Companies put a lot of time and money into web marketing campaigns these day, but they often lose sight of the most crucial element of their funnel: Providing a great user experience once visitors actually arrive to the website. No matter how successful your social media promotions are at getting new users to your site, those users won’t stick around if they have to deal with slow load times and obtuse navigation. Use this checklist to ensure a smooth user experience that will boost conversions and your bottom line.
What is User Experience?
User experience, which is abbreviated as UX in web development circles, is a broad term encompassing all facets of a consumer’s interactions with a business. If you operate a website that sells real-world products, then the website is just one piece of the user experience; your delivery service and customer support are equally important to your company’s success. If your website is a product or service, then the UX consists of your entire web presence. Optimizing your user experience should be an ongoing process that requires regular reevaluation. Solicit feedback via surveys and conduct A/B testing to get an idea of what your visitors want. Use that data to develop user personas, which can help identify your audience’s backgrounds, goals and pain points. The more you know about your users, the better user experience you can provide.
The Relationship Between UX and Marketing
Good products should theoretically sell themselves. That said, in the increasingly competitive world of internet commerce, every website needs a marketing plan. Since your marketing funnel is part of the overall user experience, the tips below are applicable to all aspects of your company’s web presence including blogs, landing pages and micromarketing sites.
How to Optimize Your Marketing Efforts by Optimizing Your Website’s UX
Here are some ways website owners can improve their marketing plan by ensuring an excellent user experience:
1. Optimize for Speed
Speed is usually the first thing that comes to mind when developers talk about optimization. According to Forrester Consulting, 40 percent of users will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, so it’s no wonder why we obsess over speed. Of course, initial load time is just one aspect of speed. User perception matters more than how quickly the onload event executes, which is why developers look to metrics like the first meaningful paint. You can optimize the critical rendering path so that the most important visual elements of your page appear first to give visitors the impression that your site is loading faster.
Before you start making changes to your website, be sure to record some benchmarks so that you can quantify your improvements. If your users are coming from all around the world, one of the easiest and most valuable speed enhancements you can add to your website is a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN improves the loading time of your site by creating cached copies of files and stores them on servers closest to your visitors. Whether you’re technical or not, implementing a CDN can shave off a good amount of wait time, thus improving your visitors’ overall experience.
2. Optimize for Mobile
“Responsive design” has become a popular buzzword thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices over the past decade. Responsive websites are capable of adapting to any screen size so that users always have a consistent experience no matter how they access the site. Some companies create separate versions of their websites to accommodate mobile users, but having a single website that works for everyone is ideal.
Google announced in 2018 that it will start considering page speed in its mobile search rankings; however, the company has reiterated that having quality content relevant to the user’s search query is the primary factor in search rankings. Therefore, you should figure out which keywords customers are using to find your website. You should also look into leveraging the GPS capabilities of smartphones to customize information based on the customer’s location. Zillow was able to substantially increase the length of individual user sessions by adding a GPS-based search feature that displays nearby property listings. Google has a handy tool that can tell you how mobile-friendly your website is.
3. Use Clear Calls to Action
A call to action, or CTA, encourages prospective customers to act immediately. CTA buttons are an essential element of any landing page, but they are also helpful to have on your homepage. These are the big, bold buttons that say things like “Free Trial,” “Add to Cart” or “Subscribe Now.” An effective CTA button should be large enough to catch the user’s attention without disrupting other elements on the page. For inspiration, study how the world’s most popular websites use CTA buttons to entice new prospects. Visitors should ideally see a clear call to action near the top of your homepage.
When Virgin America placed a simple “book a flight” button at the top of their mobile website, they noticed that customers were able to complete purchases twice as fast. The more steps mobile users must go through to achieve a goal, the more likely they are to make mistakes or give up, so look for ways to streamline the user experience. For example, click-to-call links are especially effective at getting mobile users to take action.
4. Have a Well Designed Website That is Cohesive With the Company’s Brand
If you already have a company with an established brand, then this step should be straightforward. If not, then you have some important work to do. A brand is more than logos and catchphrases; effective branding establishes user expectations, invokes emotions and inspires action. Brands have narratives and a purpose beyond making money. Econsultancy has put together some best practices for branding. Branding is all about consistency and building trust, so keep that in mind when designing your website’s UX.
Prioritize security, and be transparent in how you handle customer data. Take advantage of that data to guide your product messaging and customize the user experience whenever possible. If you notice your conversions stagnating or declining, it might be time to rebrand.
5. Use High-Quality Images That are Optimized for Performance
Image files account for the bulk of most websites’ data. High quality images are especially important if you are selling a product, but larger image files take longer to load. In some case, you might have to sacrifice speed for image quality; however, thanks to new formats like WebP, it’s now possible to pack higher quality images into smaller files. New image formats take advantage of compression algorithms that are superior to those used for GIF, PNG and JPEG files. For example, WebP files are typically 25-34 percent smaller than JPEG files containing the same image. Smaller image files means faster load times and more conversions.
As you can see, a company’s marketing and the user experience that their site provides go hand-in-hand. Without good marketing a site’s UX won’t matter and without good UX, a company’s marketing won’t be as effective. Be sure to take the tips above into consideration when either building a new site or reworking your existing one.