21 ways to improve your website's UX
We speak to the experts to find out where brands are going wrong with their website's UX – and what they can do to improve that all-important user experience
The world might be full of technological wonders (think Tinder, Alexa and the marvels of artificial intelligence) but technology – a signifier of mankind’s advancement and cerebral sophistication – also brings with it its fair share of challenges. And nowhere is this more evident than the world wide web.
In order to find out what you need to prioritise and how UX plays a part at every turn, we’ve spoken to a host of web dev, agency and client-side experts. And here are their top tips:
1. Run a site audit
For web wizard Matt Oxley, co-founder and creative director of DotLabel, it’s important to gather insight from your stakeholders on what they really think of your website. Does it help them achieve their goals? What are their main frustrations? Do they find themselves bombarded with whitepapers that they’re never going to bother to read? “The outcome of an audit like this will be to help you identify whether the site has lost its focus over the years,” explains Matt. “Identify and prioritise the important changes and look to re-focus the website and remove the clutter. The quick wins should be manageable by your internal teams (assuming your website sits on a usable CMS).”
2. Run regular usability tests
Don’t assume that just because your team knows how to complete a specific task on your website, it’ll be obvious to your users too. According to Peter Reid, CEO of MSQ Partners, this is an area where B2B brands lag behind their B2C counterparts. “Usability audits can combine eye-tracking and neuroscience techniques to measure how well customers are engaging with all aspects of their sites, where customer journeys are working well and where they’re falling down and when customers are falling out,” he says. “This not only identifies opportunities for improvement – different content, more interactive features – but also allows for testing of multiple ‘solutions’ to see which solves the problem most effectively.”
3. Start A/B testing
By leveraging an A/B testing methodology you’ll garner definitive answers to your usability questions, as Rishi Dave, Dun & Bradstreet’s CMO, well knows. “We were noticing a significant number of errors from users trying to conduct a company search on our website,” he says. “Based on the data, we believed that if we took them through the process one step at a time, rather than asking them to fill out a single form, we’d call attention to the missing data and eliminate the errors. So, when a user clicked the ‘Company Search’ button on the website, 50% received experience A (single form) while the other half received experience B (one step at a time).”
The results were positive: Rishi’s team managed to eliminate the missing data errors customers were seeing, and increased the number of revenue-producing company searches by an impressive 12%.
4. Don’t assume users have time on their hands
Hard-working decision-makers aren’t likely to be idly scrolling through websites, so make their journey as seamlessly intuitive as possible. “If you don’t visually engage them instantly and offer them a clear path to find what they want, they’ll leave quickly,” says KPMG Small Business Accounting’s head of marketing, Dan Roche.
5. Think about the user’s needs
Underpinning any good marketing effort is a deep understanding of your customer – their needs, their frustrations, their painpoints and their expectations. “With knowledge of the different user types, their goals and the tasks they undertake, a website can consider the relevant user journeys and be optimised to help ensure a good, easy experience,” says Matt.
6. Get tagging
Clever tagging – which you can do using Google Tag Manager – makes for consistent, seamless user journeys. “What it is, for those who don’t know, is tagging content to solutions you provide, people who are related to that piece of content, as well as relevant case studies,” says Kate Sinclair, partner, business development and marketing at LCP. “If, for example, the user comes into the site on one of our team’s ‘expert’ pages, the same tagging works to give them a clear path through to the services that expert can provide, and the case studies and publications they’ve been involved in. Previously, this was all done manually – now it’s automated, which has greatly enhanced UX.”
7. Map the customer journey
Building full, omnichannel customer journey maps through the entire lifetime is a must. “And this covers everything from first engagements to lead capture, purchase, post-purchase, product use, customer advocacy and renewal,” says marketing consultant James Raffo. “With a good information architect and experience designer, the resulting customer experience will flow.”
8. Challenge yourself to reduce the number of pages on your site by 50%
This is one that trips up many brands: content overload. Self-confessed content marketing nerd and Velocity co-founder Doug Kessler talks about the “content marketing deluge”, which he urges us all to avoid at all costs. “Users expect a much more curated experience than in the past,” says Kate, “and if you don’t provide it they’ll go elsewhere. When we recently redesigned our website, we worked hard to challenge ourselves and pare back content, as well as providing excellent search tools and contact options to minimise drop-off.”
9. Think carefully about wording, particularly with CTAs
If you wouldn’t say it in real life (or IRL, as the kids would say), then don’t use it on your website. Flo Bejgu, marketing director at Inbox Translation, takes umbrage with brands that use the word ‘submit’. “When was the last time you woke up feeling like you really wanted to submit something?” he asks. “Exactly! Never. So why not use a word that actually explains what will happen when the user clicks on that button? If it’s a quote form, how about: ‘Get a quote’? If it’s a contact form, what about: ‘Send a message’?”
