With customers going online to do everything from buying their weekly groceries to comparison shopping local businesses, good user experience (UX) has become an extension of good customer service.
Even if you have a shop on Main Street, customers are likely to interact with your website before they ever step foot in your physical store. That means user-focused web design is essential for putting your best foot forward and establishing a positive online reputation. After all, with so many other options, users can simply go to a competitor that offers the same products or services.
Even Google is using UX signals to determine the quality of your website.
The latest Google core algorithm update, which heavily emphasizes page experience, is predicted to finish rolling out by the end of summer 2021. As Google’s page experience updates take effect, it’s possible that many will see a shift in their search engine rankings—not to mention their traffic and sales.
Now is the time for brands to prioritize user experience to not only provide better customer service but also get ahead of the competition in the wake of Google’s new updates.
What is User Experience?
User experience takes into account every interaction that a customer has with a particular brand, including what that user sees, hears, and experiences—as well as their reaction to those things. Good UX focuses on the user’s needs to improve these interactions and provide value to the customer.
When it comes to your website, strong UX refers to helping users better find and engage with the content they’re looking for—whether that’s booking an appointment, finding a particular resource, or using a chatbot to speak with a customer service rep.
Web designers create a positive site experience by measuring their efforts against these core tenants of UX design:
- Usefulness: Is the web page relevant?
- Usability: Is it easy to navigate?
- Credibility: Is the information believable?
- Desirability: Is the page aesthetically pleasing?
- Accessibility: Is the page free from any roadblocks that could prevent the user from enjoying any of its features?
- Value: Can the visitor benefit from the information or experience provided?
Under these core tenants, there are more practical considerations that impact user experience. These technical elements of a website can make or break a user’s experience with the content:
- Functional Interface: The functional interface is the overall design and structure of a site and is best demonstrated by how easy it is for users to complete desired tasks.
- Relevant, High-Quality Content: Content refers to text, videos, images, infographics, and other elements used to deliver information to the reader. Strong UX allows a user to find content that is relevant, easy to consume, and useful.
- Page Speed: Performance is a key factor in UX. In fact, poor page loading speed is a driving factor in bounce rates. Slow pages lead to impatience and frustration, driving the perception of UX down.
- Mobile Friendliness: More than 60% of searches are done on mobile devices. When sites aren’t mobile-friendly, users become frustrated. By taking time to design sites that work well with mobile devices, brands can boost UX for a majority of their users.
- Ease of Navigation: This is measured by the ease with which users can complete tasks or find information. Good navigation allows visitors to quickly make their way around a site through the use of search functionality, accessible links to key pages, drop-down menus, and more.
Why is User Experience Important?
Customers see website UX as an extension of a brand’s customer service.
They use the internet every day to comparison shop, just like people do when they search for products in brick-and-mortar stores. If they don’t see products that interest them, fail to get the help they need, or find the overall layout of the store to be frustrating, they will look elsewhere.
Quality customer service and connection is often more important than the price of the product itself.
All of these factors apply to online user experiences, as well. Ultimately, sites that provide a worse user experience are going to lose sales to competitors that offer something better.
It’s important to understand that UX doesn’t just impact a company’s ability to attract new customers. Existing clients may also become frustrated with a poorly designed site, seeking out others that are easier to navigate or ones that offer more relevant content.
With the latest page experience update, Google is strengthening the ties between UX and search engine optimization. The update focuses largely on core web vitals, including Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
These are all related to website usability. If it takes too long for a page to load, if it isn’t responsive to your inputs, or if the content suddenly changes without warning—the user isn’t likely to stick around.
How is User Experience Measured?
While overall user experience can be subjective, there are certain objective metrics that can indicate if visitors are having a positive experience on a website, including:
- Click-Through Rate: Click-through rate (CTR) is measured by the number of clicks on a link compared to the number of times that link is displayed. If the title and description of a search result match the user intent, they’re more likely to click. This is a clear indicator that search results and PPC ads are part of overall UX.
- Bounce Rate: Calculated by the number of single-page sessions divided by the total number of sessions, bounce rate represents the percentage of sessions in which a user visits a single page and then exits the site before taking any further action. If a user “bounces” it indicates to Google that a site may have low value to users.
- Dwell Time: Dwell time is simply the amount of time that users spend on a page after clicking on it from search engine results. Users who are enjoying a quality experience on your site will stick around on your page longer. Google interprets this as a signal that this page is particularly relevant for the search query used.
Understanding Rankbrain AI?
Rankbrain is an AI algorithm created by Google to help the company better interpret user intent in searches. This algorithm went live in 2015 and it significantly changed the way that search worked.
With this new technology, Google became better at matching new search queries with related searches based on its historical data.
Combining Google’s page experience update with the existing Rankbrain technology, means that the search platform will become even better at curating high-quality search results. These user experience signals will provide Google with even more information on the types of content that users find valuable for related searches.
How to Improve User Experience
As always, Google is keeping many details about its latest update quiet. However, there’s enough information out there to know that investing in good UX is key to earning greater authority, better ranking, and increased traffic.
The best way to approach UX is with the customer in mind. Instead of viewing a website from a developer’s perspective, try thinking about the ways that the customer will interact with the website.
The technical improvements outlined above are a good start, but to create a truly user-friendly experience, you should also consider the following steps to improve the entire user journey:
- Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Improve your website’s navigation by considering every action a user may want to take and eliminating any frustrations that come between them and their goal.
- Minimize Distractions: Your website should have minimal distractions. That means avoiding clutter, pop-ups, and unnecessary design elements that pull focus away from what the user wants.
- Maintain Consistency: Layouts and design elements should have a consistent style. Inconsistency in page templates or visual style leads to confusion, which makes it more difficult for the user to achieve their objective.
- Practice Transparency: Build trust by making it easy to find useful information about your brand, like who you are and what you do.
Design for Customers, Not Competitors: Don’t become so focused on what your competitors are doing that you lose focus on what your customers really want.