The Importance of User Experience (UX)
Search engine optimization may be what brings people to your website, but it’s your overall user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) that will keep them there.
No matter how groundbreaking your product, innovative your visual design, or massive your customer base, you will lose out on conversions and sales if your end user’s experience is poor.
Think of your website as its own digital product.
Just as you wouldn’t ship a physical product without exercising quality control to address all major defects, it behooves you to perform usability testing on your website before you open it to the public.
Your UX and UI design are at the core of this testing process.
The following guide will help you optimize your website’s UX and improve its retention rates.
Optimize Your Site Stability & Page Loading Times
One critical element of search engine optimization is technical SEO.
Search engines strongly prefer pages that load quickly, and so do end users. If your website’s bounce rate has skyrocketed, loading times should be one of the first things you check.
There are steps any website owner can take toward improving page load times. They include:
- Reducing the file size of images before uploading them to your servers
- Optimizing your Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for loading speed
- Start using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Prioritize Loading the most critical page elements first
If you want to go all-in on reducing your website’s load time, you will have to do some serious optimization behind the scenes. A technical SEO audit will point out changes that will result in the greatest improvement in your page load times.
How To Check Your Websites Load Speeds
An easy first step to assessing the quality of your website’s load speeds is to run a Lighthouse report on your site.
Lighthouse is a free tool available through the Chrome web browser. You can access the Lighthouse tool by following these steps:
- Open an instance of the Chrome browser application
- Navigate to the web page you want to test
- Click the three vertical dots in the top right corner of the browser window (this will open a drop-down menu)
- Click on “More Tools” (this will open another drop-down menu)
- Click on “Developer Tools” (this will open Chrome Developer Tools)
- Click on “Lighthouse” on the far right of the navigation on the new window
- Click on the “Analyze page load” button
This will run a Lighthouse audit on the page and give you a set of scores and guidance on improving your web pages’ load speed.
Consider Your Mobile Visitors
As smartphones get smarter, the number of people who use the internet primarily on mobile devices is only increasing.
Optimizing your website for both desktop and mobile users is a critical step toward improving your user experience. This doesn’t mean that you have to create two separate websites or bury your site in redirects.
Instead, you should focus on responsive design. That means coming up with a single design that dynamically updates to fit different screen sizes.
The size and placement of images on a smaller screen will have to change, as will your page’s maximum width. You don’t want to force your users to scroll horizontally.
Your website’s basic design should shine through no matter what device you use to view it.
If a desktop user switches to their smartphone, they should still have a good general idea of how to find their way around.
Don’t move key navigation elements around more than you have to, and keep the colors and fonts consistent across screen sizes.
Desktop-only design is a bad idea for your user experience.
Clarity and Consistency Are Key
Some of the best investments you can make in your website’s long-term user experience aren’t easy to measure or track.
Search engines may not improve your site’s ranking if you implement these changes, but it’s still important to ensure that it has a clear, consistent design and that your users can find their way around.
Without thinking about it, you’ve probably already implemented some of the most basic principles of clarity and consistency.
If you place key elements of your site navigation prominently in its header or sidebar, if you make sure that your links stand out from the regular text, and if you maintain cohesive font and color choices throughout your content, you’re already off to a good start.
Other elements you should consider when optimizing your site’s user experience include:
- Using white space judiciously, especially around text and titles
- Separating key information using bullet points
- Unifying the style of interactive elements such as buttons
Every page on your website should follow a unified theme.
If a user clicks on an internal link and immediately begins to wonder whether they are on the same website as before, that’s the very definition of a bad experience. Beyond that, it erodes a user’s trust in your brand.
Having and using a style manual is useful in this regard, and so is CSS.
Using CSS, you can make changes to your site’s design and be confident that your site will apply them across every page. Likewise, a style manual gives your web designers a unified template to follow.
Don’t Go Overboard With Flashy Features
Modern web design allows you to add a lot of functionality to a simple page. With each new element, however, you also add a new potential point of failure.
The more complicated a page is, the longer it takes to load and the less visual stability it has as it renders.
Put simply: Just because you can add a customer service chatbot, a lengthy video, and a “subscribe to our newsletter” popup on every page doesn’t mean you should.
Beware of feature creep.
If you add a new feature to your website, perform extensive user testing on it before the update goes live. What does the new feature bring to your users’ experience, and what value does it add to your company, if any?
Finally, remember how important it is for your site’s design to be accessible to all users. For instance, when one of your site visitors uses screen reader software, what is their user experience like?
Does your “subscribe to our newsletter” popup we mentioned earlier interfere with screen reader software? If your website doesn’t play nicely with accessibility software, it’s a safe bet that search engine crawlers will have trouble with it as well.
Balance Your Website’s Function and Aesthetics
The phrase “form follows function” is common enough these days to be a cliché, but it still rings true.
Before you begin coding a page or even sketching out wireframes, ask yourself: What is this page supposed to do? The answer should guide every one of your next moves.
The best design decisions for user experience improve your website’s appearance and functionality in one go. Giving your website a unified style, as we discussed earlier, should be the first step.
This not only tells your users what to expect when they visit your site, but it also helps them find their way around and improves their overall experience, thus keeping them on your site for longer.
Good website design places the site’s most important information “above the fold” and uses headings to fit keywords in while helping readers skim for the information they are looking for.
Any templates you create should account for these elements and allow the content to be what makes your website shine.
Keep Your Website Readable
If users can’t read your website, it doesn’t matter how good your content is.
Use your site’s layout to guide the end user toward your goal, breaking up long blocks of text with images and clear headers.
Avoid using illegible fancy fonts, especially in images, as these could make your site unusable for many of your visitors.
Implementing responsive design is one of the best things you can do on this front.
If your website can seamlessly handle a change in devices, it won’t start displaying text blocks overlapping or images hiding your other content.
Perform Regular Usability Testing
The last step to enhance your website’s UX is to perform user testing.
The people who created the website should not be the sample users because they will already be familiar with the layout.
What does a person who’s never encountered your site think? What do they struggle with?
Integrate the feedback from this testing as soon as you can.
Check for 404 Errors
Link rot is a massive problem, not only for search engine optimization but also for user experience.
The longer your website is on the internet, the more likely it is that a page you linked to a long time ago won’t work anymore. This can absolutely ruin a user’s experience, especially if it’s a critical link.
The best way to address this is to use an automated tool to find dead links.
You can then replace these pages with correct links or use 304 redirects to bring your users to the right place. Giving your website’s 404 pages functionality that can put a user on the right track is also a good idea.
How Can Contractor Growth Network Improve Your Website’s User Experience?
Contractor Growth Network is proud to offer comprehensive user experience testing for the websites we design.
Good UX is beneficial for your users and your traffic as a whole since it improves your ranking in search engines.
As a contractor, your UX can make the difference between a new client and a site visitor who looks elsewhere for what they need. Call us at (980) 449-4384 or contact us online today to reach new marketing heights.