As website design has developed over the last 20 years, so we have started to have higher demands and expectations of our ‘user experience’ on a website. And because the online marketplace is so competitive, a business has to stay ahead of the competition by providing the best user experience possible. They can’t afford to provide a poor user experience, this is like receiving poor customer service in a shop, people remember this, it influences their future behaviours and word spreads accordingly.

What is user experience?

User experience, or UX, is essentially how user-centric a website design is. In 2023 we want everything quickly, we want all the information possible and we want the decision-making process to be easier and based on being fully informed. A good UX will therefore positively impact the user engagement metrics that Google uses. So a website needs to be designed to make a customer happy, and the site needs to be designed around what the customer wants. If a user will want a product list, price list or a menu, for example, make sure you include it. These kind of positive interactions will improve brand loyalty, which will not only make a purchase more likely, but will also make a repeat purchase more likely and will also result in the customer telling others about their positive experience.

Why user experience is important?

In 2021 Google started using ‘page experience’ as a ranking factor, with the idea of putting the user at the centre of everything. This means that Google now measures ‘user experience’ variables and uses them as a way to promote a business higher up search engine results pages (SERPs). These variables can include:

  • Time on-site – how long a user spends browsing a particular site
  • Bounce rate – the percentage of visitors who navigate away from a site after only viewing one page, ie. a low bounce rate % is the sign of a good website
  • Number of pages visited – how engaged was the visitor when landing on your website?
  • Load time – how long a page takes to fully load so the user can read or use it

These variables all combine to form a picture of the UX on a particular website, and essentially how engaging and enlightening a website is and how easy it is for a user to find the information or end result they want. UX therefore helps to determine the quality of a website and hence, how it ranks in SERPs. Increasingly we are wanting websites to be more intuitive, simple and a seamless experience, and this is where SEO is linked to UX, in that both are designed to meet user needs.

How to improve the UX of your website design

Much like improving the SEO of your website, there are a number of tools and techniques you can adopt to maximise the UX of your site and ensure a user is happy with their experience:

  • Navigations – This is essentially the road map of your site and how it is linked together. It is also how Google uses your site to find information people are searching for. So you need to make navigation easy and straightforward. People don’t want to have to think about how they search for or find information, or they will give up easily and find another website. So make internal links effective and also link to informative external sites if appropriate. Google likes this too.
  • Mobile-friendly – We use smartphones for 50% of our online searches today, so it is essential that your website design is responsive to this and that the layout, image loading, navigation and formatting works on both desktop and mobile/tablets. The user experience needs to be consistent and seamless between both.
  • Fast loading – It is critical that your site loads quickly and the user is not sat waiting for the information they want. It is like wanting to speak to someone in a shop and being ignored. Waiting for pages or images to load can be frustrating and very easily leads to a user moving on to another site. Page loading can be speeded up by using cleaner programming code, compressing image file sizes and researching for better website hosting companies.
  • Aesthetics – Put simply, how attractive is the website? Think about colours, fonts, your company branding and content layout. The user will be put off by clunky design, outdated fonts and a site that doesn’t feel modern and exciting.
  • Images and videos – These help to make a site engaging and appealing and help to break up lots of written content to make the UX more enjoyable. But make sure they are relevant and won’t slow the performance of the site.
  • Written contentGood blog articles help to make your site an authority and helps to keep people on a site, and hence for SEO and UX, it can really improve your Google rankings. But make sure content is relevant, informative and engaging, use only short paragraphs and make the content punchy and not laborious to read. Break the content up with images and/or videos and also sub-headings. Sub-headings are good for SEO as they can include keywords, but they also draw a reader in and make a piece of content more appealing when scan-reading it. Also, think about font size and making sure content is easy for the user to read and digest.
  • FAQs – Users often like to see a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section as it shows you have thought about everything and are putting the user first.
  • Broken links – Avoid links to information that doesn’t exist or where a technical issue throws up an error message. This is frustrating to the user and is a black mark against a website.
  • Search options – Try to include a ‘search box’ so people can find information and product pages easier.

The best way to start improving the UX of your site is to test it. Imagine you are the user so you can navigate the site and test links and load times to evaluate and then improve the UX using these techniques above. This is the best way to ensure your site is high quality, has a good UX and ultimately, is relevant to the most search engine queries.