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Sarah Lundy

Digital Director

In its simplest form, the principles of a good User Experience (UX) stand true whether we’re talking physical bricks and mortar brand experiences, or their digital relatives – First of all, am I in the right place? Is it what I expected? Can I find what I’m looking for? Did I trip over unnecessary clutter to find it? Was it a useful experience? Was it efficient? Did I enjoy it? Did I get what I came for? Would I come again? The role of UX is undeniably pivotal to the success of your website. Despite the fact better UX design could yield conversion rates of up to 400%. (Forrester), few organisations ever conduct any kind of user experience testing. If you haven’t been focusing on your User Experience, here are 5 reasons your UX may not be pulling its weight …

01Your site has been designed for you and your stakeholders, not the users.

Despite the significance of UX as a fundamental in website development, there is still a proliferation of design by personal choice. So often, stakeholders in a company will override the work of UX designers for their website, according to their own preferences. The phrases ‘I don’t like that’, or ‘it would be better if…’ and ‘can you just move that …’ are very common in design feedback. Classic form over function.

You are undoubtedly best placed to understand your business, your products, services and customers – however, you are not your customer. When it comes to designing UX, assumptions are massively detrimental to the potential of a site by inadvertently bypassing fundamental engagement and conversion triggers.

Essentially if your user has to work hard to get to where they were headed, feels forced to do something they don’t want to do or simply gets confused in the journey, the UX needs an audit.

 

 

The Solution:

Become the user. Sit in their seat. Think like they think. Conduct user research and trust the facts. User testing is a multi-faceted blend of behavioural psychology, data & analytics, and testing & observation, all underpinned by contextual user research. The focus is on knowing your audience and more importantly, observing what they do, not what they say, so setting tasks according to your site goals and objectives is key when testing user journeys and experiences. It’s not enough to simply ask them what they think about your site. The insight you will ultimately gain from this piece of work will serve your business in more ways than purely digital.

A website is an ongoing iterative process. Behaviours, market conditions and customer preferences change so your site should be under constant scrutiny to respond appropriately and retain your audience.

How do I know I have a problem?

A quick glance at your analytics will quickly tell you what you need to know, for example; is your bounce rate high or your add to basket rate low?

02The expectations you have for your site do not match the reality

When done well, UX design is virtually invisible to its users. Poor UX on the other hand, sticks out like a sore thumb, infinitely frustrates the user and generally results in an instant bounce. Have you ever been embarrassed when you’ve pulled on a door handle when you should have pushed? The instant personal annoyance it causes is a common experience to us all, yet is it really you that’s in the wrong, or have you experienced a Norman Door?

Don Norman is best known for books on the principles of intuitive design. His theory is, if a door is designed well, you shouldn’t even notice that you have gone through it. If badly designed (a Norman Door), you will struggle to get through without the ‘push/pull’ conundrum.

Users also have expectations when presented with certain design cues. For ecommerce sites it is ‘normal’ to have the shopping basket top right in the navigation. You could be innovative and position it elsewhere, but your conversion rates may well suffer as a result. Expectations run right down to the micro functions on a site:

Think about what you expect when you see these indicators < >
What about this + ?
And underlined text?  (I bet you clicked on that!)

There is always a place for creativity on a site but not in the places where your users expect clear and concise functionality. Hesitation, uncertainty and confusion does not make for an enjoyable User Experience.

 

The Solution

User testing against key tasks is still the fallback position. Test your red routes, the critical ones, as priority. However, if you do want to experiment with creativity and head a little off-piste, CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) is the only certain way to validate your theories – your users’ behaviours will quite quickly tell you the answers. From here you can collate observations and immediately implement measured iterative improvements.

How do I know I have a problem?

If you have conversion targets for your site and are failing to get the results you want, but have the expected number of visitors on your site, it is inevitable that you need to review your user experience

03Your site lacks search engine optimisation considerations

UX can have a massive effect on your Search Engine Optimisation, indeed the two go hand-in-hand. You only need to observe how every update that Google has made has been geared towards delivering user focused results. Satisfying both human and search engine requirements is actually getting easier. UX and SEO share a common goal of helping the user to complete their task.

 

You may not be aware of some technical SEO considerations that your site falls down on, but your users will be. Site speed, mobile experience, heading structure navigation and site structure should all be key considerations when developing good UX.

