What is user experience?
User experience (UX) is a concept that’s used widely across many industries, and is critical to businesses with an online presence.
UX is about meeting the exact needs of the end-user or customer, which can be costly if you get it wrong, as 70% of customers say they abandon their shopping carts due to a bad user experience.
So how do you ensure users find value in what you’re delivering?
User experience factors
Many businesses mistakenly use both terms, usability and user experience interchangeably. UX has grown to cover all facets of the user experience. Peter Morville, president of Semantic Studios, is an information architect (IA) and user experience specialist and explains that businesses should adhere to these seven user experience factors:
- Useful: is your content original, and does it satisfy users’ requirements?
- Usable: how easy is it to use your website?
- Desirable: does the design of your website reflect your brand identity, and does it trigger a strong emotional response with the user?
- Findable: how easy is it to navigate content both offsite (SEO) and onsite?
- Accessible: can people with disabilities – such as impaired vision or hearing loss – access your website?
- Credible: does your brand build trust and belief?
- Valuable: does your website deliver strong results and add value to your brand?
By paying close attention to all aspects of the user experience, you’ll increase your chances of success.
Why user experience is important
Research shows that 88% of users are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience. Therefore, you must focus your efforts on improving the user experience in order to deliver an engaging experience for website visitors.
By taking action to improve the overall user experience, you will:
- Stand out in a crowded market and help users to recognize your brand
- Reduce bounce rates
- Retain users on your site for longer
- Increase website conversions
Here’s how to improve your website
With so many other benefits to gain from UX, we asked 13 experts for their tips on how to improve user experience.
1. UX starts before a user visits your site
When people talk about UX, they usually think about UI. Even though user interface is the biggest part of a user experience, there are still other things you need to consider. UX starts even before a customer lands on the website, so think about how your page looks in search engines or on social media (title and description, possibly the image as well). Also, page load speed is one of the most important things when it comes to UX. With each second of site loading, there are lower chances for conversions. (I asked over 50 SEO practitioners about their experiences and not all confirmed improvement in rankings, but each one said it improved conversions.)
Milos Mudric, owner of SEO Brainiac
2. Keep a close watch on the user experience
CJ DeGuara, Chief Marketing Strategist at Redzel
3. Understand audience behavior with heatmaps
The best UX tip that I give to all my clients when designing a new website is to add a heat mapping software to their current site, like Hotjar or Crazy Egg. Heat mapping software can help you understand how users interact with pages and content by showing clicks, scrolls, and other metrics. The results from adding a heat mapping tracking code encourages businesses to make changes to their menu, linking, CTA buttons, and more. In my experience, after implementing these changes, I’ve seen decreases in bounce rates and increases in conversion rates.
Devon McCrossin, Digital Marketing Director at Boomtown Internet Group
4. Remove lengthy, time-consuming forms to improve cart abandonment
One of the largest and long-standing issues for every user on any website is the lengthy process of manually entering personal data. This data entry requirement varies from case to case but is always time-consuming and leads to the highest cause of checkout abandonment – and lost conversions. We often see many people simply reaching the point of conversion and abandoning the checkout due to lengthy forms. At Anyline, we developed industry-leading character recognition technology, which effectively eliminates the dated process of manual entry and replaces it with a simple photo scan, from any smartphone. Even more exciting is that this technology is only a few lines of code that any company can immediately integrate into their current website or mobile application. When a company wants to improve its website user experience, it usually means simplifying the process and eliminating the barriers to purchase.
Krisztina Orosz, Chief Experience Officer at Anyline
5. Implement simple tips to improve user experience
- Increase the text size to at least 18px on mobile. You don't want users to squint to read your awesome content
- Make your CTA buttons a bright color that stands out from your other website content. Make the text on the button action-oriented such as "Buy Now" or "Download Now"
- Don’t use an extensive color palette on your website. Most companies stick with 3 colors or less. The company I work for, American Airlines, uses red, white, and blue. Most of their applications that I build only use blue, white, and grey
- Give your website lots of white space and stay away from textured backgrounds. This will give a more modern look that will make the user experience streamlined
- Make the navigation easy to understand so the user doesn't have to think too much. My philosophy is; "don't make me think"
Beck Beach, Lead UX Designer at UXBeach.com
6. Reduce a user’s cognitive friction
An overlooked but crucial part of good UX is using procedural knowledge to reduce a user's cognitive friction. You gain procedural knowledge the moment you learn how to do something by experiencing it firsthand. Cognitive friction happens when your users expect a specific, intuitive result from your website, often based on their procedural knowledge. Still, the outcome of performing an action delivers unexpected — and often unwelcome — results.
Most users expect certain parts of their experience to reflect their procedural knowledge, such as being able to copy-paste text into a Word document or click a hyperlink to view related content. Keeping these universal expectations is crucial for user engagement. After all, the easier the task, the happier we are to perform it. But when we encounter too much friction, users often bounce to a new website or app.
Imagine you’re browsing a website, and you click on a company’s logo to return to the homepage. However, your interaction doesn’t do anything, and the site doesn’t have a “home” navigation label either. How do you get back? You don’t. Instead, you go back to the SERPs to find a website that understands UX fundamentals.
