website design user experience

Your website is 5 years old. Cutting-edge at the time, it’s now a relic of design trends past. Mobile friendly? Not even close! User friendly? Ehh. Search Engine Optimized? Yes (but uh, using the finest in SEO tactics from half a decade ago). But it does have one thing going for it - some pretty awesome Flash animations!

Here’s the thing - your website represents your company, and your user experience is representative of your company experience. If a prospect comes to your website and can’t find what they’re looking for, or do what they’re looking to do, it may quickly turn into a lost opportunity. The general public isn’t too patient when it comes to visiting websites - according to one analyst, you only have 15 seconds to catch a visitor’s attention. You need to make those 15 seconds count.  

Stratus_Website_User_Experience_Blog.jpgMobile-Friendly is a Must Have

In May 2015, Google confirmed that mobile searches had surpassed desktop searches - a trend that has since continued and isn’t likely to reverse. What’s this mean for you? The website that was once built solely for the desktop now needs to cater to multiple device types - desktop, mobile, and tablet - each with a range of screen sizes, browsers, and operating systems. And don’t forget, even the tactile interaction is different across devices - a site that is mobile friendly needs to be usable with both a mouse and a touchscreen.

When making your site mobile, you have a few options:

  1. Responsive - When it comes to mobile websites, the term “responsive” has become the norm even though it isn’t always accurate. A responsive website is a site that automatically adjusts to changes in display dimension. The Stratus website is an example of a responsive site - if you adjust the dimension of your browser, you’ll see the site fluidly adapt to the change.
  2. Adaptive - Some responsive websites are actually adaptive. An adaptive website is a site that has been laid out specifically for the different dimensions at which it may be viewed. Whereas a responsive site will adjust fluidly, an adaptive site will adjust when the next display dimension is reached. Adaptive sites provide more control to the designer regarding how a site will look at a specific dimension, but cannot adapt to every dimension.
  3. Mobile-specific (m.) - A mobile specific site is usually identified by an “m.” at the beginning of a site URL, and is designed to only be accessed by a mobile device. If a mobile user visits a desktop site that happens to have a corresponding mobile website, the user will be redirected to the mobile version and the URL will change. Mobile sites are completely unique websites from their desktop counterpart, and may provide an entirely different experience.

User Experience is Everything

Whether you’re browsing a desktop or mobile website, the user experience it delivers is everything. Websites with poor user experiences will frustrate visitors and cause them to leave. What can create a poor user experience? Well, just about anything.

  • Site structure and navigation - Is the site easy to navigate? Is content in expected locations? Imagine your finished basement floods and you’re trying to find a company to provide 24-hour emergency water mitigation services. After a brief stop at www.angieslist.comyou click on what looks like a local reputable company’s website listing. But when you get to their website, you don’t see any information indicating they provide emergency water mitigation. Instead, all you see is information about their exterior home repair expertise. You’re already in a tizzy because your home is in a state of disarray and you quickly leave the website to find a company who showcases their emergency services.
  • Localization - Is your website localized for your target market? Is your copy translated to the target language?
  • Content quality - Is your content full of typos, misspellings, and major grammatical flaws? Recently, I was on the hunt for a new veterinarian, primarily using Google for my research. I came across a few vets I’d heard about before and made some pretty quick decisions based on their websites. One website in particular stopped me in my tracks - the Contact Us phone number was missing an entire digit in the area code and I even noticed the word “veterinarian” was misspelled in the About Us section. Needless to say, I love my dog and expect great attention to detail in terms of his care. Clearly this vet was lacking in the attention to detail department and won’t be getting my business anytime soon!
  • Design - Is the font size legible? How’s your use of color? Are images in locations that make sense? I’ll admit that my professional marketing and website design experience may lend itself to greater critique and criticism of all websites, but it doesn’t take a marketing background for website visitors to be fully turned-off by bad design.
  • Accessibility - Is your site usable by the hearing or visually-impaired?
  • Security - Does your site appear trustworthy? If ecommerce equipped, do you have the necessities in place to facilitate a secure checkout and make it glaringly obvious the purchase process is credible?
  • Support - Do you offer an easily accessible means of support? Do you have an option such as live chat?

Just violating any of the above can ruin a user experience, and turn a potential lead into a lost opportunity.

Be Aware of Best Practices

A simple search in Google for “website best practices” will lead you to an endless number of results - each result with its own opinion. The simple truth is that best practices change, and aren’t even universal across all industries. Take a look at your competitors - what are their websites like? What about the websites of companies you consider to be successful? Are there any recurring themes? Best practices for an ecommerce site will likely differ significantly from those of a news or educational site - what will work for you?

And keep in mind best practices aren’t just about design. Consider SEO, for instance. Some old SEO techniques involved writing for the search engine, not for the human searcher. Keyword stuffing and unusual sentence structures were prevalent. Now, besides potentially being harmful for SEO, these old techniques can harm the user experience.

Your Website Should be a Memorable Experience (for the Good Reasons)

A website that was once a lead generating machine may no longer be effective. Website trends change, and so have user expectations. Is your website generating the leads you want? Take a look at these "10 Signs Your Website is Sabotaging Your Sales," and take the necessary steps for lead generating success.

Get Proven Tips for Optimizing Your Website from Our Marketing Experts. Download the Free Guide.

Topics:   website design user experience

Lisa McDermott

In life I crave relationships and honest connections with people – I use this unwavering need for human interaction to make Stratus Interactive a strong, growing and culture-focused agency. When I see an opportunity to educate, guide or solve, my strategic wheels start turning- challenge accepted. New business development and account strategy are my two areas of focus and I’ll go to my grave undecided on which I love more! The feeling of helping a prospect understand how we can solve their pain and problems and make them successful is beyond-fulfilling, but then again, the feeling of collaborating on a strategic plan and seeing it produce measurable results is a thrill all its own. I’m so grateful to work for an agency like Stratus that allows my individual and professional strengths to thrive instead of having to choose between these two great loves! Besides my Stratus life, I have one husband, one dog, one toddler and one bun in the oven (due 2016!). I’m a wine enthusiast (as in I love drinking wine), not-so-mildly-obsessive photo-taker and photo-album maker, and I get abnormally excited about grey, cloudy days. I hope I have a chance to build a relationship with you sometime soon – feel free to call, social or email me anytime! See all Lisa McDermott's posts.

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