(This article was originally published April 15, 2018, and updated April 14, 2019.)
What is equally as important as getting traffic to your website? Keeping viewers engaged and converting them to customers. Website design needs to go beyond something that is visually appealing and be about providing a positive experience, facilitating interaction with visitors, and offering solutions to problems, all in a manner that showcases the ease of usability.
Optimizing user experience (UX) design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving usability, accessibility, and efficiency. Effective website design answers three questions. What is it? How does it benefit me? What should I do next? Design fails if the user doesn’t understand the purpose. The site must also clearly communicate how a service or product will help a visitor solve a problem or reach a goal. A strong call to action finishes the deal by helping the user understand his next step.
68% of users leave a website because of poor user-centered design and they will only spend about 3 seconds looking for what they want from your page before they leave. If you leverage a greater UX, you will increase engagement and conversion rates. Simple and functional design with intuitive navigation and consistent operation throughout the site will provide an engaging, dynamic UX.
Website design is trending towards inclusivity and accessibility. There is also a focus shift towards Gen Z. A generation that is on their smartphones more than any other device, they are capable of learning by themselves and are more than just consumers. They want to be part of online communities, customizing their experiences as they go. Along with Millennials, Gen Z is putting pressure on designers to take a mobile-first approach with responsive design, single touch interaction, and a focus on layout conducive to one hand use.
An optimized, functional, interactive website is a must and UX design is the way to provide it. Here are some areas to be considered in that effort:
According to Impact, almost half of responders to a survey said they are frustrated and annoyed when using websites that are poorly optimized for mobile devices. 52% of consumers indicated that a poor mobile experience would make them less likely to interact with a business. Furthermore, they found that when a site isn’t optimized for mobile, consumers are 5 times more likely to abandon the task they are trying to complete.
A responsive and mobile friendly site design is imperative for offering a high level of UX. A responsive website responds to the mobile operating systems of whatever device is being used. Often, the navigation is condensed and images are hidden if considered unnecessary or optimized for the device. A mobile-friendly website displays the same way on all devices because it doesn’t rely on mobile operating systems. Nothing is hidden and images are scaled based on the size of the device being used.
Load speed affects site traffic. Viewers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less and it’s been found that even a one second delay can cause sales to drop by 27%. One study found that 39% of people will simply stop engaging with a website if the content takes too long to load.
Things that can be done to increase load speed such as clearing out bulky plugins and cookies and optimizing videos and images. That being said, the perception of fast is almost as good as fast and there are ways to avoid frustrating visitors. Perception of load speed is based on a combination of actual load time, waiting times, load behavior and smoothness of animations.
Many website platforms now offer Ajax loading which means content-heavy pages will appear to load more quickly because the site will only load content that is visible instead of loading all of the page content at one time. At the very least, this improves the perception of load speed. Ajax loading also speeds up load time because it doesn’t reload content that displays consistently on every page like your footer and navigation panel.
UX design creates linear journeys from the starting point to the end goal to minimize confusion and distractions. A page should move seamlessly from one section to the next and have undisrupted visual flow (remove the visual clutter). There should be consistency between pages with common patterns and interfaces and no page should take more than three clicks to get to.
Nothing is worse than experiencing wonderful service through an entire meal only to wait 15 minutes for your bill…and the wait is what people remember. Consumers preparing to leave a website by purchasing a product or filling out a form may be strongly persuaded to become a return customer if they experience a smooth process at the end of their visit.
Form labels and corresponding lines should present in a single field for easy scanning and labels should be outside the text field for clarity. Ask only for essential information; the fewer fields, the better. Form errors should show next to the error-causing field and all appear at the same time. Error messages should be concise, helpful, and direct. The first step in check-out has the largest drop-off rate so it is recommended to streamline the check-out process with limited fields and pages. Cart abandonment rates are about 65% for most companies and a streamlined checkout process will help decrease the number of abandoned carts.