Travis McKnight, Content Strategist at Portent
7. Set clear expectations by using the right CTAs
CTA clarity is something I've seen to have a significant impact on conversions. The first thing you want to do is identify what the end-user should do in their initial point of contact by using leading, actionable words. This is generally going to be reflected on your primary call-to-action button. Instead of "contact us", it could be "talk to an expert", or "schedule an intro", or even "start your quote". By doing this, you're removing some of the vagueness, and providing something actionable. After you've changed your CTA wording, you then want to help set expectations by clearly communicating what will happen next. This should outline what the end-user should expect to accomplish in the interaction. Instead of "we'll talk", it could be "we'll go over your needs and form a 5-step action plan along with a quote to move forward". Each of these things allows the end-user to be more informed (which helps reduce poorly qualified leads) and also increases the end-user’s feeling of control - which will directly contribute to an increase in conversions.
Kyle Posey, Owner of Powered by Awesome
8. Invest your energy in words
Don’t forget to spend quality time with words. If you’re not thinking deeply about language, you'll confuse people, lose your audience, and run in circles trying to figure out why conversions aren’t happening. Problems often come down to messaging and content structure.
Solidify the story that you want to tell, how you want to present it, and what you want people to learn from that. Know what you want your first employee and your more recent employee to learn. Know what you want visitors to your site and users of your product to learn. Know what you want investors and friends to learn.
In general, when you think about improving your UX, think about putting more than half of your energy into the words people see — and making those words consistent. Even in small teams, it can be difficult to ensure there’s uniformity in how a brand story is told and repurposed across all website and content assets. I think that’s what makes us take our hats off to the brands who get it right; they serve as models for everybody.
May Habib, CEO and Co-Founder at Qordoba
9. Put mobile at the heart of your UX design
At Knowmad, designing for optimal UX is part of our web design process. Our blog post, Modern Website Design Process, has a few bullet points on letting user experience drive design. One of the most important tips is to design a website with the mobile experience in mind. HubSpot states:
If you’re still designing for the desktop, you’re doing it wrong: mobile devices now account for nearly 2 of every 3 minutes spent online.
If your company is unable to invest in a responsive, mobile-friendly design, you can still deliver mobile-friendly content by creating AMP pages for your high-volume and high-conversion pages. AMP Pages (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are designed to load quickly on mobile devices. They're designed within an open-source framework and are served to the user through the Google AMP cache.
Markelle Harden, Digital Strategist at Knowmad Digital Marketing
10. Ensure users can access every part of your website
Ever since I started user testing, I've found that sub-navigation systems can give people more control in sub-areas of a website. People can get where they need to go more easily if there's a separate menu or set of options that direct someone – whether it's on a sidebar or under the title of a page. This way the sub-menu sticks out more and can be totally custom and prominent within only the pages of a site where it makes sense.
Tim Brown, CEO of Hook Agency
11. Be sure to focus on load speeds
An often overlooked and low hanging fruit UX improvement is surrounding your website load times. Luckily Google has a great tool called PageSpeed Insights. It analyzes your website on desktop and mobile to find performance bottlenecks and improvement suggestions. The less time a user has to wait to see your site, the better.
Although PageSpeed Insights is a great start, there are some less obvious things that you can do to improve page speed:
Reduce unnecessary copy
Saying the same thing over again isn't compelling. Every section has a purpose while still staying relevant to the focus of the landing page.
Using tools like SVGOMG, we were able to reduce our SVG file sizes by up to 80%, which lowers network costs and page load times.
Reduce unnecessary raster images
Sometimes you can achieve the same graphics by using SVGs or code, as opposed to using raster formats such as PNGs or JPEGs.
Marc Laventure, Product Manager for Namecheap Labs
12. Don’t leave out accessibility
Integrating tools that are designed to improve the accessibility of your website for people with disabilities and special user needs is important in order to be inclusive. However, this not only helps to open up your website to people who might otherwise struggle to use it, but such tools can also help a broad range of other people too, improving the overall user experience.
For instance, accessibility tools that enable people to control text size and font, to have a screen reader turn text into speech, to describe an image in text format, or to provide a simplified view of the page’s content have obvious applications for people with disabilities.
But they’ll also benefit a wide range of other people in a range of situational contexts too.
For instance, someone who has mislaid their glasses, someone trying to view a screen in bright light, people with temporary functional difficulties like a sprained wrist, and even those struggling to load pages due to a slow internet connection can benefit from tools initially designed to increase accessibility. This means that integrating them improves the overall user experience of your site, and provides superior controllability for each individual end user.
Paul Jardine, Senior Web Designer at English Blinds
13. Look at content aesthetics
Nowadays, content is king so, from the many tips and techniques to improve user experience and website usability that I know, I'm going to focus on two content-related tips:
Assuring the correct level of contrast in your website content is crucial. It would help if you made your texts easy to scan, so design your backgrounds in accordance and use the correct color palettes. Pay special attention to titles, headers, and navigation sections as they are getting the main focus from users during those first few seconds.
This sometimes underrated property strongly affects legibility. Don't give your readers a hard time going through your content. The ideal line spacing is about 140%-170% of the font size, which should be at least 16pt. Test your content and adjust your spacing to make sure your website is pleasant enough to read.
Jose Gomez, CTO & CoFounder at Evinex