11 Ways to Improve User Experience

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User experience plays an important role in any user transaction or journey. Without giving your audience a good user experience, they will just end up leaving your website without making any further activity like engagement. Most likely, they will not be coming back to your website and chances that your website performance succeeding rate in terms of engagement, conversion, popularity etc can be very low.

Surely, you don’t want your effort in promoting your website and driving traffic be put in to waste if they don’t convert right? Regardless of how strategic your social media marketing, paid search marketing or organic search marketing if you don’t a have strong CTA and UX, you can’t impress your audience and you can’t expect them to do any beneficial to your end.

In this article, I’ll highlight the important things to keep in mind for better user experience.

Let’s get started.


1. Make Your Website Look Handsome Sexy (Visually Good)


Back in 2011, Crazy Egg published a piece of information whether website design matters or not. This is a bit crazy but I agree with Joseph Putnam’s statement that first time visitors’ engagement depend on the design of your website so if your website don’t look good, a very low engagement rate can be expected.

Earlier this year, Entrepreneurial Insights published an article about the principles of successful websites. The principle shows that it’s not only about visual design of the website that matters but also the functionality of the website in general.

For an average user, it is important for them to see visually good and easy to navigate website especially if they are not website savvy in terms of different designs. Instead of giving them a hard time understanding the website, just make it easier for them to navigate from one page to another.

Below are some areas you should look at when designing your website for the benefits of your users: Alternatively, if you are just starting up your own website, you can use an HTML 5 cheat sheet or beginner's guide. 

Layout
  • Screen resolution
  • Responsive design
  • Navigation structure
  • Brand and Social visibility
Interface
  • Main features
  • Links
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Contact information
  • Forms
  • Search
Readability
  • Text fonts
  • Text styles
  • Content structured
  • Compatibility

2. Have a Clear Site Navigation


Site navigation should be clear and highly structured, your site navigation serves as a map to your audience. And I’m pretty sure you don’t want to give your visitors a hard time analyzing your site navigation to understand your website hierarchy. Your audience don’t have time for that. 

If your audience don’t get a picture of your website hierarchy structure looks like, they’ll probably bounce back to their source and look for something else. You don’t want them to lose along the journey, do you?

There are several types of site navigation you can choose from. However, they may not be applicable to all industry but you have to use your own data in order to see which best fit for your website.

Types of Navigation
  • Hierarchical navigation
  • Global navigation
  • Local navigation
Styles of Navigation
  • Text links
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Navigation bar
  • Side bar
  • Drop down menu

The main important thing to keep in mind when you plan out your site navigation and its structure, is always think of your users. Because they will be the one to use your website so don’t design it to look good but to look helpful too. But make sure they are crawlable as well.

3. Implement Breadcrumbs


The use of breadcrumbs is extremely important. It aids the issues of complex hierarchy structure of large websites such as e-Commerece site. In fact, this helps search engines fully understand the structure of your website and helps users navigate (usability) your website without having any difficulties whatsoever.

Breadcrumbs have various benefits for websites not only for SEO but for users too:
  • Helps users easily track their current location on your website
  • Reduces the user-clicks to revisit previous pages. It’s only one click away!
  • Encourages users to visit more pages in your website
  • Lowers your site bounce-rate 
Obviously, your goal is to make your visitors engage on your website and breadcrumbs play a big role in this. It does not have to be designed, a simple horizontal plain text is good enough. However, adding few tweaks can make it even better.

Take a look at Google’s own implementation of breadcrumb navigation, it’s very simple yet helpful to their users. 



4. Make Your Site Sociable


Adding social sharing buttons on websites has truly become a mandatory. With the demand of unstoppable growth of social media to individuals, spreading the word to social world is no longer hard than it was before. 



While social media shares, likes, or tweets have no direct impact in Google ranking factors, they can do make an impact to your audience if they see the mind blowing numbers of social engagement on your website.

In terms of user experience, your audience will likely find your website easy to share to their social accounts when they feel like it. Eliminating the actions that your visitors will do is definitely a huge plus for your website and most likely, it’s something your audience will appreciate.

Making your website sociable should never be difficult at all because there are some many tutorials and tools that could make it possible for you. All you need to do is follow their instructions and you should be fine.

Check these tips listed in Google SERPs

But the thing is, you have to decide which portion of your website you should place your social buttons. 
  • Should it be below the title of your article or product page?
  • Should it be floating next to body text of your article?
  • Or should it be at the end of the article?
You can get more ideas on the placement of your social media buttons by using a tool like Addthis or Sharethis. Addthis and Sharethis this have a lot of free and paid social buttons styling that you can choose from. 

5. Offer an HTML Sitemap on 404 pages


Another key to keep in mind when optimizing user experience of a website is you always have to prepare for unexpected situations. Realistically, you won’t always have a chance to fix dead pages real time. Instead, you’ll have a way around to resolve this issue and keep your visitors engaged on your website.

There are many websites doing this like Lego or Henrikhedegaard.com and more. One thing I noticed they all have in common is most of them are telling their audience to visit the previous page or the homepage. 

