Here’s a fun though somewhat shameful fact: humans have an average attention span of eight seconds; that’s one second less than a goldfish! This means people can only keep their attention on any given object for roughly eight seconds before their minds drift elsewhere. This fact has every bit of relevance when designing your site for conversion rate optimization. User experience (UX) is key, and if your web pages aren’t optimized to give your visitors a holy experience, then don’t expect them to stick around much less make a purchase or become a loyal customer.
What Is User Experience?
You likely visit dozens of websites yourself on a daily basis. What is it that you expect from these sites? Obviously, you want a positive browsing experience. The specifics differ depending on the niche. With a shopping site, for instance, you want an easy-to-use interface where you can easily locate the product you’re looking for. What else? You may also appreciate recommendations based on the product you clicked at. Other positive user experiences include easy-to-locate icons, a speedy checkout, unbiased user reviews, etc.
Amazon – being the mega-giant retailer that it is – is a perfect example of a home page designed for user experience in mind. Take a look at its home page:
Sure, the ad directly below the navigation bar may be slightly annoying, but everything else is there. It has:
- A nifty search bar with an option to narrow the search by category
- Product recommendations based on what was recently viewed (digital watches in the screenshot above)
- An icon on the upper right for looking up holiday-related items
- A menu bar for quick navigation to other pages, such as the sign-in, deals of the day, and wish-list
Likewise, there is also negative user experience. This comprises of all the crap that prompts visitors to click away. This includes stuff like long page loading times, too many popup ads, excessive upsells, and not being able to locate the product you’re looking for.
Is Your Site Designed for Optimal UX?
Here’s some food for thought: if a visitor cannot locate what they are looking for within eight seconds or less, then your site is not designed for user experience. It goes back to the whole concept about how suckish the human attention span is.
Here’s another secret: visitors prefer functionality over aesthetics. Both are important, but if your site is not primed for easy navigation, then don’t expect killer conversions even if your home page absolutely has that visual wow factor.
Don’t Underestimate the Navigation Bar
The navigation bar seems like a fairly straightforward concept that is present in just about every company and personal website. However, you’ll be surprised at how many websites fail to incorporate an efficient navigation bar.
The typical layout is for the navigation bar to appear on the top of the site in EVERY page. In some sites, the bar is placed vertically on the left-hand site; this is acceptable practice as well. The bar is essentially what visitors will be using to browse from one page to the next; make the process easy for them. All the basics should be there: home, about, FAQ, blog, contact, etc. If your site has a lot of sections, then have subcategories with a drop-down menu when the cursor lands on the icon.
Some sites also include a second navigation bar at the bottom of the page to save the visitor the trouble of having to scroll back to the top of the page. Yes, your visitors will appreciate the 1.5 seconds this saves them.
The bottom navigation bar can also contain a few extras not in the bar on top. This could be secondary info, such as links to your careers or affiliates section.
Avoid Technical Jargon
Unless your business caters to the B2B sector, avoid the industry-specific lingo. Sure, you’ll sound educated and sophisticated when your web page contains a jargon nearly every other word, but it will frustrate the laymen who may be new to your niche.
Here’s an example paragraph that illustrates perfectly why you should avoid technical language:
When it comes to SEO, long-tail keywords should be incorporated into the anchor text of at least 75% of the links. This should be done for both do-follow and no-follow sites to avoid penalty by the Google algorithm. Most experts agree that linking only to do-follow sites is considered black hat every bit as much as spamming.
The paragraph above is an SEO-related piece. If you’re familiar with online marketing, then you will fully comprehend the paragraph (which you should if you’re reading an article like this). Someone not versed in SEO, though, will be left scratching his head. What does it mean by longtail keyword? What’s an anchor text? What does it mean by do-follow and no-follow links? What on earth does it mean when the paragraph mentions “black hat?”
For B2C sites, don’t assume your clients are versed in your industry. Doing so will make them believe that there is a huge learning curve in your niche. They’ll feel alienated, and that is not nurturing a positive user experience.
Segment Your Visitors
Personalizing user experience is well documented and proven to increase conversion. This was touched upon briefly by providing product recommendations. However, there are other ways of segmenting your visitors to provide them with an experience specific to their preference and demographic.
