A website’s performance is not a pass or fail grade, but a complex report card that looks at UX from a lot of different angles. Whether you’re worried about page views, bounce rates, conversion rates, or the site availability and response time metrics - the overall experience for the user comes down to one principle:
Respect your user’s time and patience.
If your goal is to improve the “stickiness” of your site or encourage traffic and conversions, revamping the technical execution of your site will have a more dramatic impact than you might expect. Performance optimization is one of THE most significant metrics for ecommerce sites, which makes the investment in a back and front end rehaul worth the ROI.
Here are some things to keep in mind when reviewing your site’s UX report card:
Functionality / Load time / Speed
Simplify your code. Adding too many plugins can slow down your site back to dial-up era speeds. WordPress themes are especially notorious for having too many bells and whistles that look flashy from the front end but are the IT equivalent of a dusty pile of tangled wires from the back end.
Compress your code. Doing this will lessen the HTTP responses that fills up your server with more traffic. You can use a zipping software like Gzip to keep all your pages and site files neatly packaged together, reduced in size by almost 70%.
Enable content caching with a CDN (Content Delivery Network). If your site visitors don’t live in the same country, this is an especially useful tactic that redistributes your site’s data to different servers around the world. A good CDN can increase your site speed by 50% and reduce bandwidth by 70%.
Fix all broken links. Having a zipped and zippy site is redundant if you’re draining your bandwidth and turning off visitors with 404 error pages. You can identify crawl errors with tools like Google Webmaster Tools, Screaming Frog SEO Spider, or Ahrefs.
For more in-depth guides on improving site speed, we recommend bookmarking these articles (1 and 2) to reference as checklists:
Mobile Friendly / Responsive / Adaptive
Mobile e-commerce will make up close to 45% of total online sales in the United States by 2020. So it’s no wonder that these days, it’s becoming common for desktop website designs to be reverse engineered from a mobile-first approach to layout. A simple, functional design is only successful if it can easily adapt to different devices without compromising the overall aesthetic.
More importantly, the goal of your site is to get your potential customers informed and interested, so you don’t want them to grumble at any technical issues like third party ads hiding important text or unresponsive phones and email addresses. Eliminate any unnecessary steps in their journey.
Keep your content visibly uncluttered for small screens, with microcopy to guide them through the call-to-action. Don’t make them have to dig through any unclear navigation like “click for more” or “next” buttons if the content lends itself well to scrolling pages.
Cell phones offer unique user experience advantages like being able to click-to-call, use location services, QR codes, and many other emerging and developing features with social media integration, like Instagram’s recent update with Shopify links.
Useful Content Only, Please
There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a company’s website looking for basic information like store hours, menus, prices, or contact info and finding only fluff content about their mission statements. Make sure all important details are available AND easy to find.
Unless you’re in the business of clickbait articles, you should use no-nonsense titles and maintain consistency between your PPC ads and your website. Users should find what they expect to see; their bounce rate will be far more severe if they feel they’ve been misled.
Any “fun” extras on your website should be opt-in, not mandatory. Don’t make your users sit through any flashy intros or get the jolt of panic when they realize the new tab they opened is blasting sound at them. Don’t throw pop-ups in their face until they’ve explored and lingered enough in their visit session that it makes sense to offer them additional incentive for conversion.
Convenience or Bust
Convenience can mean a lot of things. Fewer forms to fill out, Paypal integrated payment structure, effective site search bar for older content. If you’re targeting an international audience, or looking to attract a multicultural niche, make sure your site has been properly translated or uses an effective translation plugin.
There’s rarely a legitimate need behind asking a brand new visitor to sign up for any kind of account, and this is particularly ill advised if they’re prompted to do so even before they’ve had a chance to browse and form an opinion. People have a hard enough time remembering the passwords to all their superfluous and forgotten online accounts (especially when they’re challenged to make them more “secure” and deviate from their default childhood pets).
Unless your content is justifiably pay-walled or requires private sensitive information to be secured, there’s no user benefit to needing a unique login for site access.
Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three
The only way to know for sure if your site has been properly optimized for a seamless UX is through user testing. Knowing that 88% of consumers don’t return to a site after a bad experience means you don’t want to wait until you’ve lost real leads to start testing and fixing any hiccups.
You can use usability testing tools to evaluate the technical execution of the site, like heat-mapping systems, or good old-fashioned DIY walkthroughs. There are many approaches to user testing that you can explore to have a well-rounded assessment of your site’s performance. Here’s a great introduction to some of these approaches: https://usabilitygeek.com/an-introduction-to-website-usability-testing/
Let us know which functions of your site would be considered the most unequivocally essential for your customers to enjoy their visit. And which have impressed you, personally, as a user on a site that clearly took the time to optimize their UX without sweeping bugs under the rug.
Also, just for fun, share your UX horror stories with us. Almost everyone has one!