When it comes to designing websites it feels like a never-ending list of elements for designers to consider. But while you’re scratching your head about what to tackle first, strip back the process and attempt to see your site from a user perspective. That’s what user experience, or UX design, is all about.
What first impression does your site provide for users, what are they seeing, what are they reading? How easy is it for your visitors to interact and access all the elements on your site? Get these just right and yes, you’ll be rewarded with customer loyalty but, equally as importantly, you’ll be rewarded with better search rankings. And who doesn’t need that?
In this blog, we will be exploring how to improve your UX design and offer ideas that lead to a better customer experience, plus better search rankings on Google. By employing smart UX design coupled with SEO techniques that elevate your brand, you’ll create a website that is unstoppable. But before we begin let’s take a look at some terms we will be using throughout the blog.
Page Experience: Traditionally a minor ranking factor, page experience has grown to become an important element used by Google to differentiate between similar sites. In essence, the Page Experience measures the quality of user experience across all sites such as mobile and desktop, how secure your site is, and if it has any annoying pop-ups. Getting the edge on your competitors means improving your page experience and, along with page experience, includes several more key factors known as Core Web Vitals.
Three Core Web Vitals:
- LCP: or Largest Contentful Paint, simply means how quickly your site takes to load content and in particular the largest piece of content. In an ideal world this should be well under 3 seconds.
- FID: or First Input Delay or how quickly it takes for your page to become interactive. This should be milliseconds.
- CLS: or Cumulative Layout Shift. Does your content move unexpectedly? A score of less than 0.1 should be your goal.
Ensure Website And Elements Are Optimized
Site speed, or the time it takes for your site to load properly, is a factor that ranks highly with Google and also plays favorably with users. In our on-the-go world, no one has the time or the patience to wait minutes for a site to finish loading or worse still for a site to load with poorly rendered images or content. In fact, it’s a lot less than minutes – we’re talking seconds. This is particularly true for mobile users who may be accessing your site on the go, or within a short window of time, a lunch break for example.
And that’s a feature you have full control over. There are several ways to measure your site speed, so do the test and retest each time you change a feature.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to get a thorough breakdown of any issues your site has.
To make sure your site loads correctly you need to consider mobile users perhaps even more than desktop visitors. If you’re using a website builder such as GoDaddy or Wix, site speed is an area where these platforms can struggle. While your options are limited on website builders there are steps you can take to make sure your site loads as fast as possible. For example, keep images at a low file size (no more than 200KB), link out to videos, and limit the number of plug-ins you use.
If you are planning on using a website builder, shop around on review sites to find the best version for your business, and that ticks all the Core Web Vital boxes.
If you’re using an open-source builder such as a CMS platform or WordPress you’ll find it easier to address problems connected with site speed. While a degree of skill is needed to create the website you want, adapting core elements is relatively straightforward but again best advice is to use as few plug-ins as possible. With every extra chunk of code comes the potential to slow your site down, so ask yourself: what do I need and how can I simplify my site?
Always build with a mobile-first mentality, bearing in mind exactly what the user expects and looks for when visiting your site from their device. Google does not see website searches and mobile searches the same and will prioritize sites that are optimized for mobile use.
Be Wary of Website Layout
Ask yourself too, what puts you off when visiting a website. Certainly site speed plays a part and poorly rendered images might put you off, but the placement of content and website layout is also a key element. Again this relates particularly strongly to mobile design.
Content must work seamlessly together and blocks of colors should not make it hard to read text or images overlay headings or links. This is endlessly frustrating for users and will lead them to look elsewhere for the product, service, or information they’re looking for. This is even more relevant for eCommerce stores, where the risk of abandoned trolleys is high.
Website builders should make this an easier task with drag and drop blocks ready to slot into exactly the right places on your webpage. But despite their simplicity, sometimes prioritizing design over customer ease-of-use can still be an issue.
Improving both speed and layout might be as easy as choosing a simpler template. As it uses less code, it’s quicker to render, with fewer moving parts. Experiment to see if it affects your layout and speed.
But it’s not just customers who are turned off by poorly designed websites, Google will penalize content that doesn’t perform properly. In particular, Google’s Cumulative Layout Shift core vital score can be affected severely when content shifts about unpredictably.
Again it’s crucial to measure the impact visual changes have on your site so using tools such as Google Search Console will give you a report with actionable improvements you can make.
Help Users Find What They Want
At the heart of UX design is simply the desire to give visitors to your site exactly what they need with minimal effort. Endless scrolling, links that go nowhere or worse take you back to the beginning, are not tolerated by customers nor by Google and the effect is to fall quickly down through the rankings.
The good news is many of these issues are easy to fix with just a little knowledge. Analyzing your website with the Core Web Vitals in mind will give you a solid base on which to improve your UX design.
And it all begins with customer intent.
When you know your visitors well, you will instinctively have some idea of what they are looking for on the landing pages of your website. Now your job is to give them what they need with as little effort as possible. In terms of design, this means using highly relatable images, rendering correctly and accurately representing the information you are sharing. When it comes to colors it’s about choosing tones that resonate with your audience that doesn’t jar or are problematic for people with visual impairments and colorblind users.
Then we have the content itself. In terms of the copy, employing the skills of a copywriter will give your users the best experience and lead them through the funnel to your product or service if appropriate.
Outside of the content, your design should perform much the same job. You’ll need clear consistent Calls to Action (CTAs), in the form of clickable boxes or buttons. Each page should have its own clear CTA and of course, you want every link either internally or externally to remain relevant and unbroken.
If you’re not a UX designer or struggle with the concept of website design beyond a basic level, then you’ll need to either invest in your own skills through courses or employ the skills of a designer with experience in your industry.
Website design is more than just looking right. Every square inch of the pixel must meet the needs of the user. It must be tested and retested, especially on mobile sites, to ensure first of all that it gets found by Google in search rankings and then secondly meets the expectations of anyone clicking on that link.
Making the best use of your UX design principles, coupled with SEO practices and tools, such as providing alt text descriptions and appropriate use of keywords, is a winning partnership that will give your website the competitive edge over your rivals and will delight your customers. It’s not a once-and-done effort, it requires consistent monitoring, evaluating, and testing but it is well within your control and is well worth any investment you make.
Consider where you’ll spend your money, whether that’s on a more flexible website builder, UX Designer, or tools to help you keep track of your website’s performance, and consider it an investment well made.
Caroline Kelly is a journalist and copywriter who loves to write and run. Trained up in the newsrooms of her native East Sussex, England, she has lived and worked in Switzerland and Singapore. Obsessed with research and story-telling, Caroline writes in financial niches for print and online publications. Caroline, who is obsessed with research and storytelling, writes in financial niches for print and online publications.