On this episode we talk through how to create a great user experience that help users stay on your site and return to your site over and over.
What’s In This Episode?
- What is UX? (0:40)
- Design & Branding (4:14)
- Friendly Navigation (7:20)
- Relevant Copy & Imagery (14:25)
- Search & 404 Page (16:15)
- Live Chat (18:40)
- Actionable Tips (21:09)
Josh: Is your website working for you or against you? One of the worst aspects of websites today is user experience or UX. On this episode, we talk through how to create a great user experience that helps users stay on your site and return to your site over and over.
Welcome to Creative Juices, the show where we help you feel personally confident about your online presence. I’m your host Josh and today I’m joined by Julian.
And so today we’re talking about UX. What’s UX?
Julz: UX, user experience.
Josh: User experience. User experience is like the customer service of the online world. Just imagine this. You walk into a restaurant and you’re unsure whether to sit or to wait. There’s no menu, there’s no menu on the window, there’s no menus where you can actually pick them up and look at them, the waiters are ignoring you and the food takes an hour to come out. Would you go there Julian?
Julz: Probably not.
Josh: But the food’s delicious right?
Josh: So here’s the thing. Your website is the restaurant, your website’s the menu, your website’s the waiter, your website’s the chef. Your service and your product is the food. Even if your product or your service that you are selling is world-class, Michelin star quality, people will leave, people will get frustrated, and they’ll straight up avoid you, if the experience isn’t good.
Julz: Well they might even not get that far, depending on your reviews on your website!
Josh: Exactly! So your site should provide a great, smooth, easy experience for your users, which won’t just benefited them, but it will also benefit you as a business owner. Here’s some stats. Intentional and strategic user experience has the potential to raise conversion rates by as much as four hundred percent and every one dollar invested in UX results in a return between $2 and $100.
Julz: Oh well, I don’t need to say I believe that, I’ve seen that!
Josh: We have seen it! And so that’s why UX is one of our foundational pillars.
Josh: And so speaking of UX let’s dive right into it. User experience, what’s your experience with user experience and what are some of the foundational pieces of user experience?
Julz: Well I think that for me it’s a little history, I guess. Well first it’s probably different for a lot of people and so you could have a UX that’s probably geared more towards creatives or more towards, you know, a service or you’re thinking about, well, your end user basically. So who’s that going to be? If you say a photographer, that UX is probably going to be kind of different. So for me in my situation, I sort of came out of marketing pretty heavily, marketing and so a lot of it’s around services and businesses that need to make money from their website. So my thinking of user experience does tend to lean towards how can we optimize this site to make money for our client basically, for them.
Josh: Definitely! And that’s like the end goal of the business owner, right? They want their website to work for them not against them.
Julz: Yeah, well exactly
Josh: And even businesses that sell products online. We come across so many who just have terrible user experience.
Julz: Yeah and that’s frustrating! That can be very frustrating for the person and the drop off rate. It affects everything you know. I know that we bang on about this quite a bit but you know if a person enters a shop, online shop and they’ve got to click a thousand times to get to where they need to be, or even just to check out, that is a super annoying user experience!
Josh: Super annoying! And so we’ll get onto that very soon, but the very first thing that we talk about when it comes to user experience is professional website design and also professional branding on your website. Here’s something that I read. In 2012 Google published a research paper about the role of visual complexity on websites and how it influenced a person’s first impression and here are some of the core findings from that research. They found that first impressions on a website occur within 50 milliseconds or less and so when someone looks at that in the first instant that they see they already have an opinion of your business and of your website. The next finding was that websites with low visual complexity were perceived as highly appealing and then the next one was they just found that users love simple and familiar designs. And the quote that Google wrote was “users strongly prefer website designs that look both simple and familiar”.
Josh: And so when it comes to professional website design, we see all the time people just trying to be pretty, trying to make things look good.
Julz: Yeah, well, overdo it!
Josh: What are some of the foundations for that? What are some helpful things in relation to that?
