Optimize your website’s engagement and improve user experience with these five quick and simple tips.
As business owners, I think it’s safe to say that we want our website to be a point of connection and engagement, not frustration and distrust.
But what leads you down one path over the other?
Enter: User Experience.
Gone are the days where the standard was, ‘Just have a website’. We’re now in a digital age where there are certain expectations and standards that a website needs to meet in order to truly support and serve its visitors. And today, we’re going to dive into five simple ways for you to put the user first so you can have an easy-to-navigate and connection-focused website that supports the users and visitors who are engaging with it.
IN THIS ARTICLE
→ What is user experience?
→ User experience and brand experience
→ Understand the role of your website in your customer’s journey
→ Create a clear next-right-step on every page
→ Embrace the white space
→ Make text skimmable
→ Choose fonts and colors that are easy to read
What is website user experience?
User experience (UX) is the deep understanding of users and what they need, what they value, their abilities and their limitations related to your website (usability.gov). When you prioritize UX on your website, you’re intentionally deciding to improve the quality of the user’s interaction with and perception of your website.
Peter Morville, along with a few friends, created the User Experience Honeycomb – a set of characteristics that define what it means to have a meaningful and valuable user experience and they are:
- Is the website and its information useful?
- Is the website and its information easy to use?
- Is the website and its information desirable?
- Is information on the website easy to find?
- Is the website and its information accessible?
- Is the website and its information credible?
- Is the website and its information valuable?
User experience and brand experience
Your website plays an integral role in your overall brand experience. Because we operate our businesses in a digital-heavy environment, how someone perceives our website can have a drastic impact on their overall perception of our brand.
Meaning, a website that doesn’t prioritize how the user will engage with it and provides a less-than-stellar experience is likely to have a negative impact on the overall perception of your brand, even if everything else is top notch.
Understand the role of your website in your customer’s journey
We define the customer journey as a four-step process that details how a customer moves through a business, from the first point of contact to transformation, and beyond. The four phases are: awareness, buy-in, purchase and retention.
Using customer journey together with UX means thinking about the role the website plays within the four stages. How does the website support a user during the awareness phase, buy-in phase, purchase and retention?
By looking at your website from the perspective of the entire journey, you can intentionally share information that will support the user during a particular phase.
Put this to work: Look at your Google Analytics and see what pages people are landing on directly from a search. You can reasonably assume that someone who lands on your website from a search question has no experience with your business. So, what information does a completely new person need to know in order to effectively engage with your website and how can you incorporate that into those frequently visited pages?
Create a clear next-right-step on every page
I call them ‘dead ends’ on a website and it’s what happens when you get to the bottom of a page and there’s nothing; no next-right-step to take.
When this happens, we’re missing a huge opportunity to step into that role of support or guidance that communicates with the visitor on where they need to go next; on how to best engage with our website so they can get the most out of their experience.
Because that’s what our website provides – an experience. And our job as the business is to make sure it’s a user-friendly, supportive and enjoyable experience that provides a desired outcome.
Put this to work: Comb through your website and see if there are any pages that don’t have a clear next-right-step. This can be a call-to-action to sign up for your email list, a link to another page or a CTA to schedule a call. There’s no right or wrong in terms of what to include, but rather, to include something, so the visitor doesn’t get to the bottom of a page and wonder what to do next.
Embrace the white space
White space, or sometimes referred to as negative space, is the area of a page that doesn’t have any information. I like to explain it as giving the elements on the page room to breathe.
As the business owner, I understand our desire to communicate all the most important things about our services or offering, but from a user perspective, it can feel overwhelming to land on a page that has a lot of information to take in.
Because examples are helpful: Look at the information on your page and see if there’s any opportunities to add space, whether that’s within a paragraph or between sections. Think about the information that naturally belongs together and make sure there’s enough space between it and the other pieces you’re wanting to communicate.
Make text skimmable
Spoiler alert: Most website visitors do not read every single word on each page.
Shock and awe, I know.
But think about your own behaviors and put yourself in your audience’s shoes. They’re busy, they are looking for a specific set of information and they want it fast. So, in an effort to conserve energy, when they get to a website, they want to understand as quick as possible whether or not they’re in the right place. So, that means skimming through the page to see if there’s anything that deserves more of their attention.
While this alone isn’t a problem, it becomes a major issue if your website isn’t supporting this type of behavior. This can look like forgoing headings for more text, writing in extra-long paragraph form or opting for even more text when an image will suffice.
Put it to work: Look at each page on your site and see if you can understand what the page is trying to communicate by just reading the heading statements. If yes, you’re on the right track. If no, it’s time to update your copy and make it more skim-friendly.
Choose fonts and colors that are easy to read
When we intentionally choose to lead with user experience in our website layout and design, it means we’re putting legibility at the forefront. It’s not to say that we can’t make decisions based on personal preference and what gets us excited, but rather, we’re prioritizing what will be most user friendly for the visitor.
Because here’s the deal – the harder it is for your visitor to understand what your page is actually trying to communicate, the more likely they are to just throw in the towel and go somewhere else. Our attention spans are limited and we want to choose the path of least resistance. So, if it’s hard to just read what a heading says, the natural inclination is to find something else that’s easier.
For color selection, contrast is your friend. Think simple, clean and easy to read. Yes, you want to incorporate your brand’s color palette but there’s a way to intentionally bring in color without compromising legibility. The best rule of thumb: when you’re using a dark background, opt for light text. When you’re using a light background, opt for dark text.
This focus on user experience can be more of a challenge when it comes to typography – mainly because there are so many fun fonts out there to play with! But. But those really fun or pretty fonts generally aren’t the best when it comes to legibility and ease of use. If a visitor has to squint, zoom in or zoom out, then it’s time to reconsider the options.
Last but not least, remember that what is easy for you to read may not be easy for someone else so be open to asking for feedback and testing out different styles and sizes to see what works for your right audience.
Put this to work for you: After making a font or color selection, make sure you test it out on various browsers and screen sizes. What looks good on desktop may not transfer well to mobile, or vice versa. Optimizing for user experience needs to be approached holistically and the reminder that people browse differently needs to be at the forefront.
With that, happy branding.
All my best,
Additional brand resources
This ultimate guide to website strategy will walk you through how to create a plan for your site so that it can effectively support your business and its goals.
Want to craft a consistent and clear, client-focused homepage that effectively communicates your brand message? Check out this post.
Learn the process for evaluating the effectiveness of your internal and external website experience in this blog post.
This post walks you through the three key steps to help you prepare for a website redesign.
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