LET'S GET STRATEGIC
Quick Fixes for Common UX Mistakes
by Linda Pophal
If the user experience (UX) on your website isn’t optimal, you could be missing out on visitors and engagement—and revenue. What are the top pain points when it comes to engaging users who come to your site? What are the biggest barriers or turnoffs? How can you discover what may not be working well on your site? What should you do to improve your site’s performance? Can you take a DIY approach, or should you hire a UX firm? When searching for external assistance, what should you look for and look out for? In this column, experts weigh in on best practices for ensuring the best UX for your website visitors.
Tim Frost, creative director at Whereoware, says that some of the top UX mistakes brands make include the following:
- Using a complicated web layout with too many features—Instead, he says, “sites should include a simple layout with clear copywriting, high-impact imagery, and a single call-to-action, per webpage section, to give users clear direction.”
- Lengthy or intrusive forms—“Brands should ask customers for the bare minimum information required to complete the web action,” Frost states.
- Large files and third-party plugins—Sites will load faster if they use compressed images and videos with universal font styles.
- Poor web interactivity—Frost says that “[c]lickable elements should be easy to identify through the use of contrasted colors and visual indications.”
- Creating content without the target in mind—Content should directly relate to the target audience’s needs and interests.
- Poor mobile optimization—“Consumers should have easy and comfortable access to brand websites from home and on-the-go,” Frost states.
None of these recommendations are difficult or challenging. In fact, they represent the basics of providing a solid, positive UX. But too many websites fail to deliver on these basics. In addition, many don’t follow some basic accessibility standards that are well-researched and well-documented.
Accessibility standards exist for a reason. They’ve been shown to positively impact the UX, among other things. Maya Stern, project manager for Creative Navy, recommends following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ AA or AAA conformance levels. “Using colors that aren’t compliant will result in poor readability, eye strain, and frustration for users,” she says. “Contrast is an important factor to be taken into consideration when designing inclusively.” In fact, Stern points out, 4.5% of the population suffers from color blindness. “But it’s not just about impairments,” she continues. “Contrast is good for visual hierarchy, and it makes looking at a digital product feel comfortable and reassuring. Accessibility compliance also matters in terms of SEO ranking.” Stern points to some free resources that can help: Google’s accessibility checker, Google’s speed test, and Mobile-Friendly Test. With so much information readily available, there is no excuse for failing to pay heed to standards of usability that can boost your website performance and drive revenue to your bottom line.
THE CRITICAL ROLE OF CONTENT
In addition to the mechanical aspects of UX, content—and how you use and display it—is also a critical consideration. Yes, content is still king. Salman Aslam, head of marketing for MuchNeeded, says, “One of the most important things we focus on is the usability and user experience that our site delivers. We really try to tap into those performance improvements that offer fast load times, without taking away from a beautiful design.” He says that providing “content that aids rather than sells” is one of the biggest pain points. That philosophy, Aslam notes, should also extend to design. “There are no huge banner ads or unwieldy breaks in the content to sell a product or affiliate service. It may not seem so, but it’s challenging to strike a fine balance between site revenue and a solid user experience. I can definitely see why other publishers might prioritize revenue and make the kinds of sacrifices to UX to achieve a higher income.” But don’t assume that you know what “great content” is from the perspective of your audience.
GATHERING INPUT AND LISTENING
Prioritizing the UX is not cheap, says Aslam, who notes that “there are sacrifices to be made, and it takes time.” Regular feedback is critical, he states, to ensuring that users are getting the experience they desire. The following questions will lead to valuable insights:
- What are your users doing on your site or platform?
- Why are they doing that?
- How do they feel about the experience?
- Are they running into any challenges or problems?
- What influence did a major design or site change have on the user sentiment?
Simply collecting this type of information isn’t the problem, Aslam notes. “It’s incorporating those insights in a constructive way that’s difficult,” he says. “You must learn to translate what’s being shared into usable information, but also you must be able to discern when that information would be good for the user experience or not.” Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know best—or that you know, without asking, what your website visitors want. Ask, listen, and act on the information you attain from users who represent your target audience.
TURNING TO EXTERNAL RESOURCES
Few business owners have the time, talent, and expertise to tackle the heavy task of ensuring a positive UX. In most cases, it can be helpful to turn to outside expertise. But how do you know which resources or vendors are up to the task? Aslam says this: “The best indication is a reliable portfolio, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a resume filled with prior work experience.” He notes that “[d]esigners and developers often share conceptual work they’ve created, and that’s also a great indication of talent.”
Brad Touesnard, founder and CEO of SpinupWP, recommends asking potential UX designers to share one of their sketch files. “UX sketching is the way designers convey their design ideas,” he says. “Look at their files and check that they are well-organized. Check that each folder uses a consistent naming convention. Confirm that symbols, text styles, and layout spacing is consistent throughout. Great UX designers are obsessed with detail, and it should show in their work.” Stern recommends looking for a team that “has completed a range of complex projects and has found outstanding UX solutions.” She cautions against looking for those who are only experienced with user interface design. “Designing an interface is not the same a being able to solve UX problems,” she says.
With so much commerce of all kinds taking place online these days, it’s the perfect time to revisit your website and determine whether you’re providing an exceptional or an underwhelming UX. Some simple fixes can make a big difference—to your site visitors and, ultimately, to your business performance.