04 / March 2016, Matt
If you have spent more than a few minutes learning about web design issues, you have come across the idea of UX. UX, or user experience, refers to the ways that a website’s structure and functionality affect the user who is navigating your website. It defines the feel of the site for someone who wants to use it, whether that is to gather information, to make a purchase, or just take a timeout from a busy day.
While the definition of UX may feel somewhat loose, though, you can break it down into distinct elements that all affect the end resulting experience. A strong web design takes into account the granular details of a site’s functionality, addressing each individually while also fusing them together into a coherent whole. In the end, putting it all together will help you deliver the kind of online experience that encourages site visitors to spend more time on your website, and ultimately helps convert them into customers who build out your revenue streams for you.
Perhaps the most basic aspect of UX that every site should consider is readability. You want to create text that is easy to follow, because most of your site visitors will not spend time fighting through something for the chance to understand your content. On an obvious level, you want a font that is not too large or small, and reads well. Someone looking at a computer, generally speaking, wants to be able to read what is in front of him or her. And when you rely on content marketing, the greatest writing in the world will not help you if your potential customers aren’t reading it.
In addition, the font should reflect the tone of what you are presenting. A sans serif font can help you portray a starker tone, while some more playful fonts can fit a lighter tone to your content. Your website’s appearance should connect to how you choose to portray your company, and this is true right down to the literal letter.
Finally, strong titles and headings serve as guideposts for your readers. Search engines prioritize keywords in headings in their ranking algorithms because they demonstrate what the content on a given page is really about. You can use headings to break up content visually, but also to provide that map through to understand the main points your text is making.
Where titles and headings help your readers navigate within a single page, your menu should show the broader path through your website. Your website will perform best in search engine rankings if it contains several pages of strong, interrelated content. Without giving your viewers an easy route to follow to each page, though, this can create a confusing and frustrating experience.
Of all the UX performance issues a site can experience, the most harmful is probably slow load times. When a page on your site takes more than five seconds to load, online users go elsewhere. This can result from a hosting problem, over-coding on a page, or programming bugs. Whatever the cause, though, it will kill the UX on your site. The users will move quickly to the next search result, and will likely never return again.
Load time testing should occur frequently, because different bugs can come up over time. Further, any time you add content to your site, you need to test the impact it has on your performance. If a particular piece of content slows load times significantly, you should either fix the problem or scrap the offending content. However exciting it may be, none of it matters if no one sticks around long enough to see it.
In addition to testing new content, you should test on different search sites: Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, and Explorer at a minimum. By doing this, you can ensure that users in different environments do not experience radical performance differences. You should also make sure the performance on mobile devices functions well, as more and more search traffic comes through smartphones and tablets.
For the best results on those mobile devices, you should consider a responsive site design for your website. Rather than designing for one environment, this allows your site to flex and contract for optimal viewing on any size of screen and any kind of device. This design has become more prevalent over time, and has become more reliable in the process. It may not make sense for every website. Still, odds are it will help you avoid losing rankings and attendant SEO traffic by ensuring that you do not exclude a large set of potential customers.
Part of the key to responsive design is a display size that fits different kinds of screens. Equally important, though, is setting up your design for an optimal display format depending on the device. A smartphone often does better with a cleaner, simpler look. Those searching on mobile devices often find scrolling a nuisance, so keeping the most important menu options at the top of the screen can vastly improve the user experience over a display that merely replicates the computer screen version on a smaller scale.
Planning out how your site would function most smoothly on each kind of device takes some time and expertise, but even more, it requires a sense of what you like and do not like when viewing sites in different formats. You have likely been in the situation when viewing other sites that your potential customers will be in when viewing your site. Some sites just feel better to you than others. This gets right to the heart of UX: delivering the kind of experience that a user like you can enjoy and appreciate.
Your content serves as more than the most crucial piece of your SEO campaign. Optimized, well-written content works well to bring users to your site, but it also represents a key to keeping them around once they have arrived. The structure makes the site visually pleasing and easy to work through and understand, but unless the content is both interesting and enjoyable, none of the rest of it will help you hold your viewers’ interest for long enough to build revenue from their visits.
