Not that you want to lose your visitors. It’s just shockingly easy to do; visitors are hard to win and easy to lose.
Studies estimate the average visitor spends about 15 seconds on a webpage. Stunningly little time to impart information and entice action.
Want your visitors to stay? Let’s learn from some common UX mistakesthat have visitors exiting faster than you can say, “But I have some really useful stuff for you!”
Things that Affect Website Usability: Can Your Visitors Use the Website Easily?
1. Websites should be obvious, self-explanatory, and easy to use. They should not require instructions. They should not make you think, as Steve Krug points out in his adequately titled book, “Don’t Make Me Think.” If you have to think too hard about how to use a website, you simply won’t; you’ll leave.
2. The cardinal sin: Users don’t get what they expect and/or cannot find the answers quickly and easily to their questions. Users are highly goal driven when visiting websites. The ultimate disaster is to fail to provide the answers users seek in an easy way.
3. Bad search or not having search. Some visitors rely heavily on search while others prefer to use navigation to find their way around. Either way, it is critical to have an easy and functional search(either as a primary means of navigation or as a complement to good information architecture). Some examples of search setups that lose visitors:
- Those that are overly literal (e.g. not allowing for spelling variations, contractions, commas, hyphens, etc.).
- Not presented as a search box like users expect.
- Returns results based on number of queries rather than best fit, i.e. what makes the most sense
4. Slow load time is an absolute killer. Even Google is penalizing websites with slow load times as they know it negatively affects how the user experiences the website. A Microsoft study found that “a less than 2-second increased delay in page responsiveness reduced user satisfaction by 3.8%, and reduced clicks by 4.4%.”
5. Design conventions exist for a reason. Users expect websites to behave a certain way and when they don’t, visitors perceive that they are harder to use and exit stage right. Quickly. You know, like having the logo in the upper left-hand corner of a website that is linked to the homepage. Some other examples of how your website might be violating design conventions:
- When you don’t change previously-visited link colors so users know which pages they’ve already visited. Studies show users exhibit more navigational disorientation on websites when previously-visited links don’t change colors.
- Design inconsistency, lack of simplicity, not navigable in expected ways, not accessible, not credible, and not user-centric.
- You have flash animation, tons of banner advertisements, and/or navigation that is not where users expect it to be or they cannot open and close it as expected. A common mistake here is to have dropdown menus that open right over the main body of the page that users cannot close on their mobile devices (because they forgot to put in an “x” to close the menu). Thus rendering their entire screen a dropdown menu and not the content on the page they’ve selected.
Things that Affect the Utility of Your Website: Is it Useful to Visitors? Does it Help them Accomplish their Goals?
6. After a user takes in the design and overall feel of the website (in a fraction of a second), they start scanning the content to see how they can most easily get the information they need to accomplish their task.
- The biggest sin here is to present information in long walls of text that is non-scannable. Visitors don’t read your words; they scan, looking for keywords that match their intent.
Content should be chunked for scanning.
- headers and sub-heads
- bullets and numbered lists
- bold text to highlight important keywords
- short sentences and paragraphs
- visual formats when possible
- inverted pyramid style of writing – put the most important stuff first
- write in a simple, easy-to-understand manner
- typography & spacing matter – there should be plenty of white space and type should be easy to read and not too small, as well as adjustable for those who may want to make your font bigger
- Headlines have power; make sure you’re using them. Eyetrack studies show that headlines are the first thing viewed on any and every page(even outpacing images). Thus, they must be clear and concise; you have ~1 second for your headline to get noticed, scanned and acted upon.
7. Similarly, popups that interfere with main content on mobile or popup right when you get to the website and had a chance to look around are a definite no-go. Give your user some time to feel at home before you bombard them with sales messages.
8. Avoid long forms. If your organization must have them to weed out certain prospects, at least chunk content and include steps in the process to make them more digestible.
9. Navigation affects both the visitor’s ability to use the website easily and accomplish their tasks. Good information architecture is critical as is the placement of navigation. It should be a in a place users expect with navigation labels that describe the kind of content the user will find when they click on it. Too many choices are bad in all things, but especially navigation.
Also, get the order right: items that appear first or last on any list are most important and navigation is no exception. This is based on the principles of primacy and recency – you’ll be more likely to remember the first thing you saw, as well as the most recent.
Mega menus can be fantastic for making navigation easier, but ensure you include an obvious and easy close button for tablet and mobile users.
The Bottom Line: What is Your Brand Experience?
You won’t be able to influence your brand experience without ensuring your website is useful, functional, and pleasing with which to interact. Gather insights as to its usability, utility, and overall user experiences (UX) by consistently testing and iterating.
10. Test, test, and test again. Different strokes for different folks; what works for one person may not be good for another. CTAs at the bottom of the page may work great for your audience, while some audiences may not scroll that far down to see it making it more effective somewhere around the fold. Ensure you’ve strategically planned for testing – data collection, responsible parties, reporting, and iteration plans are critical to success in ensuring you continue to be responsive to your audiences.
If you don’t have a UX strategy, I’d be happy to help! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.