Every website is built with goals in mind, some simple, some more complicated. The more complicated the goal, the less likely someone will be able to easily complete it. A successful website is one that helps its users achieve their goals. By following user experience (UX) and web design best practices, the web designer can decrease friction and increase goal completion. While user experience will improve your site’s performance, it can’t stand alone and needs to be part of your overall digital marketing strategy.
At KWSM, we know a well-performing website should be the cornerstone of any digital strategy, and we always are taking time to learn how to get better results for our clients. One way we do this is through the KWSM Mentorship Program where we set aside time to dive into a topic at a deeper level. As part of this mentorship, Junior Web Designer Matt Cancilla and I were paired up to learn about UX and Web design principles. For our Mentorship project, we analyzed a poorly designed website and redesigned a prototype that better accomplishes the goals for that business. Read about the comparison of the original site and the new site in Matt’s article titled, “9 Steps To Optimize a Poorly Designed Site To Achieve Your Goals.”
A Good Website Is Goal Oriented
The first step in creating a website following good UX and web design principles is to list your goals. Once you have those goals, you need to put them in order of importance. Then develop a way for a user to interact with your site to accomplish those goals. Before you jump into development, you need to have a good idea of how each of those goals will be accomplished. The better you understand the steps needed to take action on your site, the easier you can make it. So, take time to write out the necessary actions for each goal, and try to eliminate any extra steps.
Suppose one of your goals is you want a user to be able to schedule a consultation with you. This means you will need a calendar plugin that shows your availability and allows the user to select an opening. You also need to think about how they will get to this calendar. You should prioritize the booking action in your site architecture because it is more important than say, reading your blog. More on site architecture later.
User Experience Best Practices
Before we dive into the best practices, we need to learn some basic definitions. At its core, user experience is how users interface with your website to accomplish a task. An input is something the user does, like clicking a button. Once the user gives input, the interface will then take them to the appropriate page, which allows them to accomplish their task. Feedback is how a user knows the interface received their input. An example of feedback is when you click a button, your browser loads another page. If it didn’t, then the feedback would be that the interface didn’t do its job. Affordances are tools used to give the user ways to interact with that interface. Things like buttons are a great example of affordances; they signify users to click on them without having to say anything. With clear labeling of those affordances, we can make it easy for users to know where to click. Design techniques like hover effects will also increase the communication that the button will respond to the user’s input.
Have you ever been on a website and had to search through every dropdown in the navigation menu to find the page you are looking for? Sites like that do not have good site architecture. The foundation of proper UX is setting up your navigation menu in a way that makes it easy for your users to find the pages they need.
One way to start building your site map is by writing out the page titles for your site on cards, and having people you would expect to use your site sort them into 4-5 groups. Also, have them note if one of the page titles seems confusing to them. Once they have them in groups, ask them to label the groups and set a hierarchy within each group. Take the results from your focus group and consider them in the creation of your navigation menu.
This navigation hierarchy also has SEO value because the first thing Google does is scan your navigation menu to see what pages are most important to your site. Having your most important pages easily accessible within the navigation is imperative, and all pages should be located within three clicks from the Home page.
User Experience Testing
User testing is imperative throughout the user experience optimization process. Testing should be an ongoing process, even after the initial optimization process. As with any successful test, you must have goals. As we discussed earlier, come up with a list of the top 3-5 goals and have people try to achieve them. Take note of pain points and the length of time needed to complete each of the tasks.
If you don’t have access to a focus group, testing can be done internally by having other team members go through a few tests. If your site is live, you can use a service such as Hot Jar that allows you to see recordings of people navigating through your site. Hot Jar also allows you to see how far people make it to your site and where they click with heat maps. Seeing what people actually do on the website is important to create the best UX possible. Another way to do UX testing is to have a feedback form on your site or ask key clients to perform the tasks and get their feedback.
How User Experience Helps SEO
In short, Google is always looking to provide a better user experience by finding sites that satisfy user intent. Google’s algorithm does this by promoting sites that provide a good UX and demoting sites with poor UX. Bounce rate is an important ranking metric used by search engines to determine a site’s usability. If a page has a high bounce rate, that is a good indicator that it has a poor user experience.
Why Does User Experience Matter for Your Site?
As you can see, user experience is all about making it easier for your customers to accomplish tasks on your site. Those tasks, when completed, are often what we call conversions. Conversions are the reason why websites are created. Now that you understand the overall principles of UX, take a moment to read our 9 step guide to redesigning a website to improve its UX.
Looking for a way to stay ahead of your competitors? Optimizing your website’s user experience will help you take the lead and form loyal customers in the process.
CONTACT US to schedule a complimentary website audit to check your site’s performance.