Raise your hand if you have visited a website in the last week and found yourself frustrated with the experience of searching for the information you wanted? How did that make you feel about said company? Did it ultimately find what you were searching for and think to yourself, “Are they trying to hide this stuff from me?” With their focus locked tightly on the snazzy marketing verbiage, flashy logo, and awesome three level drop down menu they might have overlooked a less tangible element of the website … the user experience.
Your website’s user-experience (sometimes referred to as “UX”) is directly related to the perception your visitors have of how useful and efficient your site is in providing them what they want. Because everyone’s perception can be unique this means how a person feels about their experience on your website is subjective. The good thing is there are some best practices, trends, and standards that can help you avoid frustrated visitors and help them find the information you want to get in their hands.
Here is a quick list of a few things that contribute to a poor user-experience:
- Cryptic navigation: The language used in the primary navigation doesn’t provide any clear idea of what you might expect to find when clicking.
- Large dense blocks of content: There is a ton of content on each page with little-to-no headings, paragraph breaks, changes in color or placement making it look like a big block of text.
- No clear hierarchy of information: When you first arrive on a particular page it looks flat and nothing draws your attention. You cannot tell what is more or less important in the content and on the navigational elements.
- Inconsistent messaging: The information or language used to link to another page does not provide a clear expectation of what should be found on the next page. The overall look and feel of the site changes dramatically in style and structure so that your visitors have to re-aclimate themselves to it.
Anything on this list strike a chord? Have you experienced something here? Maybe your company’s website is an offender of one or more of these?
In this article I am going to take a step back and first tackle how you can help pave a clear path for your visitors even before they ever reach your website. In order to do this we have to understand what is in the minds of our visitors or customers. I will follow up in a part 2 of this article and focus directly on your website itself and how you can reduce the friction points that may be causing your visitors to frown the entire time they use your website.
What is your visitor’s mental mode?
Understanding what is in the mind of your visitors is hugely important to knowing what information to provide them and how to visually present it. To start the process ask yourself two questions:
- Where will visitors to my website come from?
- What will visitors be looking for?
In an ideal situation you would have the opportunity to answer these questions during the initial planning stages of your website. If you are beyond that stage then don’t fret. The great thing about websites is, with a bit of effort, you can go back and tweak your pages as needed to make them more effective. But where should you start the process of creating a better experience for your visitors?
A smooth user-experience starts before someone visits your website
Is your company is using Facebook social ads to drive traffic to your site? Then you have only a sentence, an image, and a heading to provide context about what information your website offers. That context sets the visitor’s initial expectation as to what they will get in return for clicking on the ad. Will it be what they were hoping for or is it something completely different? A common approach to tackling this is to create unique landing pages for each set of visitors with the intent on targeting your message and keeping continuity between the referral source (in this case it is a Facebook ad) and your website.
There are a variety of other ways your visitors might be faced with a link to your site and a choice to click. Depending on what it communicates and what context it provides the user-experience can start off on good or bad footing.
Here are a few other sources that might refer visitors to your site and some questions to think about:
- Search engine result:
When a page on your website shows up in search engine results does the page title and description they see accurately tell them what they will find if they click on it?
- Social Links:
When you tweet out a link to an article, contest, sales page, etc… does the accompanying sentence or title tell others what they will see once they click? Can the same be said for links posted on your Facebook business page or on YouTube videos that provide a link back to your website?
- Traditional advertising:
Is your website mentioned prominently in your radio, television, and print ads? Should each of these channels point to your homepage or would a unique landing page provide a better experience?
The example below is an ad from one of my favorite online resources, Lynda.com.
This Facebook ad by Lynda.com clearly communicates what to expect if I click the ad.
Clicking on the Facebook ad (figure 1) brings you to this Lynda.com landing page (figure 2). Note that the word “WordPress” is used multiple times on the page (I placed a red dot next to each). The visitor never feels like they clicked something by mistake. For those wanting to learn more about what Lynda.com offers related to WordPress they have 3 links from this page directly to the collection of WordPress training videos (seen in figure 3 below) .
Figure 3 continues the experience by providing a list of all they have to offer related to WordPress.
So far we have discussed how to smoothly transition new visitors to your website from other places on the web. By understanding where they are coming from, the context the referring source provides and what is being communicated on the web page you direct them to you will be able to better craft the content of your website.
In part 2 of this article (coming soon), I will cover what to consider when designing your site and crafting your content, no matter where your visitors are coming from. Until then I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject. Have you ever had your time wasted by a bad user-experience? Tell me about it in the comments.