Julz: Well I think in terms of professional website design and branding, it’s probably consistency is the key again, your branding colours your fonts, these things sort of lining up. Like it says, users love simple and familiar design. So is your branding, as a user scrolling through your website, are you chopping and changing between a hundred different colours and fonts? I mean we see it, we see it all the time and it’s unfortunate but Google’s saying users are loving simple and familiar designs and a key would be to keep it consistent for sure, in terms of design. And then again, with the whole low visual complexity it’s not what, depending on what kind of site you have, it’s not like major starbursts and you know… Where do you want the user’s eye to draw to? If it’s overwhelming the user’s not going to actually know where to look and then what to do, so it’s like, I’m going to tap out right now!
Josh: And there’s a new design trend nowadays called Brutalism. It’s very ironic. It’s just these Millennials and young people have just raged against all design concepts. When it comes to websites that doesn’t work.
Julz: Yeah, I would suggest against that.
Josh: You want to know where you want a user to go.
Josh: And so you want it to be simple and easy!
Julz: Yeah, clean you know, it doesn’t have to be overly whitespace but you want to have good decent borders around your images and a little bit of padding around things is great.
Josh: So we’ll get into, probably in a future episode a bit more about the actual design of websites. But the next thing that we’ve written down is about user experience is a user friendly navigation.
Julz: Sure. Navigation, I mean it’s pretty key to how a user even gets around your website. Now if that’s like ultra-complex, and this ranges for us. I mean we’ve got ones that are just a lot of like six or seven pages and pretty straightforward, About us, Services, Contact, Blog just the usual things, and then it ranges up to…. we’ve got one client who has an online shop, a physical storefront, a blog and an online booking for her services as well. So it’s multifaceted. I mean that’s probably as big of a navigation that you’re going to get and to take something so huge and try and make it visually stimulating, yet not overwhelming, there’s a real art to it, to keeping that clean and understandable and even just a flow. I know we spoke about this on the last episode. I think we asked how do we want that user to flow through the website? You know they want to learn a little bit about us and then we want to warm them up into the sale or to the online booking.
Josh: Yeah. There’s an element where if a user is on your website, they’re already looking for something.
Julz: They’re there for a reason.
Josh: Yeah, so the navigation needs to be friendly enough to actually go, hey this is what you’re looking for.
Josh: This is how to get there. And a stat that actually blew my mind is in relation to call to action buttons.
Julz: Yeah, for sure!
Josh: As in what’s that next step you want your user to take. The stat is this, that over 70% of small business websites do not use call-to-action buttons.
Julz: Hey, I’ve seen it!! It’s a huge one and particularly when coming back to that, what’s the point of the page? And getting to the end of the pages that are dead end. We see it so much where people are spending tons of money on seeing people to these websites where it’s like the user just gets stuck. They come undone and they don’t know where to go. So that’s a poor user experience.
Josh: So there’s a need to determine what is that primary, next step? What is that call to action that you want your users to actually take? And we’ve had a client say oh, call to action buttons are too aggressive. But the thing is that when a user comes onto your website they’re looking for a product or a service or they’re looking for something. And so it’s our role and your role to go, 1, how do I make that easy? An example that I think I’ll just bring this up, is that so many times we go oh I want them to do this, this, this, and this. Our response is, what’s the one thing?
Jules: Yeah what’s the one thing?
Josh: …. and then what happens is we create sliders.
Jules: Yeah, no, sliders!
Josh: I just need to bang on about sliders for a sec.
Jules: This is your pain point, right?
Josh: This is my pain point! There’s a quote by Mark Twain. He says “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one instead”.
Josh: And so what that is, is that it takes a bit of effort for us to determine what’s the short, what’s the one button instead of going, oh yeah I’m just gonna put them all in there. Create a slider and people will see them.
Josh: …but they won’t.
Jules: … but they won’t.
Josh: The stats are this, that less than 1% of sliders actually get clicks. In 84% of those clicks, they are only on that first slider. If you add it all up, you are two hundred and seventy six point seven four times more likely to climb Mount Everest than to click on a slider or a banner ad. And you are four hundred and seventy five point two eight times more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a slider or a banner ad.
Jules: That’s shocking actually!
