I once got to be part of a user experience test. My friend was in grad school and he and his colleagues had created a simple game programming tool. It was one of the most confusing pieces of software I’ve ever touched.
I found out later, they’d created a problematic piece of software on purpose. They were testing a user experience testing process. The whole thing was quite meta.
But if this had been a real product, they’d have made zero money. Why? Because while the concept was great (ready-made game elements you simply drag and drop), the user experience sucked.
You won’t make money with your website either if your user experience sucks. Here are a few ways to optimize your website for the best user experience.
1. Start With Loading Speed
The Doherty Threshold states that if a computer takes longer than 400 milliseconds to respond, users would no longer be addicted to using the computer. This was the goal, get people addicted to using a computer. If you do that, you sell computers.
400 milliseconds isn’t very long. Fortunately, most users are used to internet speeds and not blazing fast cable internet. With your website, you have about two seconds of load time leeway.
Conversions take a hit the longer your site takes to load. If people come to your site and it loads in more than two seconds, they go elsewhere. Every second it takes, your conversion rate falls by a full 12%.
What Causes a Site to Slow Down?
Too many times, novice webmasters will overload their site with plugins and graphics. Yes, it’s fun to play with transitions and you might be tempted to add a ton of features to your site through plugins. But is it worth it?
If you don’t know where to trim down, you might want to consider outsourcing to a support service. They can identify which plugins are slowing you down and recommend better plugins that might speed up your site.
2. Track Your User’s Behavior
While big data has become a kind of dirty word in the industry, data on your customers and visitors is actually useful. If you’re just guessing at where users might go, you’re at a disadvantage. It’s like playing pin the tail on the donkey. You might pin it on Aunt Merple’s bossom instead.
You can use plugins like Crazy Egg to create visual maps of where users go on your site. You can easily trim the fat on your site and funnel people to the elements that matter once you have the data.
3. Accessibility Gets Wildly Overlooked
English is not the official language of the United States. In fact, the United States does not have an official language. And really, even if the U.S. had an official language, do you want to limit your audience?
SaaS language translation is there for a reason. Make it easy for anyone to access your site, and you’ll increase your conversion potential.
Not only is language a barrier, but individual user ability can be a barrier as well. For those with visual impairment, you should add audio features.
4. Function Over Form
Sure, you want your site to look like it fits in this century. This isn’t the 90s and your web design shouldn’t be there either.
This doesn’t mean image sliders, ghost buttons that don’t look like buttons, or really anything clever that slows your website down.
Even the big websites who could afford to add a few silly and flowery features aren’t doing so. Their servers are massive beasts, but they too must keep things running as smoothly as possible.
5. Give Your Users a Map to Follow
When you walk into a shopping mall, you want to know what’s there. If the first thing you encounter isn’t a map, you’ll wander around lost until you find the pet store. And by then your kids will be bored and possibly ready for mischief.
In the e-commerce world, the kids are in your head. They’re impatient and ready to move onto the next thing if they get bored or lost. You must appease the child in every customer.
This means three things for your e-commerce site. Pure connectivity (leave a way back on every page), a site map, and a search function.
Your site map should include every category of product you sell. It should be easy for customers to navigate to the exact product they want.
Use familiar words so that people aren’t guessing when they click on an option. Your categories should be simple. If you’re a clothing line, shoes, underwear, pants, shirts, etc. should be sufficient. Unless you’re a high fashion site, there is no need to overcomplicate matters.
If I have to constantly go back to the main page, find the map, and then go somewhere else on the site, I’m gonna get really frustrated. Keep your customers’ experience smooth by leaving breadcrumbs for them.
They should be able to tap on a menu button, see the site map and navigate from every page.
Keep the search function simple as well. Here’s how you do this. Have the search bar on the top right side of every page. Allow the user to hit the enter button once they’ve entered their search query. Send them to a full search page and not some janky pop-up that only works half the time (I’m looking at you Inc.com).
The bottom line? Keep it simple.
This doesn’t mean boring. It means easy to use and uncluttered. Keep to that standard, and you’ll have a great experience waiting for every customer.