Digital marketing allows smaller businesses to compete with much larger and older competitors, by giving them countless ways to make up for modest budgets with creativity, extensive market research, and by excelling in areas that others have neglected. However, even though you can often scale down different strategies to fit your budget, there are things that you will absolutely have to find the time and money for. User experience is one thing that can dramatically improve all of your digital marketing efforts.
One of the aspects of your online promotion efforts that need to be impeccable if you are to expect any kind of results is user experience – UX for short. Online consumers are getting more demanding as each day goes by, with the average attention span decreasing year in, year out, and their tolerance for shoddy design practically already a thing of the past.
So, if you want to make sure that you didn’t pay for all those influencer marketing campaigns or PPC ads to bring traffic to your site, only to have visitors bounce as soon as they reach it, here are some of the main UX elements that need to be optimized for your visitors to actually start converting.
Speed and performance
From the reported 12-second attention span of Millennials to the 8 seconds that Generation Z-ers seem to be averaging, you don’t have a lot of time to explain what they need to do and how to do it. If your pages are not loading fast enough, you won’t even have a chance to start making your case.
Since your site needs to be responsive and perform equally well on devices of all sizes and types, and it needs to be equally easy to navigate, a minimalist web design seems to be becoming one of the dominant approaches. Its insistence on using just the essential elements fits in perfectly both with the technical demands and with layout issues encountered with more complex pages.
Regardless of your overall design, you need to make sure that:
- Your pages are loading as quickly as possible, by compressing images, reordering page element loading queues, getting better hosting, eliminating unnecessary page elements, media or other content, etc.
- Your visitors or web crawlers won’t be running into 404s, as they are really off-putting and can easily lose you a customer
- That you are not using third-party solutions which might make some of the site’s features only available to certain users
Navigation and intuitiveness
Even if you didn’t take an active part in the development of your website, you know your business, so you probably wouldn’t have a difficult time of navigating the site for the first time. Your visitors, however, don’t have that advantage, and something that might seem obvious to you could be convoluted for them. That’s why gathering user behavior data is essential for UX optimization, as it is the most direct and objective way to find out which parts of your website need to be modified.
Google Analytics will give you valuable insights, like which pages are users reaching your site through most often, where do they head afterward, which pages are the ones they usually leave your site from, etc. Complemented with insights from heat map analysis with Hotjar, or another third-party solution, the amount of data that you can gather on how visitors are using your website is already staggering, but this is just the first part.
After analyzing the information from your analytics tools and making the necessary modifications, it’s time to actually directly reach out to users and ask them what else they would like to see changed. Customer relationship solutions like Intercom allow you to easily set up and carry out little opinion polls, but you should give your audience as many ways to reach you as possible, including social networks, site contact forms, a helpful chatbot, etc. Sometimes you might need to offer some incentive to get the feedback, and not everything you hear will be sensible or useful, but skipping this part of the process is not an option if you hope to have any success in your promotional efforts.
Adapt the content for user experience
Learning all you can about your users is, of course, not only important when deciding how to organize your main navigation, but also when creating content for a good user experience. From the tone of voice and register that you should use to reach your main target demographics, to the way it is formatted, your content is just as much a part of UX as page loading speed.
Learning a bit about the F Pattern, readability scores and general reader habits will help you get on the right track, but once again, to really ensure that you are not solving inexistent problems, you should observe how your content is performing with the actual audience it is currently getting. Theorizing is all well and good when you don’t have an alternative, but in this case, you do. What is usually universally true is that readers like to have the main bits of information above the fold, that they appreciate being able to scan headlines and paragraphs quickly, and that they don’t like reading through rows of fluff only to occasionally stumble upon a pertinent bit of information.
Don’t be intrusive
Countless websites have invested heavily in UX optimization, taking care of all the technical aspects, information architecture, content tone and formatting, only to mess it all up by disrupting the visitor’s experience with countless pop-ups, forms, offers and different intrusive CTAs which are annoying enough on desktops, but really show their ugliest side when encountered on mobile devices.
Yes, it is true that some of these methods increase conversion rates when moderately used, but if you overdo it just a bit, they are much more likely to drive your visitors away than to help them convert. Remember, if your site is getting fewer visitors, even with growing conversion rates, you could be getting less total conversions, and that is, ultimately, what you are after.
You don’t need a huge budget to start promoting your business online, but some costs are not avoidable. If you really want to benefit from online exposure, you need to make sure that you know your audience, know what they like and dislike about your site, and you need to provide them with a seamless, enjoyable user experience through technical optimization and content adaptation. Once they are comfortable hanging around, you can expect them to start converting.