Jules: And I mean, you think about it. I just think about it simply. If you land on a home page of somebody’s website, for starters, I don’t think that many people really stick around on the home page for too long. They kind of know where they want to go. And then if you think about the average sort of time spent on a page is what, a couple of seconds, and if it’s got heaps of information might be a couple of minutes but they’re going to get there, they’re going to want to go to where they need to go really quickly. If they have to sit there and wait for four seconds for the slider to change… I mean and you’ve got six sliders happening at the same time that’s, yeah frustrating. It’s a waste of space really. So coming back to that one thing, what’s a primary call-to-action, a secondary call to action on a simple clean banner is like yeah, super sexy!
Julz: And pointed!
Josh: And that’s like the home page. And then there’s also, you need to make the actual top navigation, the drop-down boxes, the all of that friendly as well.
Julz: Yeah and I mean one of our tricks of the trade is probably what we call a ‘sticky menu’. We try to use this on as many of our sites as possible where the menu actually stays at the top of the scroll and it’s super awesome for mobile especially, and it kind of keeps that kind of navigation right there and easily accessible. Even the call to action is right there, so often that’s book now or book online with a lot of our clinic clients. And so as they’re scrolling they might go cool I’ve read enough of this page or enough of this article to commit to taking that call to action and it’s just right there. No-brainer.
Josh: No brainer, it’s just stuck on the top.
Julz: Right there!
Josh: Easy! And making it friendly and easy to actually help the user take that next step, and that’s the goal of Google! Google’s designed their entire algorithm around providing relevant information, relevant websites to their users.
Josh: … and so if you create friendly navigation that pushes a user to where they want to go, and then that user stays there on that page, that they want to go to then Google’s going to go well this is quality content.
Julz: It’s got a good bounce rate.
Josh: Yeah. In fact the average dwell time on a page for a top 10 Google result is 3 minutes. And so the goal is to be able to get a user to the page that they want to get and then if Google goes, oh look they’ve actually got to the page they want and they’re staying there, that’s massive for visibility as well instead of them going to a website in the 15 seconds load up bouncing straight off because your experience and user experience is so bad.
Julz: Yeah for sure! I mean it makes you think about the content there as well. 3 minutes and 10 seconds, that’s a decent amount of time! So you know, have you got engaging relevant headlines and images and copy and videos and all sorts of things like that.
Josh: Yes, so relevant headlines. What do you mean by that?
Julz: Well if we stuck on the homepage example, if say you landed on an osteopathy web site and it was like, we help you it’s kind of…
Josh: Help with what?
Julz: …vague. It’s a bit broad or there’s some sort of far too creative kind of sentence that sounds kind of amazing but don’t quite get it.
Julz: It does happen a bit, so relevant headlines, you know, welcome to so-and-so Osteopathy! We fix backs.
Josh: Yeah and then I land on that and go, oh they fix backs! This is exactly what I want!
Julz: That’s my problem!
Josh: And also relevant use of images and videos?
Julz: Yeah, this is a big one for us because we do recommend a lot to our clients, try and make it personal. You know, try and steer away from the stock images, the things that get provided for free by Wix, or you know whatever the the page builder is. But get in there and take some photos of your premises or of your product or whatever that looks like. Make it personal. Put a face to the website, put a place to the website, and then even put things like introduction videos and about videos, about your services and things. That again is great for SEO but it’s also creating a better user experience.
Josh: Yes definitely! Because if I go onto that restaurant that I was talking about at the start, and I go onto their website and see a burger that looks delicious and go in and it looks totally different….
Julz: That’s expectation versus reality…
Josh: They’ve used a stock image.
Julz: Yeah. If we can marry up the reality of your situation onto the reality of your digital space, it’s a seamless kind of user experience!
Josh: Yeah definitely! So the first part was, now that we’ve got a professionally designed site that looks good, with more visual complexity and familiar, it’s got a good friendly navigation, every page has relevant headlines, relevant uses of images and videos, another thing I’ll quickly mention is to make sure your site has a search function.
Julz: Yes! This is a big one!
