Improving your SEO and your User Experience
The internet is a fast moving machine where performance is key to being successful. There are design trends that look cool but can negatively affect your visitor performance. Many of these trends are good as they improve the overall user experience (UX); others though make the experience worse after the "wow" factor has been seen one or two times. A positive user experience is one that enhances, doesn't slow a site visitor down, doesn't distract, aligns with the core objective of the site, and doesn't have to get them to think of "what do I need to do here". Many design trends over the past year have some great "wow" factor but can actually hurt your search engine optimization, slow down your website, and detract from what you are promoting.
In today's article we are going to discuss some of the most common trends that we see in generic website templates web designers employ to wow you to buy them. These fancy elements we've found actually detract from the overall user experience and hurt your search engine optimization (SEO). What we are going to talk about are items that can frustrate and actually get users to leave your website rather than stay. We've employed some of these many years ago and since removing have increased our website conversions by double.
Auto playing of Audio or Video
This is what started this blog article process. In the past several weeks we've gone to dozens of websites where the audio or video on the site just started playing. Two were restaurants, an accountant website, an industrial website, and the rest were all technical web design sites. We understand that you want your content seen and heard but as the owner of the site you need to think of your user before you think of yourself. Many times we open multiple tabs only to find that one, or more, of the tabs start showing the speaker icon that there is audio coming from that tab. We haven't even gotten there and it's already playing. Many times for us when we hear this we just click the close button on the tab and never see anything on that site.
We used to use popups within our content management system (CMS) a lot. This kept the user on the screen without any back/forth between pages and we thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. The problem with this is our pages were slower as there was more information to load. Having the popups on a page added a full second onto a page. This may seem like a short span of time but on the internet one second is a long time. Many mobile devices though the close window button went off the screen due to how the browser interpreted the location attribute for the top right corner of the popup window. Users were looking for where to close and on many screens, specifically Apple iPhone, the button was not always visible. This added a layer of frustration and could easily be fixed by removing the popup windows.
Today mobile popups are still common. There are two types of popups we routine see on mobile devices. The first is give us your email where lead generation is happening to quickly grow your email marketing lists. When done effectively users will seek out your information and subscribe to your information. The other major source we see popups shown is for advertising. This is a huge item for local newspapers. They want to pay for everything off of advertisement revenue. The problem we see with this is many times the ads are so big we cannot hit the close button and just have to leave the site. The ad was seen though so that's all that matters right?
Landing pages used to be completely separate pages and are often called today as a squeeze page or a splash page. Today they can actually be part of your core website on any page. When a user comes to your site a page shows up and pushes down all of your content. This pushdown effect is often used as a separate landing page can seem spamming and not effective from an SEO standpoint.
If your business has to have a landing page what you will want to include will be an offer, a catchy tagline, images and graphics (no auto play for audio or video), and the conversion button. Don't forget about the "opt out" as some people will not want to subscribe to your marketing tactics.
When a landing page is designed to show as soon as someone comes to your site it is common to be above the fold and get a user to do a specific action (e.g. provide an email address). All of this information gathering before the user even knows anything about you. Many times a user will dismiss this information (if they have that option). Then when they've decided they are ready to "drink your kool aid" and learn more about you there is no way of subscribing as many only thought about asking before a user learns about your products and services.
A loading page was initially created as pages took a long time to load over slow connections. Today slow internet speeds are not as much of an issue with the speeds within homes and even on mobile devices. With a loading screen you actually make your site slower by having the loading page show that your page is loading. A typically loading page will show from 2-5 seconds to a user. The problem today with loading screens is that a page should load under 3 seconds on average for all the above the fold content.
Too much animation
Every time a new animation comes out we look at it. We are truly in wow about how someone came up with it. We look at the code, see how easy it was for them to achieve, and think why didn't anyone think of it sooner. Then we take that preverbal step back and ask a key fundamental question we do for everything. What "value" does this bring to the table. Does it enhance and improve the user experience or does it just add a wow factor that distracts a user from the information. There are many sites we go to that have the wow factor and if they didn't have great content we would not go to them. The reason we wouldn't go to them is that fancy animation distracts from the overall value of the site.
A factor that gets many websites is they will upload these truly beautiful images. The images are big enough to be printed at 11x17 with the highest level of clarity. The problem with this is most people are looking at the images in a 3x5 setting. This extra image size makes your images take longer to load and your website slower to load. A fast loading site is critical and images are one of the biggest reasons for a slow site. Another core factor is having a ton of images on a page. Images do speed thousands of words to people and when used correctly will enhance a page. Having too many pictures (unless you are a site like Pinterest) can not only be distracting but slowdown your site overall.
Every site we create we send through a group of testers. These people range from people that are not computer savvy and struggle with the internet to those that are experts in the field. We do this testing to improve the overall user experience so that information is clearly found and easy to understand. A user experience you have to think on after all is a bad user experience. If you look at devices from Apple they are clean and easy to use. A single button does everything. There is little to no room for interpretation of what to press being there is only one item to click. If you are lost, you click one button. A website should be the same way. A user shouldn't have to think much when they are on your site. They should be able to quickly and easily find the information they have to the problem they are having today. If the user has a new problem and they come to your site, they should be able to quickly find a solution for that as well.
When building or doing maintenance on your website make certain to think about your users before yourself. Quality content will get you far along the path. Taking out all of the extra fluff that distracts and slows down your site and doesn't provide a value to your site visitors will only lead to less conversions rather than to more conversions. For help with your user experience we would love to sit down with you and discuss how together we can help bring more leads from your online employee; your website. You can reach us at 219-229-1633, email at sales@FawkesDM.com or through our online contact form here.