You Are Not Your Own Worst Critic: The Value of User Experience

When it comes to representing your brand in the best way possible, it very often revolves around a successful web presence. In particular, it will be your business’ website that will do most of the talking for you. Therefore, having a website which enables users to achieve their objectives with ease and in a way that they enjoy themselves doing so, is essential.

Think of your website as an online storefront for your business. In order to drive attention to a storefront, the displays must be clean and to-the-point. People should be able to determine what you sell, simply by looking at your shop from the street, and, more importantly, they should not get any negative surprises when they actually enter your shop. Your site is no exception. If you are not completely satisfied with how your site looks or functions, you can bet that your visitors will notice. And unlike you, they won’t bother. They just leave, never to return back.

Poor website performance (slow loading speeds, too many links, etc.) will certainly translate to less page views and will negatively impact your SEO efforts sooner rather than later. But it does not stop there. If your site is anything less than or equal to being sub-par, less traffic often results in reduced revenue and lost customers.

Think thrice about your design

As previously stated, the performance of a business’s website will negatively affect the user experience of your visitors. In an ideal world, a business’ products and quality of service would be enough to establish a brand as a leader, but we all know that this simply is not the case. If the site is poorly designed, this can leave the visitor with a negative impression of your entire brand.

Having a strong brand identity and good user experience is crucial if your goal is to instill confidence in potential customers, but being strong does not mean that your site design needs to be complicated. Time and time again, it’s been proven that people detest sites that have too much clutter or are difficult to navigate, so stick to the simpler things:

  • Fonts: Should be easy to read for people at all vision levels. There are of course other guidelines for fonts.
  • Graphics: Include a healthy mix of images and text on each page; doing so will also allow search engines to better assess your site’s relevancy
  • Text: Aim for no more than 350 words of text on each page; use numbered lists and bullet points. Have a look at this article for more guidelines on how to write effective content that will improve the user experience on your site.

Complement with mobile & social media

In addition to focusing on your site’s design for the desktop, it’s important to not forget those smartphone users as well. Gearing up your business’s site to become mobile-compatible is almost essential in our technological day and age. More and more customers are using their smartphones to shop, book hotels, order food and much more, and if your site isn’t up to speed, you could be leaving money on the table.

The mobile design of your site shouldn’t look that much different than your actual website, and it would be best to use the same color scheme and overall look and feel for each. After all, you want people to recognize your brand. If your mobile site looks completely different, then it may very well leave your visitors guessing if the site they’re visiting on their mobile device is the same brand.

Businesses also tend to forget to integrate their social media presence with their site. They inadvertently leave it up to the visitor to find that business elsewhere online (which is not likely to happen). Including your social media networks on your site makes it easy for visitors and potential customers to Like, share and tweet on various social networks, which can ultimately drive more quality traffic to your website.

Don’t let your target customers get away

While there are many mistakes business owners can make with their website, these seem to be the repeat offenders:

  • Overlooking their target customer: When businesses are trying to get their website up and running, they tend to easily overlook who they are aiming to attract. However, for the website to be a success, businesses need to keep their target audience in mind.
  • Missing a call to action: Once a customer visits a website, it is imperative that they know what to do. Whether the ultimate goal is to have the customer buy a product, subscribe to a newsletter or even contact the company; it needs to be channeled via the website.

Start off on the right foot (or do what you can to repair)

It may sound like there are many things not to do. Don’t fret. It is not difficult to ensure that a business website is effective at providing a great user experience while targeting customers and increasing sales.

  • Have a design that makes sense: A business website needs to look clean and professional, but it is more essential that the setup be useful. An effective website design is easy to follow and makes the user experience top-notch. The flow of the site should be logical, and visitors should not have to jump around to find what they need.
  • List business information: Rather than focusing on flashy videos or upbeat music, businesses should focus on highlighting their important information. This can be contact information or directions to the actual brick-and-mortar store.
  • Use clear navigation: It may be tempting to use fancy names for the various pages on the website, but it is more effective to use labels that are familiar to most online users. Labeling pages with common names such as: about, contact, FAQ, etc. will help visitors find their way around.

… and test, test and test! Contrary to popular belief, user experience testing need not be an expensive task and its benefits certainly outweigh any costs incurred. If you are the owner of an SME, then here are a couple of tips to get you going. On the other hand, if you work for a larger company, then use these guidelines to convince your superiors on the value of user experience.

In today’s internet-driven society, if you are not online, you’re missing out on potential sales and valuable customer relationships. And if your online presence lacks good user experience, then this may be even worse. It takes more than simply claiming a URL to have a successful impact online, and you need to put your customers’ needs first in anything that you do. Follow these guidelines, and you will be well on your way to seeing happier users and more return on your investment!

(Lead image source: Byron Barrett)

  • Ryan Kulp

    Great article Mark. Regarding your point about targeting the right customer, often times there is a demographic angle at play there.

    I personally use UsabilityHub to run remote tests, and it gives you that info as well so you can ignore the ‘wrong’ market having the wrong experience.

  • Adam Gorbahn

    great post for the what is best way to get better at user experience