How important is user experience?
User experience is one of Google’s most significant ranking factors. Not just because Google say it is, but because a bad user experience can drive people away from your site and potentially stop users from becoming customers.
You need to have a comprehensive understanding of what your customer want and how they use the internet. You also need to take into account your own business goals. There is little point having a great, intuitive user experience, if that user experience leads customers away from converting. It’s all about finding the balance.
Where does the user experience start?
If you can, find out where your customers are landing on your site. You might find that most of your customer’s user experience starts on your homepage. You may even find that customers start their user experience on one of your landing pages, especially if they have been searching for a specific product. It is on this page that you want focus your initial efforts into improving user journey. This snapshot from Google Analytics shows where the user journey starts, and maps their travels through the site. The grey lines are where they go next, and the red lines are where potential customers leave.
This is where heat mapping comes in. This allows you to see exactly where customers are looking on your screen and where they are hovering with their cursor. Hindsight is a great app for generating heat maps for your pages to show you where your user’s attention is. These will help you better decide where to place important pieces of information, conversion triggers and links to move around the site.
So how do you improve user experience?
Increasing your web page speed
Customers are used to web pages loading instantly. If the website doesn’t load quickly, they probably have another online shop in the back of their mind where they can get the same thing.
How quickly your ecommerce website loads is vital to improving your conversion rate. According to Conversion Voodoo, for every extra second it takes for your page to load, you lose 7% of conversions, 11% of your page traffic, and 16% in customer satisfaction.
According to Radware , who tested over 2000 ecommerce sites, the average pagespeed for an online shop is five seconds. If your page is slower than this, there are a handful of things you can do to speed it up. First, do a test. There’s a great, free tool out there called Pingdom, that will give you a breakdown of how quickly your page loads, and a selection of things you can do to speed it up. Google’s Pagespeed insights does the same thing and gives you a detailed breakdown of what to fix.
Here is a pagespeed report for Amazon from Pingdom
Here is a checklist of quick wins that you can implement to speed your page up.
- Compress your images before you upload them. Big images is the #1 cause of slow webpages.
- Allow browser caching. This means that if the customer is visiting a second time, their device will remember certain elements on the page and will load them quicker.
- Get rid of unnecessary code. Audit the code on your page, and if you’ve got anything that doesn’t need to be there, remove it. If it does need to be there, see if you can move it to the bottom of the page.
- If you have multiple CSS stylesheets for a page, combine them into one.
- Prioritise content that you want customers to see instantly rather than content that sits ‘below the fold’. Customers won’t notice if ‘below the fold’ content doesn’t load instantly. This is content that they would have to scroll to see.
- Cut down on redirects, especially on the page most people are entering your site. Each time a url is redirected, it will add some time to the page load speed.
Creating a mobile responsive website
Over 50% of all ecommerce traffic is through mobile and over the last two years, Google has heavily focussed on favouring websites that are mobile friendly. Not only do you have to think about how your website functions on a desktop, you have to think about how it functions on a variety of mobile phones and tablets.
It is worth having one or two different devices around to test your site.
- Check how the menu looks on each device and whether the navigation is intuitive.
- Does your journey around the page feel natural?
- Avoid blocks of text that are more than six lines long, it puts users off when they’re faced with a lot of content on a mobile device and it will keep your desktop website looking clean.
- Use internal links frequently when relevant. It’s a great way of signposting people around your website.
Avoid UX Rabbit Holes
A user experience Rabbit Hole is where a user comes into your website, and goes on a user journey that they have no natural way to get out of. For example, a customer enters your online shop from your homepage, moves on to a collection page and then a product page. Naturally you will want them to progress to the checkout, but they might not be ready to buy at that point. If you don’t give them the option to go somewhere else, maybe with suggested products, a breadcrumb, or a related blog post, then that customer is stuck in a Rabbit Hole.
This is all part of good user experience web design. Take a look at some of the big ecommerce websites like Amazon and Ebay. They all have suggested related items to continue the user journey, and to upsell.
Capturing data with UX
Not everyone who visits your site is going to purchase something the first, second, or even the third time. 98 out of every 100 customers that browse your site are going to drop off somewhere in their journey. You can’t entice these customers with a hard sell, because they will go somewhere else, but you can capture a small piece of information. Simply getting an email address will make sure you stay in this potential customer’s consciousness.
This way, you can target the user with possible promotions or other products that can convert them into customers. A great way to entice customers to leave an email address is by offering some kind of discount, or the opportunity to enter a competition. This doesn’t necessarily improve user experience from a navigation point of view, but your customers will feel like they are getting something for free, whilst you gain valuable email addresses.