What is user experience and why is it important?
To understand user experience we need to know what a poor user experience looks like. To do that, let's think back to the last time you had trouble ordering a takeaway online.
You’ve just spent 10 minutes salivating over the menu and your basket is brimming with goodies. Hunger is turning to hanger and your knuckles are going white from gripping hold of your bank card.
All you want to do is enter your card details and wait for the food to arrive, but sadly, it’s not that simple.
The payment form has a million unnecessary fields and you have to sign up for a user account. Five minutes later you click submit and everything vanishes before your eyes because you didn’t place an uppercase character in your password.
Overcome with hunger you toss the laptop aside, drop to your knees and wail “Why? WHYYYYY?”.
Of course your experience may differ from the one above but this is essentially what a classic case of poor user experience looks like.
Let’s take a look at at some other examples below to figure out what kind of an experience your website may be offering.
Slow loading times
We live in a world of on demand services where anyone with a smart phone and a working finger can shop online, adjust their central heating and balance their credit cards from anywhere in the world.
This on demand culture has led to a brutal expectation where websites must load within 3 seconds and retired 56K modems live in fear of being hunted down and slaughtered.
Simply put, if your website is slow to load, your potential customers won’t think twice about clicking back and going elsewhere.
Factors that affect the speed of your website include image file sizes, outdated flash effects and poorly optimised website coding – which is common in many free DIY website builder services.
You can find out if your website is slow using this free page speed tool from Google.
The tool also provides a free report that goes into greater detail about the various factors that could be affecting your page speed.
Poor navigation and novelty menus
A poorly laid out website is the same as a poorly laid out supermarket. If customers can’t find what they are looking for they will look elsewhere.
Your main menu serves as the primary way for users to navigate around your website. So it needs to be prominent placed, with clear links to the most important pages on your site.
Avoid using novelty gimmicks such as placing your main menu in the sidebar with vertically written text – no one enjoys having to tilt their head to one side to read a menu.
Also be careful about using burger style menus unless you absolutely have to. They may be common on mobiles but not everyone has caught onto their use on desktop.
If you already have good navigation on your website you can take steps to improve things even further by adding additional features such as:
- ‘Back to top’ buttons at the base of each page so users don’t have to scroll back to the top.
- Social sharing icons at the top and bottom of articles so that you don’t have to rely on users scrolling back to the top to click like or share.
- ‘Previous and Next’ buttons for visitors to quickly navigate between linked pages such as products or services rather than relying on the main menu.
Popup boxes that fill your screen
Would you be happy if you sat down at a restaurant, picked up the menu and suddenly had a form shoved under your nose asking you to sign up to their newsletter?
Of course not. Popups are distracting and at times downright annoying – especially when they have been purposely designed to fill your screen or be difficult to close.
Google recently made it clear that they would be penalising websites for making content less accessible – citing their push for a mobile friendly internet as the main reason.
That said, popups do have their place as a conversion tool – such as offering a discount code just before a user tries to leave the website. However they need to be used sparingly with careful consideration for the experience of your users.
Poorly structured website content
Would you want to read content that looks like this?
I doubt it. The lack of paragraphs and clear sentences is enough to give anyone a twitchy eye. This is especially true if you are reading on a mobile device where screens filled with text can be the stuff of nightmares.
The vast majority of web users skim read and large blocks of text are rarely read all the way through. The internet even has a name for it – tldr or “too long, didn’t read”.
This doesn’t mean you have to watch how much you write, it just means you should be mindful about how you present the words if you want them to get read.
Content should be broken down into easy to digest chunks so that readers have a chance to process them.
I mean think about it, do you bounce from topic to topic in a single breath when you speak?
Of course not, so why would you write that way and why would anyone want to read that way?
So what is the take home here?
At last count the internet had over 1.2 billion live websites – if you are having trouble visualising that number then check out this interactive map of the internet.
1.2 billion is a pretty big number and equates to a whole lot of choice for users. That wealth of choice breeds brutal impatience and pickiness online.
If your website fails to meet the expectations of users and results in high numbers of bounces (people arriving on your site and quickly leaving) then your rankings could suffer.
Less users + lower rankings = less traffic and fewer conversions.
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