliant on this script to run, then the page won't fully load. This leaves the user with a half-finished page.

Some of these problems are big deals, others are minor irritations, but remember people are lazy, people are impatient. If a visitor runs into a big enough issue (like a faulty page load) or lots of little problems (like missing images) then they're more likely to leave your site to find what they want elsewhere.

Check your website thoroughly and often, and have a friend or family member or colleague check it too and be sure to fix any niggles that might prevent a visitor hanging a round.

2. Keep the navigation simple, clear & prominent

A compass and map showing how to fix your website's navigationIf you've ever been on a really large website with a lot of channels and avenues to explore, Amazon for example, then you'll have most likely encountered an equally big navigation menu. 

Sometimes it's necessary to have a larger than average menu structure, but most of the time it's much better to present your navigation in a better, more simpler way

There is an old maxim around the web development circles that "desired information should be no more than 3 clicks away". Essentially if a visitor has to click through more than 3 levels of information to get to the real heart of the matter then your navigation needs a rethink. 

Now, 3 might not be enough, and it's also completely arbitrary, but what's important here is to think like your visitors. If they're going to have to navigate around a lot or absorb a massive, multi-level navigation menu and site structure than maybe that will put them off. 

Simplify your user journey

Could your navigation be split up into different groups or perhaps different menus altogether? Common information such as the about us and contact us pages might be best moved to a smaller menu area at the very top of the page, or in the footer as these are familiar places for visitors to find such common information. Doing this makes room for a simpler presentation of the main navigation.

Remember that whilst you should always keep your visitors in the forefront of your mind, it's your website and you want to take your potential customers on a journey that you, to some degree, want to control. Think about your business goals: if you want a user to book a demo of your software, do they need to get lost in pages and pages of technical specs, or features? Might it be better to present some simple, clear information about the product and its pricing and then drive the visitor to 'book a demo today' to find out more?

Make it easy to get in touch

And whilst we're talking about clarity of information, don't make it overly hard for customers to contact you. It doesn't hurt to provide your visitors with common information or give them access to a self-serve help portal, but sometimes a visitor has a question your website can't answer or isn't answering well enough for them and they need some person-to-person contact over the phone or an email. 

Don't hide this away; keep it bold and proud in the header and footer of your website - especially if you're relying on people to book with you, or call to arrange an appointment!

3. Make sure it loads quickly

Picture of a relaxing cheetah to show off how website speed is important for user experienceNobody likes a slow site. It's terrible for user experience, but also one of the many factors that add up to your overall search engine ranking score. In fact, Moz wrote a good article about how page and site speed affect your SEO score and ways to improve it, which definitely worth a read.

A slow website or set of pages causes problems for both your users and your search engine rankings. From a user point of view you'll know yourself that sitting waiting for a page to finish loading can make 10 seconds feel like 10 hours. You're likely to get bored or impatient and leave the website - not great when you're hoping your visitor will convert to a lead or a new customer.

From a search engine stand point, they know that a slow site puts people off and are less likely to give a slow site preference over a faster one. Also, if it takes longer for a search engine spider to crawl through your site to index pages and content then it might not finish the whole task, or take much longer than normal - again, not good for your rankings.

There are a number of things you can do to help with your speed: at the easier, non-technical end of the scale you can try things like using smaller images or removing some unused plugins if you're using a WordPress website; as the technical complexity increases you can take advantage of browser caching, compression and minification, or using a CDN such as CloudFlare, but you might need to ask for help from your web developer or agency to help implement these sorts of changes.

Have a look at the following tools and see how your website compares. The tools will indicate some areas that could be improved to speed your site up as well as highlighting loading bottlenecks:

4. Get it right for mobile devices

Whilst the scales do tip in favour of desktop devices, almost half of all website traffic originates from a mobile device, i.e. a tablet or mobile phone. 

Here are some other interesting mobile statistics taken from HubSpot's marketing statistics report:

  • 27% of consumers will leave a site if it is not mobile-optimized
  • 54% of consumers believe that it is easier to find information on mobile-optimized sites
  • 37% of consumers are more likely to purchase on a mobile-optimized site

Picture of an iPhone representing mobile user experienceWith such staggering trends in mobile user habits, it's become necessity to cater for your mobile audience, yet it's surprising that there are a lot of websites that either aren't mobile-friendly at all, or offer a sub-par, second-rate experience to mobile users, often trimming away some content.

Here are our top quick tips to make sure your users have the best mobile experience possible:

  • Load appropriate images
    A mobile website doesn't need to show an image that's the same size and resolution as a large desktop screen. Showing smaller images (e.g. smaller in file-size) will also speed up the mobile website which is good for experience and SEO!
  • Show mobile visitors the same information as everyone else
    It might need scaling or reworking to fit their device, but a mobile visitor should see the same content as their desktop cousins;
  • Think about a different user journey for a mobile visitor
    Mobile devices (especially phones) are usually much smaller and so some of your important, valuable content and calls to action might be missed, or not work as well in their current state. Try to keep your content responsive to the device it's on and think about what users will see on their phones / tablets and how you can best tailor your content to drive your mobile visitors to complete the same goals as your non-mobile visitors.
  • Make it even faster!
    If it's a good idea to make your website fast, the mobile version needs to be even faster. Think about it, your roaming mobile visitors will be likely downloading your content over 3G or less, which means they don't have the bandwidth to easily cope with lots of images, flashy scripts, or other bandwidth-hogging bells and whistles.

Mobile optimisation is also another search engine ranking factor that Google published information about in 2014. If you're unsure if your website is mobile friendly then Google handily created a mobile friendly testing tool you can use to find out more on your website.

5. Use funky moves sparingly

Hip hop dancer showing off his funky movesSome websites are built for the wow-factor. You load them up and they have a wealth of jazzy special effects from masonry, tiled layouts, parallax scrolling, animations, lasers and sharks. OK, maybe no lasers or sharks, but I'm sure you've come across a website like this at some point.

The problem is, however, that whilst it looks great and definitely gives you pause to be awed by it all, the more bells and whistles you add to your site, the more potential problems you can introduce.

If you've got flashy animations and other effects then straight away you can increase bandwidth and loading overhead as they're more than likely achieved through things like JavaScript. This feeds into our earlier points about website slow-down and loading errors.

Some effects won't work on a mobile full-stop, or at least not well. For instance, anything that relies on smooth scrolling or hovering with a mouse as these ways of interacting with your website aren't available on a mobile device. And with close to 50% of your visitors being in this category, then almost half your audience is missing them anyway, so how much are these effects worth it?

Bells, whistles and shiny wow elements are great, but there's probably a balance to be struck somewhere along the line whereby you can add some sparkle to your website and make it a slick experience, but still keep things simple and user-friendly for your visitors. 

 


Build it and they will come 

A great website from a user's point of view is simply one that provides the information they're looking for quickly, easily and in the most straightforward fashion possible.

If you iron out the kinks in your website, follow our tips for improving user experience, and make it a place that your visitors will want to return to again and again then you'll surely see your business generate new leads and your enquiries go through the roof.

Oh, and don't forget to set up Google Analytics and use it to continuously monitor and improve your website marketing to help your customers even more!


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Topics: Website & Graphic Design Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Written by Rob Kendal

Rob has enjoyed a rewarding career in technology, from IT infrastructure through to software development, working with clients such as Virgin Holidays and the NHS. He understands the needs, challenges and logistics involved in making technology work for business and how to market it effectively.
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