Josh: This is big. When someone lands on your homepage, a lot of people go to the top bar and go, okay, about, drop down, I want to find here and they end up spending like 20 clicks. But if you have a search function they can just go, oh team member, or the name of a physio that they’re actually looking for. They don’t have to go through all of that.
Julz: And on that I mean you think about user’s behaviour. What are we doing all day? We’re googling everything! We’re searching for everything, so your website can be treated like a mini Google in a way and it should serve up search results that are relevant.
Josh: Yeah. The stats actually say that 50 percent of users when they get on the site, if it has a search function, they use that search function. That’s crazy, and so making sure the search results are clear. The other thing is a custom 404 page, as in if they go to a URL that isn’t actually available on the site, so many times it’s just broken and they don’t know how to get back to the site.
Julz: Yeah, this is probably a real afterthought, you know. It’s probably one of the last things that people ever think about and it took me a long time actually to go, ah custom 404. I didn’t think about that but when I do think about it and I do land on websites and even for whatever reason a link might be broken or something like that, which happens a lot, and you land on that 404, it can be frustrating because it’s like well there’s the dead end. Imagine if you had a search bar on that 404 to go, well this is what I was looking for and oh the link has moved to here, search for that, click through, there you go!
Josh: Easy! Still on the site.
Julz: Yeah or even just a ‘return to home’, or ‘having trouble call us’, or ‘couldn’t find what you’re looking for, chat to us now’.
Josh: Yeah, well that’s the next part because one of the major things with user experience that we’ve found is live chat. It’s massive!
Julz: Yes, it is massive! I mean, from user experience it’s comforting to know that there’s a live chat there for you to talk to somebody on the other end. You know if you’re going use it, my suggestion…. I get super frustrated when I jump on a live chat and I’m not talking to somebody who’s actually a part of the company. They’re just a virtual assistant or somebody that lives remotely in some other country that’s so far removed from the situation that they don’t really know, and they just give generic answers. So if you’re going to implement live chat, I do suggest that you have an admin team or somebody who knows your business on it.
Josh: But it’s very important because 63% of people say that they would use a live chat function.
Julz: Yeah, particularly with our generation. It’s just becoming second nature. We’re so used to instant messaging that it’s just the way it’s going. And so if you get an instant reply, you might get an instant conversion which means like instant money in your pocket! Haha! That’s just how my brain operates.
Josh: Which is the end goal of user experience! You’ve got the user to the place where they want to get to and find a product that they actually want or a service.
Julz: …and they’ve connected with you which is fantastic! Another great aspect of live chat. But I mean it does, on the side of performance, live chat does slow down the site. We know that, but we do have the best chat and after all that research and things, finding out which chat loads the quickest and has that beautiful user experience…. we love our live chat!
Josh: Yeah and so we’ll provide a link to what we recommend in the show notes. And on that site speed. Site speed’s the last thing that we want to chat about user experience. It is massive. If your website loads in three seconds instead of two seconds, twice as many people will lose your site, will leave your site without visiting another page. Big deal! So users on your site want it to load fast so that they can get to the information they want quicker and then Google will go, oh look they’ve got to the page, more visibility, everything’s connected.
Josh: So to finish up this episode, a few actionable tips. Let’s talk about some dos and some don’ts of user experience. In your experience Julian, what are some of the dos, the “you should be doing this” of user experience?
Julz: I mean obviously we talked about the branding and things like that and keeping consistency is key. Some other smaller things would be making your links clickable. Obviously being able to get around your site easily, having them stand out so your links, your text isn’t black and your link isn’t black.
Josh: When they hover, it needs to be obvious it’s a link.
Julz: Yeah and even just a standard link and through your text and things it should be a different colour. The clear easy recognized wording for navigation, what else we got here, placing links on your pages to interlink your website. We spoke about that. Consider the user’s journey. Major one, thinking about putting yourself in that user’s experience that users choose how are they going to respond to, how they’re going to feel about my website? You know for the thinkers out there, there’s a lot of feelers out there and yeah it doesn’t make sense for the thinkers. You know, there’s a logical kind of way of going through a website.