For positive UX, website hierarchy should not be greater than three to four levels deep. A navigation menu should always be accessible and sticky menus work well on longer pages. If you are mobile-focused, consider placing sticky menus on the bottom of the page for easy thumb use. Consistency is essential and breadcrumb navigation allows the user to know where he is on your site at all times. Dropdowns should be vertical and narrower than the page.
Links need to stand out. Common expectations are that blue or underlined text will provide a link. A viewer shouldn’t have to click a link to understand where it goes or what it will provide. Any full URL reference should link to that page and consider turning images into clickable links. It goes without saying that all links, internal and external, should function properly.
Buttons should look clickable and provide enough space to easily tap or click. They should be large and in reachable zones. Use action-oriented labels and a color that contrasts with the background. Provide a visual clue within 0.1 seconds to indicate a button has been successfully pushed for best UX.
Always have a search field. Users have been trained to look for the “little box to type in.” Your search should always look like a text box on the desktop but mobile users have come to expect a spyglass icon to click in order to gain a search box. In both cases, the horizontal field should be wide enough to see the entire search query.
Contrast & Color
It was mentioned earlier that website design is trending towards inclusivity and accessibility. UX design accounts for color-blind users, ensuring that the palette translates well into grayscales. In general, warm, bright colors in front and cold, dark colors in the background provide contrast elements to draw a user’s attention. Reserve blue text for links and dedicate one color exclusively to your CTAs.
Header & Footer
The site header should be inviting. It should communicate the brand and provide core information. Page headers should be formatted similarly to one another and contain the same verbiage as the link that was clicked to get to the page. All headers can incorporate targeted keywords and should be visually distinct from other text.
44% of website visitors will abandon a site if there is no contact information provided. Your footer should include multiple channels for contact including a phone number, email, and any other information that will allow customers to interact with your brand. The footer is also where consumers expect to find social sharing buttons. Forbes found that 78% of consumers said a brand’s social media posts influenced their purchasing decisions so be sure to include those as well.
The most important content should be most visually prominent with key information showing in the first two to three words at the top left of the page. Use color and size to indicate primary information versus details. Use simple, obvious terms instead of industry jargon and avoid large text blocks by using bulleted points or lists when possible. UX design is becoming more conversational with chatbots and assistants and aims to be socially aware when representing locations, products, and services.
Using user-generated content such as testimonials, reviews, and images are also important. Merkley and Partners found that 93% of consumers find user-generated content to be helpful as they are making purchasing decisions. Many studies have found that peer-created content is interacted with more than brand-created content. In fact, websites with user-generated content saw a 90% increase in the time consumers spent on their site
The popularity of video content has increased exponentially in the last year. Insivia found that mobile video consumption is increasing by 100% every year! This is credited to the fact that consumers find that videos are more engaging and more memorable than other types of content. It is also important to note that video content is 53% more likely to appear in the top results of a Google search.
People scan first and read later so make your content easy to scan. 70% of people pay more attention to bulleted lists than block text. Increase line spacing in lists and between paragraphs, using negative space to provide breathing room, especially for mobile. Avoid small or condensed fonts and always scale font size to screen size. Italicized fonts and all capital letters are difficult for some people to read. Traditional capitalization and the use of other grammatical norms present content in a user-friendly manner.
UX design is about convincing a visitor to answer, “yes,” to these questions: Does this website provide value? Is it intuitive to use? Am I engaged? Does the site navigate me to the right place? Is it enjoyable to use?
Give your site a personality that makes a lasting impression and a design that works across abilities, devices, languages, and cultures. A UX optimized website should result in a significant reduction in the number of user errors and, more importantly, increase the number of return visitors. Enhanced user satisfaction leads to trust, which leads to referrals and sales.
As trends in user experience change with the demands of the general public, standards for website functionality will continue to change. Are you interested in providing website visitors the best UX possible but not sure where to start? Let the team of experts and Strategy Driven Marketing help. Contact us today to learn more!