Segment Tip #1: Geo Location
Let’s say, for instance, that you operate an online apparel company. What are ways you can segment your visitors by location? Well, if it’s winter, then perhaps you can show clothing like parkas, wool coats, and thermal underwear to an audience within cold climate regions like Minnesota. For those in, say, Phoenix, perhaps you can show them items like a long-sleeve cotton shirt or a thin windbreaker jacket. Winter in Phoenix, after all, is fairly mild by comparison. This is what it means to geo-target your customers.
Segment #2: Personalization
Yes, you can show recommendations. Why not go further, though, and allow customers to customize their own experience? Amazon and Netflix both provide customization options for a personalized browsing experience created by the visitors themselves. Amazon has its own wish-list section, while Netflix has a “My List” where users can create their own library of videos they plan on watching.
Here’s another idea: let customers customize their own product. Obviously, this may or may not be feasible depending on your niche, though one survey indicated that 25% to 35% of customers expressed interest in product customization.
Segment Tip #3: Create Preferences Based on Geo-Location
This is very similar to the first tip. This time, though, make it even more personal. Using the same apparel store example, if a customer from Minnesota previously checked out knitted scarves, then recommend similar items like mittens and beanies come winter time; after all, those items go together.
There has been some discussion that adding product recommendations based on past searches are a bad idea because it means that the visitor’s browsing habits are being recorded, which for some, is a breach in privacy. According to a poll on Hubspot, though, 69% of respondents preferred being recommended products and didn’t mind having their activity recorded.
Eliminate Friction That Stands in the Way of Conversion
In online marketing speak, friction pertains to all the little factors you (and usually the visitor) may not be aware of that stands in the way of a conversion. Friction is basically all the nuisances that degrade user experience to the point where visitors may decide not to make a purchase or sign up for your service.
Friction #1: Eye Path
One of the biggest conversion frictions has to do with the page layout and a mental process known as “eye path.” When people read text, they are accustomed to reading from top to bottom and from left to right. Your site shouldn’t be laid out in a way that disrupts the eye’s natural path when scanning lines of text. For these reasons, multiple columns are usually a bad idea. Readers have to scan one column from top to bottom and back to the top for the next column. This also leads to unnecessary scrolling.
While something like this may not seem like too big of a deal, it does (mostly on an unconscious level) negatively impact user experience. Text and even accompanying images should be presented in a top-to-bottom format as much as possible.
Friction #2: Too Many Options
When it comes to online marketing, less really can be more. It can be tempting to present visitors with multiple products or sign-up offers. However, this can really cause visitors to second-guess their options and lead to what is known as “action paralysis.” Yes, the term is exactly what it sounds like and is an instance when visitors from your site fail to take the necessary actions for a conversion.
This concept is confirmed in a 2000 grocery store study. A supermarket sets up two sampling stations; one station had six jelly varieties to sample while the other had 24. The results? While the latter drew more customers and onlookers, only 3% of those who sampled purchased a jar. The other station with just six varieties had a whopping 30% conversion.
If your site offers multiple products or services, try to limit them to one product or offer per page. You should especially refrain from placing two products of comparable price and feature on the same page.
Friction #3: Call-to-Action Without a Clickable Icon
Most Web designers understand the importance of a call-to-action. Here’s the problem: some people write a killer call-to-action but fail to include a clickable icon or link immediately below. This makes the visitor dart their eyes and scroll the page in search of the icon.
Speaking of the icon, it should visually stand out from the background. Look at the two “buy now” icons below. Which one of the two has more of a “click me” vibe?
Friction #4: Using Poor Color Contrast
Some people feel that black text on a generic white background is boring. Perhaps it is a bit bland, but it’s easy on the eyes, so why fix what isn’t broken? Some people think they are being clever by adding colored text on a background of a similar hue. Likewise, light colored text on white background is just as bad and hard on the eyes. You know what else is irritating? Neon and rainbow colors in the background regardless of the color of the text. Finally, don’t even think about overlapping text directly over an image.
On the surface, these little frictions don’t seem capable of doing major harm and just causes a minor nuisance for the visitor. However, the frictions do add up and dampen the overall user experience. Negative UX ultimately impacts conversions. Also keep in mind that the frictions listed are amplified for mobile users. These little frictions don’t seem so little when they’re present on a petite screen.
Make Your Site all About UX
User experience is a means to an end. It is to achieve conversions so your site can actually rake in profit. Optimize your site so visitors have a positive browsing experience. Take a look at your own web pages and ask yourself if there are little annoyances here or there. An honest assessment of your site will help you make modifications where needed to produce a site primed for conversions.