Building a business website is like the new-school version of building a storefront. What makes people stop and linger before a shop window, and then maybe come inside, look around, and, ideally, purchase something? Think about it: no matter how gorgeous the products on display might be, if the door doesn’t open smoothly or the floors are dirty, nobody will bother to even browse, much less become a paying customer.
A business website has something in common with a storefront: it’s the first thing your visitor sees. It should come as no surprise that 76% of customers explore your business site before visiting your store in person, and that number goes up if you don’t have a physical shop. Like a store window, your website should be inviting, accessible, and inspire visitors to stick around, which is why it’s smart to build a site with your end user experience in mind. Using your website should make users feel good, perhaps even delighted. In this article, our experts share tricks and insights to make visiting your site both effortless and engaging.
Improve Your End User Experience Insight #1: Design Thoughtfully
Site design communicates a lot about your business, and it has a major influence on end user experience, shaping your visitors’ moods and attitudes as they browse your pages.
Fonts, typography, and colors
Elements like fonts and colors might seem like small details, but taken together, they have an enormous impact on readability and aesthetics. If letters are placed too close together, for example, or if the text color is incompatible with background color, you risk making your site seem outdated or poorly balanced. To help you out, here are some of Buddy’s tips on creating a color palette.
Site hierarchy and navigability
Speaking of balance, site hierarchy helps determine whether your user finds your site easy to use or frustrating. When elements like menus, images, icons, and blocks of text are poorly placed or create a cluttered feel, visitors can feel confused or overwhelmed. There should be an intuitive harmony to your site, so that navigating feels seamless and easy.
If users have to stop and think about how to do something on your site, you’ve already let them down. By making your call to action (CTA) prominent, you minimize guesswork and increase conversions.
Use images wisely. Any pictures or infographics you include should be useful to your visitors and not just there as eye candy. Try to avoid staged or cliche stock images, too, since they can come off as inauthentic or too cookie cutter. Here’s our advice on where to find great stock photos.
What about originality?
We’ve seen sites that blow the most elaborate designs out of the water with their boldness and originality. That said, emphasizing being different over ease of use can alienate visitors. If users can’t figure out how to navigate your page, they’ll quickly stop caring about how fresh it looks. It takes a lot of skill to balance novel designs with the familiarity that users need to navigate your page comfortably.
Improve Your End User Experience Insight #2: Performance is King
While design is important for an enjoyable and productive visit to your page, site performance is just as crucial.
Be Quick About It
A site that takes a long time to load results in a disappointing user experience. Stats show that users won’t wait longer than 3 seconds before navigating away from your page, and even 2 seconds is pushing it. Remember also that Google will rank your site lower if your site speed isn’t up to par, so it literally pays to make sure that images and graphics load quickly. Make sure you’re reducing image files sizes by using appropriately sized photos and using image compressor tools to help them load fast. For more on this, check out our blog post on how to diagnose and improve your website’s speed.
When smartphones are more powerful and faster than PCs, most of your visitors will be on their phone or other mobile device as they’re checking out your page. There’s nothing more frustrating than struggling to click an icon on a website that’s partly obscured, or to have to re-open a site on a different browser in order to see the full menu. Worse, it makes your business look unprofessional and unreliable. A high-quality, responsive site will display properly across all screen sizes, browsers, and devices, period. In this video, we dive more into why it’s important to have a mobile responsive website.
Improve Your End User Experience Insight #3: Accessibility and Usability Matter
Website accessibility is all about making your site content understandable to every potential user, regardless of their age, cultural background, or any disabilities they might have. For example, if color blindness stops someone from reading the text on your page, you’ve lost an entire demographic of potential clients. Boost accessibility with the following:
- Include descriptive text alongside images or graphics
- Use high color contrast
- Be judicious about fonts and spacing to allow for maximum readability
- Build a responsive site, so that it’s easy to zoom in
- Include subtitles on videos along with audio-only options
When measuring how easy it is to use a website, including learnability, memorability, and efficiency, we’re talking about usability. The goal is to make visiting your site both effortless and enjoyable, with a major marker of usability being how easy it is for returning visitors to remember how to use your site. To boost usability, keep these elements in mind:
Enhance Usability #1.
