What makes a great digital experience?
One that is design-led? Copy-led? How about usability-led?
User experience (UX) has never been more important for online success. Users expect to be able to get what they need, simply and quickly. Which means putting UX at the heart of your digital strategy. Here are 10 ways to do exactly that:
Check your fonts. How easy are they to read? Serif is harder to read, so most usability guides will advise sans-serif. Which is correct, at least for body copy. But on the web, where people scan, perhaps making a headline harder to read will mean more people read it? The answer, as always with UX, is to test.
Make sure any images you upload have alt tags. These are what people see if the image doesn’t download. Alt tags are essential for people using screenreaders, which read out the alt tag. To write a good alt tag, imagine you’re describing the image to a blind person.
We’ve spoken about how to optimise everything on your website, but speed in the era of mobile is even more important. More than 3 seconds and you may lose up to 50% of your audience.
Test and check your server is capable of handling any spikes, for the next time your content goes viral. Use a speed testing tool to see where you can add extra horsepower.
Use icons people are used to. For example, the hamburger icon (below) is recognised as a menu symbol (although test adding “menu” underneath).
Most people view web pages in an F shape, so position your menus and most important messaging accordingly. However, this is not always the case, so it’s best to measure audience behaviour using heat map software such as Crazy Egg:
Your audience will also expect to see your logo on the left-hand side, and for it to hyperlink to your homepage. To reassure users, make sure your contact details are clearly visible, and that your about us page can be found quickly.
People like to use the back button. So when adding a hyperlink to your copy, make it open in the same page. Because opening a new window removes the ability to go back. Plus it means your users can quickly end up with lots of windows. This is annoying on a desktop, but even more so on mobile. The exception to this is when you’re hyperlinking to an online tool or document – something that is “external” to the website.
Worried that if you add hyperlinks people will leave your page? Try putting all your hyperlinks at the bottom, with a signal to the reader after the relevant sentence, eg an asterisk or a number, like this (1).
Make them descriptive, eg chief-nation-bank.com/services/mortgages/first-time-buyers rather than chief-nation-bank.com/cat1234/id21. This helps your readers – and it’s good for SEO because you can add keywords.
And keep them clean. That means no symbols. Browsers read these differently. For example, if you put a space in your URL some browsers will change this to %20. This will break the link and make the page inaccessible.
And always use hyphens to separate words. Because Google says so.
An often-overlooked part of a website is the error page. It’s your last chance to stop people from leaving your website, so customise it so that it shares the styling of your website, to reassure visitors.
Then add a selection of links, homepage, sitemap, contact us, plus perhaps a few of your most common section. For ideas, try this selection of 404 pages.
When you’re spending all day on your desktop, it’s easy to think that’s how everyone views online content. But with mobiles, tablets and phablets all part of the mix, you need to check how your website looks on these devices. Then make sure you place your most important messages at the top, where they’ll be seen immediately.
You know that online, people scan rather than read. While underlining links is not as popular now, it’s still common enough for it to be best practice to never underline text for emphasis. Go with bold or italic instead. And avoid using “click here”. Use descriptive language instead. Here are two examples below. Which gives you the information quicker?
Video is great for explaining or showcasing your product, but let your audience choose when to watch it. That means avoiding autoplay. Not only does it often annoy visitors, it can slow down your server, uses up data, and distract users from your messaging. Treat music and animation in the same way.
Pop-ups have a bad rep, but deploy them carefully and you can get good results. Use “intelligent” pop-ups, that appear after a delay or after a visitor has scrolled or clicked through your site. That way you know you’re displaying messaging to people who are more likely to be engaged. Because there’s no point bombarding a visitor with messaging when they land on your site – at best they’ll instantly close the pop-up; at worst they’ll make a swift exit.
Getting people to your website is the hard part. So when you’ve got a captive audience, make it easy for them to stick around. Amazon does this brilliantly, with personalised hyperlinks to related products, accessories, and customer reviews. Not everyone has Amazon’s infrastructure or capability, but you can follow their principles and best practices.
Insert hyperlinks within your copy so visitors are more likely to explore what you offer. Try to avoid linking to the same page more than once; people expect different hyperlinks to go to different places. And where possible keep pages within 3 clicks of each other. For example, make sure that from your homepage, it only takes three clicks to get to the deepest page on your website.