There is a constant debate in SEO circles as to the relevance of user experience as a ranking factor. The major stumbling block with regards to UX is the fact that it is difficult to quantify. You can never truly know what goes on in the head of someone visiting a site — all you can do is draw inferences from their measurable behavior. Clicking on links, scrolling through text, bouncing back to search engine results pages, etc. are actions that you can assign a number to, but they are little more than surface-level indicators of how a visitor truly feels.
In another sense however, UX can be viewed as the only ranking factor that truly matters. Using various SEO tactics can propel your website to the top of relevant SERPs, but the effort will go to waste if potential visitors are not provided with a quality browsing experience. Website owners should therefore focus on creating the best possible browsing experience as their first priority. To provide some assistance in this task, we have decided to create a guide that covers some of the most prominent elements of UX-based website design, which you can find below.
One of the ways to ensure that someone visiting a site has a positive experience is by providing something of value. Few people still browse the web just for the sake of browsing. What they are usually after is information that relates to a problem they are having, or some other need. If your website can provide this information in the form of thoroughly-researched, well-written content, the odds of it inspiring a positive UX will significantly improve. This will lead to more time spent on site, more frequent visits, and ultimately better search engine rankings.
Without quality content, there can be no positive UX. But equally important is the way the content is presented. If your articles are simple blocks of text set against a monotone background, they are not likely to entice the visitor to keep reading ‘till the end. In order to draw attention to the content, a site has to have some sort of visual flair. The human brain is much better at processing visuals than text, so adding striking colors, memorable typography, and captivating images will go a long way towards making your website content more palatable for visitors. In rare situations, the aesthetics of a website can even make up for its other deficiencies.
The majority of people browsing the web today do so from portable devices such as tablets and smartphones. However, the experience of browsing a particular website on a mobile device is quite different than the experience of browsing on a desktop. The screen of a portable device is usually vertically-aligned, smaller in size, and it is also used as an input device. This necessitates the adoption of the principles of responsive design when creating websites suitable for mobile browsing. A website that is optimized for mobile will ensure that visitors will have a seamless experience when browsing from their portable device of choice.
Fast Loading Speed
How fast a website loads can have a major impact on how enjoyable it is to use. With the wider availability of broadband internet access, consumers have grown accustomed to lightning-fast connection speeds. So when a site takes too long to load, people now know that the fault lies with the website creator. Needless to say, such a website will be perceived as providing a poor UX, which means it won’t be likely to retain many visitors. To prevent this outcome, websites owners aiming for a positive UX should implement measures for reducing load speed below the threshold of 2 seconds. Page load speed is a ranking factor in its own right, so keeping your site fast is akin to killing two birds with one stone.
We can define a positive user experience as one that is engaging in some way. Therefore, if a site can engage visitors for the duration of their stay, they are likely to walk away feeling positive about the whole affair. And one of the most powerful engagement tools at a webmaster’s disposal are chatbots. These automated chat systems have the ability to transform browsing into a more conversational experience. Visitors can simply talk to the chatbot to find the information they are looking for, instead of losing time sifting through content. When implementing chatbots into your site, make sure that they don’t become a nuisance — they should be there as an option, and not something you have to deal with in order to use a site.
Another means of increasing user engagement is video content. The world-wide popularity of services like YouTube and Vine has made internet users accustomed to the idea of watching video online, so more and more websites are including video content in their pages. The main advantage of video for UX is the fact that it can condense a lot of information, while retaining its entertainment value. Videos are also inherently more suitable to serialization, which gives visitors a reason to keep coming back for content on a regular basis, giving your site an SEO boost.
If there is one thing that pretty much everyone browsing the web can agree on, it is that online ads are a major annoyance. While people do understand that sometimes the cost of running a website is the inclusion of ads, this doesn’t stop them from detracting from the overall experience of using the site. Hover ads are the most serious offender here — no one likes to have their browsing interrupted by having an ad slide across the screen, obscuring the content they were trying to access. Pop-up ads are only slightly less annoying in virtue of the fact that browsers can block them relatively efficiently. If you are looking to create the best possible UX for your site visitors, try not to include ads on your pages — there are other ways of doing promotion that don’t pester the user as much.
People have been underestimating UX as a ranking factor for a long time. The lack of reliable data for determining how UX impacts rankings has always been an obstacle, but one that can be overcome by stepping into the shoes of a potential visitor. Simply try to create a website that you yourself would want to use, and chances are that your visitors will feel the same. And once visitors start coming, your SERP rankings will start improving as well.