Josh: …and that’s a big one because one of the things we’ve come across and we’ve actually worked through ourselves is that on the navigation, we’re tempted to use different titles. So, for example ‘about’ is a very familiar word on every website is ‘about’ and the temptation is to change it to, oh ‘fun facts’ or something like that. Users have no idea what ‘fun facts’ is. They want to know ‘about’.
Julz: Yeah exactly! I mean, we made this mistake, let’s be honest. We all, as a learning experience for everyone and so when I started Newcastle Creative Co, I was like I want to do it differently! I want to be creative!
Josh: I want to be original!
Julz: I want to be original. And so I think I named the blog Creative Juices, which is what our podcast is called now. But from a navigational perspective it didn’t quite make sense. Nobody would have known in the context and so I renamed it back to blog, you know, which isn’t sexy, but we got our Creative Juices podcast out of that so you can work it so….
Josh: And it’s clear. Because I’m looking for your blog, I’m not looking for whatever this Creative Juices thing is.
Julz: Yeah, and Google will go OK, there’s the blog. I don’t know what Creative Juices is, but I know what a blog is.
Josh: So on navigation at the top, what’s the maximum amount of clicks that it should take a user to get to the content they want to get to?
Julz: In terms of menu depth, I try not to go any deeper than three maximum.
Josh: So, top menu title?
Julz: So if it was say services, if you if it was like a massage, physiotherapy massage service, and it could be services, massage and then remedial massage. That’s as far as I would go, max. Preferably it’s less than that. It’s services, massage, or remedial massage.
Josh: It should take about three clicks for a user to get to whatever information. Then, what are some don’ts? What are some do not do this for user experience?
Julz: Some don’ts… don’t skimp on money when it comes to hosting because hosting is the foundation. It’s like the thing that’s going to significantly help your website load quickly. And again, don’t skimp again by buying crappy themes or things that load too slow. All of that you know, there’s a bit of research that goes into it. So from a really core foundational perspective if you want a really good website be prepared to invest in it. Don’t skimp don’t just be cheap about it because you’ll get a cheap product as you know, it’s like how things work. Some other smaller things would be just like creating island pages that are hard to find or you know things that….
Josh: Island pages as in there’s no bridges to that island, there’s no links to that.
Julz: Exactly and because how would they be found other than maybe some random sort of organic search or something like that.
Julz: Yeah if it’s a general website stuff… yeah island pages are no good. We touch on the creative menu again, getting a bit too crazy on your namings for the pages and things like that, multiple colours for linking and for headlines, and you know, your text and your copy and…
Josh: Make it consistant.
Josh: Don’t try and reinvent the wheel.
Julz: Yeah, because I think as much as we like to be creative there is a very sort of systemized structured way about the internet that it likes. And if you can be confined, or be okay with being confined in that space, and then being creative with your design or your copy and things like that then that’s probably the outlet for it.
Josh: Yeah but you need to keep the user in mind rather than how you want it.
Josh: It’s like how would my user want it?
Julz: And this is what we find even fundamentally about business. It is never really about us. I find that sites that make us so much about them, they’re the ones that actually come to us with the problem. My website’s not converting. It’s not working for me and we often see that’s because you’ve made it all about you! Whereas it’s actually about the user landing on your site. So what about them?
Josh: Yeah, and then the last big don’t that we’ve seen is overwhelming your users with menu items. So just a quick answer on your top bar what’s a recommended amount of top-level headers, links, menu items?
Julz: It’ll be somewhere between 6 and 10 max.
Josh: 10 max. Including a call to action button.
Julz: For sure! You don’t want to go any more than that.
Josh: Awesome. So those are those some quick dos and don’ts of user experience.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Creative Juices. On the next episode, we are following on from this conversation about user experience and we’re specifically talking about the user’s next steps, because the goal of any website shouldn’t be just to look good, your website should be working for you. It should result in purchases, subscriptions, signups, appointments, whatever a conversion looks like for you.
So next episode we’re going to be talking about how to optimize your site for conversions.
Julz: Sounds good!