 

What may look great on a ‘flat’ design may not translate well technically. Designing your site with a large number of ‘load heavy’ resources such as large high quality images will impact on your page load speed and therefore may damage your ranking. Similarly, If your site was designed purely for desktop, what effect will this have for mobile? Have you correctly translated clicks and taps, scrolls and swipes, page width, font size and touch elements? Google has implemented mobile first indexing which will directly affect the ranking of your site.

 

Where the biggest SEO drift occurs is over time. As you add new pages, new content, update products, add campaigns and special offers; mistakes inevitably kick in. Did you write a blog and include a link to a product that you no longer sell (broken link), have you added a great piece about your new service with impressive photography but the image is not optimised (slow page load), did you add a Christmas campaign to the home page but leave the campaign page ‘orphaned’ from the site navigation (search engines don’t know where it belongs or how important it is).

 

The Solution

Get yourself an expert SEO report. Both technical and non-technical in nature it will pinpoint and interpret the key SEO issues that are fundamentally holding your site back, and highlight the steps you need to take to improve.

How do I know I have a problem?

There are a few quick checks you can make to see if you need to invest in an expert SEO report. For example: Check your google analytics for site speed, check a random selection of your URLs on Google’s Mobile Friendly checker and use a free broken link checker for your site.

04Your site has inconsistent design

Frankenstein sites. The ones that start well and then grow with the addition of ideas from other ‘world-class’ sites. It’s one thing to admire Net-a-Porter’s Editorial layout, but possibly not great to try to emulate it on your site that sells bulk-buy widgets.  Admiring the BBC’s layout and functionality is admirable, however not feasible to keep populated with a limited budget and only one person in your editorial team. Taking a steer from world-class sites for good UX can certainly raise your game, but every element in your site needs a purpose that is linked to your brand and site objectives.

 

Visual hierarchy, typography, tone of voice and usability patterns are all part of design consistency. They create familiar patterns for users that become intuitive and remove friction points when using your site. The less time a user spends ‘learning’ how to use your site, the more likely they are to focus on the task they want to achieve. This is called intuitive design. It improves usability when similar elements not only look consistent, but behave in a similar way.

 

A UX designer will consider elements that you would not perhaps consider vital, but that your users will sub-consciously react to if not consistent – including colour palettes, padding, kerning and margins. Image style and treatment can, and will, cause a positive or negative feeling for your user. Where there are inconsistencies and oversights, users will quickly sense the lack of care and attention. And for high value pages, this could cause you a problem. UX is, at its core, about how design makes the users feel.

 

The Solution

Design consistency starts with your brand and therefore an in-depth understanding of your audience, their tastes and preferences. Great UX design will interpret your brand guidelines within a functional digital context and create a ‘digital toolkit’ that is consistently implemented across the site. Where a change is required, it will be considered and aligned with your brand and user expectations.

How do I know I have a problem?

Take a look at a few key statistics in your Google Analytics; do you have a good percentage of return visitors to your site, use a behaviour analysis tool such as HotJar to watch how visitors behave on your site.

05Your site does not delight your users

User delight is a layer of UX design that differentiates a good website from a great website. User delight is the WOW factor but is measured in cold hard facts. Without user delight you simply will not increase your returning visitor statistics. Without user delight you will not improve the time your visitors spend on your site and won’t achieve your website targets.

 

Delight in this context is not about fun. Delight is when a user feels competent. If a user has to work hard to achieve something that they think you should have made simple, then their actions will demonstrate this. Promising to show the pricing structure for a service, when the journey ends in a ‘simply complete this form and we will get back to you’ message – how do you feel? Delighted? Probably not.

 

Delight is clever copy, it is timely messaging, it is efficient prompting to help your user. It is not intrusive live chat pop-ups. It is not invasive and unwanted advertising. It is not ‘helpful’ tool-tips on a form that takes ten minutes to complete. Delight is an overall experience and it depends on your user. If a clothing site enables me to see 15 detailed images and 2 videos of the trousers I want to buy I may be delighted. But if the sizing information is not quickly available and accessible my delight becomes ‘delete’.

 

The Solution

Implementing a suite of detailed measurements across your site to pinpoint pain points will highlight problem areas that need to be addressed. By identifying where drop off occurs on your site, you can implement improvement split tests to increase results.

How do I know I have a problem?

From having a good return visitor percentage to a high level of enquiries or sales on your website, to also setting a suite of granular measurements for the specific ‘micro moments’, such as use of size guides, will enable you to identify problem areas.

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