10. Avoid pop-ups on mobile pages
It goes without saying that every brand must pay attention to their site’s usability for mobile users, but it’s not just about text size and scrolling options. They sometimes have their place, but pop-ups should, in most cases, be avoided, as Robert Brandl, founder and director of EmailToolTester.com, points out – these can dominate the screen, be difficult to close and ultimately send the user clicking off elsewhere.
11. Speed up page loading times
Poor loading times are one of the main reasons site visitors bounce out of your site, but there are lots of remedies for this, including compressing images through free tools like TinyPNG.com. “You can also use a Content Delivering Network (CDN), compress the site’s code and remove large files like videos,” says Robert. “Another benefit? You’ll also climb Google’s search rankings as a result.”
12. Make the distinction between front-end and back-end development
Unless you have deep technical knowledge within your team, it’s usually best to outsource any back-end, technical changes to your website. “But it’s really important to retain control of front-end changes inhouse – such as creating new forms and templates,” explains Dan. “This allows changes to campaigns to be made rapidly and cost effectively, which helps to improve results incrementally.”
13. Take advantage of insight-gathering tools like Hotjar and Usabilla
Hotjar provides you with a heat map showing where visitors are clicking (or trying to click), allowing you to see where you can make changes to your page design in order to improve UX. For Simon Wissink, business development and strategic partner consultant at Sigma Usabilia’s a super helpful tool for task-based testing: “It allows you to boost the quality and quantity of feedback you receive, and view, analyse and export real-time feedback.”
14. Check for broken links
According to Ahrefs, only 2% of pages in top 10 Google rankings contain broken links (on average). “Links break all the time and this is okay,” says Flo. “But what’s not okay is not addressing the issue. It creates a poor user experience that can easily be corrected with a (free) tool like Xenu. Or if you’re lucky and you’re using WordPress, Broken Link Checker will do the trick for you in no time.”
15. Don’t put too much emphasis on products and features
A common mistake brands make is placing too much emphasis on products and product features, rather than telling and showing potential customers how your products or services solve their specific problem or reveal a new opportunity. “That said, it’s also important to recognise that some people do arrive at your website quite well informed and are seeking deeper detail on a particular product,” says James. “The way I like to see this solved is through offering both routes: ‘Solutions’ and ‘Products’. You can then surface the most relevant content and experience progressively based on the customer’s profile and behaviour.”
16. Don’t only use .pdf documents
Web surfers, to use the parlance of our forefathers’ times, don’t tend to hang around. “Having that important case study on the website is fine, as long as users have the possibility to check it out in .html format,” says Flo. “Sure, having it as a .pdf is good if they want to download it and go through it later. But what about those who want to read it right there right then? Most visitors want to access the content without the hassle of downloading a file and then opening it in an external programme. The solution: make it available both as .pdf and .html.”
17. Web analytics aren’t enough on their own
For James, all brands should be looking to use enterprise-grade analytics across all digital touchpoints – not just websites, but mobile apps, email and social too. These include the pricier options (IBM Watson Analytics) as well as the more affordable (App Annie for mobile apps, which is free, and Sprinklr for social media). “And when it comes to measurement, make sure you’re identifying clear marketing and website objectives and definitive KPIs, with a path to your core sources of revenue or cost efficiency,” he says. “We used a value tree to understand the most important value drivers and their associated KPIs. Then be sure you can measure your KPIs with analytics tools.”
18. Always plump for inclusive design
Accessibility, or inclusive design as we like to call it, means making sites usable by everyone, irrespective of auditory, cognitive, physical, speech or visual impairment. “There are lots of ways to do this,” Simon explains. “Use good descriptive ALT text for all images so visually-impaired users with screen readers can understand what images convey, add legible subtitles to video content, and make sure web pages appear and operate in predictable ways. And remember: inclusive design doesn’t just benefit those with impairments; it helps improve the user experience for everyone.”
19. Don’t forget to drive traffic towards your site
It goes without saying that although some visitors will land at your site organically, others will need more of a push in the right direction. Investing in PR and SEO is vital, but also remember that if the final destination (your website) isn’t up to scratch, all other efforts are essentially wasted.
20. Nurture it!
Your website needs to live and breathe and evolve in response to your changing customers. “This process should never end,” says Will Morris, managing partner at Alchemy Digital, “because your business model and your website will change all the time. When the market you operate in changes, you need to be partnered with a web team who can work with you to react to that. Don’t leave your website alone.”
21. Don’t go gaga for gated content
There’s nothing more grating than a lengthy sign-up form, which will put off even the keenest of prospects; try and reduce the number of fields to an absolute minimum (do you really need to ask for first name and surname or will one singular field do?), and share enough of a teaser of whatever’s being gated. Flo also tells us that tools like Clearbit can really help gather all the details needed.
In one day, across three break-out tracks and five keynotes, we’re bringing together some of the leading names in B2B sales and marketing, with unrivalled experience of account-based marketing (ABM) success, to show you how to get it right.