Use jargon-free language that’s easy to grasp. If your page features technical products or services, there should be simple explanations that are easy to follow for someone who’s not familiar with how the product works.
Enhance Usability #2.
Make it crystal clear what your business does; it shouldn’t take users more than a few seconds to understand what you’re all about.
Enhance Usability #3.
Make clickable elements obvious. When it comes to links, icons, or drop-down menus, it should be immediately obvious what’s clickable and what’s not. For instance, if clicking an icon on a healthcare site navigates patients to a calendar where they can set up an appointment, it should be abundantly clear that that icon is clickable. Otherwise, visitors will be stumped and irritated as they scavenge your site just to make a simple appointment.
Enhance Usability #4.
Create a sense of emotional engagement and comfort, so users feel welcome, delighted, and valued. If users are feeling negatively as they browse your pages, they’re not going to linger, and emotion is especially important for online shopping sites. Incorporate elements like humor, tone, and imagery very carefully, with an eye to as many reactions as possible. On the other hand, if you’re too cautious, you risk having a robotic site that makes zero emotional impact on your visitors! It’s a matter of balancing design elements, content, branding, and site hierarchy, and it comes with time and expertise.
Enhance Usability #5.
Aim for efficiency, so that users can extract the information they need and get on with their day.
Enhance Usability #6.
Prioritize continuity, so that each element on your page is linked thematically to your brand. There’s no overarching rule here, since what makes sense for a yoga studio will look odd on a site that sells audio equipment. Remember to be consistent with your logos, images, colors, and the tone of your content, inspiring users to feel like they’re getting to know your brand’s unique personality.
Improve End User Experience Insight #4: Be Aware of Trends, but Don’t Be Ruled by Them
Keeping up with the latest tech developments is one thing. Being a slave to trends is another. There are plenty of experts who will tell you that, for example, scrolling is “dead” or that 3D graphics are all the rage. While that might be true in some sense, there’s a more important consideration for site design: if the slickest trends don’t resonate with your target audience or aren’t consistent with your brand, don’t worry about them. After all, you’re not building a website for software engineers, but for ordinary people (unless, of course, you’re actually building a website for software engineers).
It’s far better to have a website that’s aesthetically rich but also reliable and usable, than one that screams “trendy” but is neither accessible nor intuitive. On the other hand, some trends, such as designing for accessibility and inclusion, or mobile responsiveness, are important to pay attention to and incorporate on your own site.
Improve End User Experience Insight #5: Listen to Feedback
In the end, whatever website you build, it’s your customers who will be using it. Just because navigating your site or using the drop-down menu makes perfect sense to you, doesn’t mean that everyone else will feel the same way. Aside from encouraging everyone on your team to voice their experiences with your new site, you can collect feedback in the following ways:
Perform usability testing
Usability testing works by observing real users interacting with your new site across a variety of devices, shining a spotlight on what works and what doesn’t. If people struggle to perform basic tasks, or it isn’t immediately obvious to them which buttons do what, you know what site elements need improvement. It’s helpful to perform usability testing at various development stages—you risk having to begin from scratch if you wait to test until just before launch!
Check out the competition
If you have a competitor who is seeing success among your target audience, it’s smart to spend time on their site and scrutinize what they’re doing. If their site loads quickly but their branding is dated and boring, then you know exactly what to prioritize while offering clients a better alternative.
Our Last Tip: Work with Experts
By now, you’ve probably noticed that building a website that delivers an intuitive and memorable end user experience requires a careful balance of experience, imagination, and technical knowledge. There isn’t a silver bullet that works in all cases because each site, like each business, is unique.
At Buddy Web Design and Development, we have worked closely with different types of businesses from a wide array of industries. We prioritize doing great work while being great to work with, and we know how to balance client needs with user experiences to create excellent, engaging sites. If you’re ready to build or level up your business website, we’ll be happy to hear from you. Please check us out here or fill out our contact form to get the conversation started.