A notable speaker once said, “Content is king.” This is profoundly reflected by Brafton and our core business, but I think that catchphrase is only telling half the story. Beyond words or media, there are a million intangibles that deserve heavy weight and can significantly influence the convertibility of your content.
What is user experience (UX)?
UX is the presentation of the content; overall design, site speed and, fundamentally, flow.
To put it simply, it’s the world your content lives in and how a consumer interacts with that world. There are countless books, blogs and academic treatises on the subject if you’re interested in digging deeper.
In the case of a website, UX is the presentation of the content; overall design, site speed and, fundamentally, flow, all play important parts.
This can be intimidating – many moving parts make for many breakpoints. But on the flip side, these facets of your website present opportunities for improvement.
Flow: Create a frictionless experience for discovery and sharing
The crux of building an effective user experience is making things easy to find. As I’m sure you’ve experienced on more painful websites, so many components can be implemented wrong and drive users off your site as quickly as they arrived.
That being said, here are my personal top three areas where discoverability and ease of use can go straight down the drain:
What’s the first thing you see when loading up your website? If it isn’t a statement on what you do, re-evaluate your strategy. It’s vitally important that incoming visitors know exactly what they’re getting into when they first visit you online.
Another discoverability best practice is to promote fresh content on the homepage. Brafton has reported that frequent blog updates correlate with content-driven conversions. The benefits of doing this reach beyond UX – search engines regard frequently updated websites more favorably than static ones, and Google says it will crawl more often. Many webmasters accomplish this by adding featured headlines or excerpts of newly published content, with a link back to the article.
Do you organize your navigation based on user activity or how you think it should be?
Nav menus exist for a few key reasons: to help visitors discover important pages, to allow for quick movement through disparate portions of a website (homepage -> contact form or landing page -> career section, for example) and for search engines to understand what you pages you value by placing links to them on virtually every part of your website. Use analytics tools like Google Analytics to understand what your visitors care about and optimize your navigation accordingly.
Pro Tip: Keep your drop-down lists as short as possible. More than seven links each is too many.
Calls to Action
Relevance, relevance, relevance — that should be your focus. An effective CTA is one that complements its surrounding content and explains what the user will receive for clicking through. Avoid ambiguous phrasing and use action-oriented language (download, learn more, request etc.) to maximize conversion.
Also, pay attention to the texture of your calls to action in relation to what is around them. If you know the CTA will be surrounded in a cloud of text, use an eye-catching (relevant) image or contrasting color to non-invasively attract attention.
Pro Tip: If you’re using blinky ads or something similarly gimmicky, drop them. You can thank me later.
Design: Frame your content for success
A thoughtful design framework for your content directly contributes to positive website flow and improves engagement metrics across the board. According to Curata data covered by Brafton, visuals increase content marketing campaign clicks by 47 percent.
Text content needs the most attention because it takes the most concentration to consume. With video or images, a quick glance can often be enough to extract meaning; the written word must be read, processed and often read again to be fully understood.
To make the reading process as smooth as possible, take cues from the print world by spacing out your lines and paragraphs, use color combinations that are easy on the eyes (black/dark gray text on white backgrounds are the easiest to follow) and use images when appropriate to summarize or provide context to your words.
Proportion and spacing are the two most important design considerations for consumption of images. Generally speaking, your graphic content should either go the full horizontal length of the content or be compact enough to neatly fit as a sidebar (100 percent or 33 percent width.)
Pro tip: For full-width images, crop the height if necessary to prevent them from overwhelming the other content (250-300px is plenty tall in most cases.)
Spacing is as simple as adding a margin. I recommend matching the amount of space between your paragraphs as a starting point.
For simplicity, embed your videos at full content width (100 percent) and automatic height. It’ll save you time and frustration, while scaling down for different browser sizes. Try to host your videos on a HTML5-enabled platform like YouTube, Vimeo or other proprietary CDN so your video content is accessible (and fast) for mobile users.
Speed: Trim the fat and make your site snappy, visitors will thank you
For each second of load time, conversions can drop as much as 7 percent. In addition to running the risk of losing visitors’ interest, Brafton has reported that slow page load times affect 1 percent of searches, making speed a factor in SEO and visibility.
For each second of load time, conversions can drop as much as 7 percent.
There are literally hundreds of things you can do to make your site faster. So many that I wrote a three-part blog series about site speed. Please read the following for ideas to make your site more responsive:
With the above in mind, take a holistic view of your website. Step outside your role as business owner or webmaster and think about what is physically in front of you.
What does the website guide you to do? Does it feel inviting or interesting enough to stick around and read more than the first page? If not, it’s time to invest in UX.
What are you doing to enhance the UX of your website?