The number one priority for many website owners is to improve the user experience or ‘UX’ as it’s commonly referred to. With so many websites vying for consumers’ attention, only those which satisfy their increasingly high demands are going to prosper. Sites that offer a great UX have increased user engagement, higher volumes of returning visitors, more social shares and organic backlinks, and better conversion rates. In this article, we’ll look at the factors that help create a great user experience so you can take steps to implement them on your website.
1. A website made for its audiences
We’ve deliberately used the word audiences rather than audience because one of the best things you can do to give customers a great user experience is to create a website catering for different audience niches.
Creating a website aimed at vague profiles such as ‘men between 18 and 35’ won’t do. Men in that age bracket are widely different from each other. What appeals to one, won’t necessarily appeal to another. To get it right you need to consider different subgroups within that profile and find out the interests, goals and the problems each one wants you to solve for them.
A website that tries to meets the needs of the wider range of customers may fail to engage anyone. A better way to go about this would be to give different types of customer website content especially for them. This can be done by segmenting your existing website into separate areas or by creating separate websites.
One website which is spectacularly good creating separate content areas aimed at specific audiences is the BBC. Take a look at BBC News, BBC Newsround and BBC Cymru. All three sections of the website carry the main news but each is tailored for the intended audience – this includes page design, content and language.
2. Easy Navigation
One of the key areas in giving exceptional UX is navigation. In other words, making it very easy for your visitors to find exactly what they are looking for. There are several factors which you need to take into account when making an easily navigable website.
Menus should be easy to see, well organised and clearly labelled. If needed, you should use submenus too. If you use things like mega menus you need to ensure that they work smoothly on all devices whether using a mouse or a touch screen.
One thing that web developers often fail to overlook when creating a menu is a website’s analytics. If, for example, your website’s blog gets 60% of the traffic, then it might be a wiser decision to include a link to your blog in your main menu rather than having it buried somewhere in the footer.
- Site Search
Easy to install and use, site search plugins can give users quick access to content which isn’t so easily accessible from the home page or which is not glaringly obvious on the menus. It’s a great way to stop people hitting the back button if what they are looking for doesn’t stand out within a few seconds of landing.
- Getting the terms right
Another key factor for menus, page titles and content is to look the keywords that people use to find your site. For example, if you had a section of your website called ‘Family Holidays’ but found most of the visitors were searching for ‘family vacations’, it would be a wise move to change the content so that the terms they were looking for matched those used on the site.
- In-content navigation
Visitors come looking for specific information. If they cannot find it quickly, they’ll leave and look elsewhere. Even if your menu system works fine and sends them to the right page, they’ll still want to find the information on that page quickly. The best way to achieve this is to use subheadings that accurately sum up the content of the section they head. This way, it’s just a matter of scrolling down.
If you have very long pages with highly detailed content, then you may need to go one step further and add a page contents menu that takes readers to the part of the page they are looking for. Many websites do this and perhaps the one we are most familiar with is Wikipedia.
3. Warp Factor 10, Mr Scott
Today’s internet users expect instant loading. They want their web pages now and if you have streaming content of any kind it had better not show the buffering sign. You know this, because what frustrates them, frustrates you too.
It doesn’t matter whether they are using a 2G network on an old phone at the top of Ben Nevis or they’re hardwired into Richard Branson’s personal router: if there’s an internet connection, your website had better work quickly or they’ll take their business somewhere else.
There are numerous ways you can improve your site speed but the starting point is to test your loading times on Google’s PageSpeed Insights and see what its recommendations are for improvement. It will show you what you need to do for both desktop and mobile versions of your site.
One of the biggest factors that can affect the speed and performance of your website is your hosting package. Factors such as whether you use shared, VPS or dedicated hosting can have an effect on loading times, as can the servers which on your service provider hosts your site. Ideally, you need servers which have the latest chips and SSD memory and which are configured for speed. VPS servers are ideal for smaller companies wanting exceptional loading times, whilst dedicated servers offer the fastest solution for larger enterprises.
4. Content with value
The most important thing you can do to give visitors the best user experience is to create content that they find of value. To achieve this is difficult because great content means different things to different people – and in order to create it, you need to understand your visitors’ interests, goals and problems. Only when this is known can you build a site that they find truly valuable.
When you do this, people will come back time and time again and will share, like and link to your content to get you new visitors and improved search engine rankings. For more detailed information about how to create great content, read our article High-Quality Content: The Future of SEO.
User expectations are increasing all the time on the internet. Regardless of the device on which they access information, people want something which is blisteringly quick, easy to find, is a perfect match for what they were searching for and which they find of value. It has to solve their problems, help them achieve things and keep them engaged. If your website is to remain competitive, it needs to meet these UX requirements.