If would have been better if they presented a list of important pages on their website linked on their 404 pages for two possible reasons:
  • They may come from a referral source like social post or linked from external websites having a list of pages to choose from is much better.
  • Their expectation will not be met and pointing them back to the home page isn’t gonna help either.
Or it might be better if you can make something creative like Steve Lambert 404 page.

For the sake of user experience, wouldn’t that look perfect?

6. Provide Conversion Forms 


While it’s not a requirement for all websites but as long as you need to get information from your audience such as phone number or email address, this is probably something you can’t miss.

Normally, all websites should have a form like the one you see in contact us page. Sometimes, webmasters prefer to provide their personal email but it’s often get spammed so form is still recommended.

However, if your website is an e-commerce or publication, then you’ll probably need forms and if you don’t have any forms, how would they convert? 

Tips in optimizing your conversion forms:
  • Include only important information that you need
  • Don’t separate First and Last Name - They get extra space!
  • Move your form on the most prominent part of the page
  • Add your privacy policy
For further reading, check out the following tips by Hubspot and Unbounce.

7 Ways to Optimize Your Conversion Forms to Get Better Leads
Best Practices in Conversion Rate Optimization Debunked

7. Enable Site search


You might be thinking site search can’t hep you improve user experience but actually it can. Imagine if you have a lot of articles or products in various categories, your audience won’t have time to go through each of your categories to find what they are looking for and they’ll just probably look for somewhere else. So you have to prevent that from happening.

However, you’ll have to prevent crawlers from indexing your site search because technically these are the pages you wouldn’t want to be indexed. Not unless you want to suffer from duplicate issue?

Disallow: /search

8. Page Load Time Speed

Users don’t have time to wait for pages to be fully loaded. What if they don’t have fast internet connection? You’ll expect them to wait? That’s not gonna work. Users need information to be presented as fast as it could be. 

Think of Google, imagine how crazy they are in providing results on every phrase we search? Take a look at the image below. I searched for page speed and Google provided about 285M pages in 0.21 seconds. WTF?!

Image taken on June 29, 2015 (UTC+08:00)

That’s how important it is for them so why not make it important for you too? In fact, Google has evenly announced back in 2010 that they officially included site speed as ranking factor for the sake of internet users. 

So if your website have page speed issues, you’re probably at disadvantage and it’s gonna affect your user experience and most probably ranking performance in search. 

Here are some tips to improve your page speed:
  • Minimize HTTP Requests
  • Reduce server response time
  • Enable compression
  • Enable browser caching
  • Minify Resources
  • Optimize images
  • Optimize CSS Delivery
  • Reduce the number of plugins you use on your site
  • Reduce redirects
To check your page speed you can go to Page Speed Insights by Google, YSLow.org, WebpageTest.org and a lot more. You’ll basically see areas for improvement once you run a page speed report with any of the tools mentioned about so it’s gonna be easy for you to identify which are causing page speed issues.

9.Multi-Device Compatibility

The increase of mobile search has become wildly fast. The phrase “mobile will surpass desktop” in 2015 has come to reality. That being said, mobile search advertising is expecting to increase to as well. 

Since more users are switching to mobile when looking for information, it’s understandable that Google will require webmasters to have their websites mobile-user-friendly. 

Recently, Google has officially announced on their blog that they’ll be expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal and they even send a massive notification to webmasters about making their websites mobile-friendly.

10. Fix mobile usability 

Earlier this year, Google has released another feature in Search Console - formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools. The aim is to give users a better experience for mobile searchers and have a meaningful after-click experience from search results when they landed on a page they clicked on and hopefully usable on the following ways:
  • A defined viewing area (or viewport) that adjusts to the device’s screen size.
  • Content that flows in the viewport, so that users don’t have to scroll horizontally or pinch the screen in order to see the entire page.
  • Fonts that scale for easier reading on small screens.
  • Easy-to-touch elements (e.g., buttons) that are well-spaced from other touch elements.
  • Visual design and motion driven by mobile-friendly technology.
Since mobile search is on the rise, Google has given a sign for webmasters if they want their website to perform in Mobile Search, perhaps following their checklist is a good idea.

To see if your website is currently experiencing mobile usability issues, you can go check to your search console under search traffic.


11. Fix Crawl Errors

Crawl errors is inevitable. It usually happens when a page becomes unavailable when Google revisit the page or just a simple error in hyper-linking the URL. Whichever it is, crawl errors cause dissatisfaction to users if they landed on a page that no longer exist.

In Search Console, Google let’s the webmaster of a specific website property know about the current crawl errors on the website. They provide the report in crawl errors section on search console such as linking pages and the date when the error was first detected. Alternatively, you can use other third party tool such as www.brokenlinkcheck.com


Normally, dealing with crawl errors can be done in two easy ways and these include:
  • 301 redirection
  • Robots.txt blocking
Once the crawl error report in search console are fixed, you can mark them as fixed and you can move on with our life.


Summary

When designing a website, always think of your users and how they can conveniently navigate your website. If your website design is elegantly good but does not give your users a good experience, it’s not gonna make a huge positive impact to your website.

After all, it's always the results what matters and you don't want your traffic to remain as traffic, right? You want to delight, make relationship with them and convert them.