Fortunately, the writing that gets the best SEO results, more and more, is the writing that holds your potential customers’ interest. You need to create content that is relevant to your business and to the search terms around which you optimize. You also need to create regular new content over time, content that is unique and well-written. All of this delivers a great user experience as well. People want to read what they haven’t read twenty times before. They want to read something funny or informative or exciting. When you provide these things, you deliver the kind of UX that gets site visits and conversions.
Content, no matter what your goals for your website, remains the crux of all of your efforts. While most people focus on the SEO benefits of excellent content, and rightfully so. It drives your online marketing efforts, and creates your best opportunity for successful growth. Still, search engines prioritize it because it provides the best user experience; you cannot separate one from the other.
You also need to ensure that the content helps your overall SEO efforts. Creating images and videos specific to you and your business helps ensure that (1) your content is unique, and (2) it fits your overall design and plan for your site. You need to make sure every element of your page fits together. Thematically, this ensures the best possible user experience for your content. And strategically, it helps ensure your images, videos, and written content work together to lift you toward your overall online marketing goals.
One way to make sure that your online visitors can move on a path that makes sense is to hyperlink among pages. If someone reads on one page a reference to your general information, a link to your About page or your Contact page makes sense. They don’t have to follow it, but you give them the ability to relate your pages to each other and move easily among them with a simple click.
The key do building this way is to do so with a logical progression in mind. creating too many links can be visually distracting, and prevent those visiting your site from enjoying your content. Too few, on the other hand, hamstrings the ability to move from page to page. The sweet spot here is to think like a potential customer. What would help you as a customer find the information you wanted, and the information you needed? If a link to a page would accomplish one of these things, you should put it in. If not, you are better off leaving it out.
This serves SEO functions as well, as you create easy additional views for different pages in your site. While some visitors will go through your menu and click on every page, most will not. Connecting content on one page to content on another, both thematically and through hyperlinks, builds up your page views and your overall site rankings.
Your internal links and your menu tie in to the larger issue of flow within your site. Your different kinds of content automatically relate to each other in one way: they are connected to you and your business. As you construct your site, you should constantly think of other ways in which one page connects to another. This will help you not only build links from page to page, but also connect the content thematically, in a logical order. A user can tell if your order makes sense, and recognizes the difference between a site that flows naturally and a site that has loosely-related pages that give a choppy viewing experience.
You can accomplish this in different ways. One is with subtle verbal clues along the way. One page can reference another. If you offer products and services, separate pages for each can refer to each other to show how the different offerings connect. If you have a separate blog page, you should take advantage of the opportunity to refer back from there to the other pages on your site. Sentences, phrases, or even key terms can be used to connect thematically and then link from one page to another.
In all of this, the important piece to keep in mind is convenience. If you link for the sake of linking, your viewers will get annoyed and leave. If your links go to places that don’t make sense, your SEO rankings will suffer and your conversions will disappear.
The overall experience your users enjoy will depend in part on their finding what they are seeking. This shows one more area in which your SEO efforts and your web design efforts should align. When you build your website, you should make every design choice based on what best represents who you are and what you do. The colors you choose might be warm or cool, muted or bright, depending on what kind of business you run, where you do it, and how. Your font may be large or small, bold or faded, with or without serifs, based on the visual tone you wish to convey.
Even more significantly, the kind of content you provide should relate to your branding and your products or services. The people who find you should be the ones who are interested in what you have to offer. The key is to provide them with content related to that area, in an interesting and unique way. This might involve your insights on the industry, or how you relate what you do to something going on in the world. It might involve descriptions of what you do or provide, and how it differs from what others in the market have. The key is to be yourself, know your customers, and show the customers how they can best connect to you.
When you build out your web design, doing the little things to enhance your site’s user experience can make all the difference in your ability to not only attract page views, but to allow those who look at your site to enjoy their time there and spend enough time there to become your future customers. Every aspect of your site should be geared toward both of these goals: building web traffic through SEO content and design, and then creating the best opportunity for success with those you bring in.
When you work with 1st in SEO, you work with someone who understands how the elements of web design work together to create an excellent user experience. Our approach is to work with clients to build a site from the ground up, putting thought and intent in every step to ensure you are getting the most for your customers and, in turn, for your business. Contact us today to learn more and to start building.