User Experience vs Words
User experience is the single most important element of your website. It’s odd that UX specialists are regarded by many as the WooWoo merchants of the digital world; peddling their mystic arts to the ‘digi-spiritualists’ (a word I’ve just made up but you know EXACTLY who I’m talking about) and ‘gullible start-ups’. In fact, common ‘wisdom’ would suggest that your words should be your top priority. Whilst this isn’t ‘wrong’ it should be taken, as all things should be taken, with a sense of perspective and an appreciation of nuance.
The focus on ‘words’ is so laser-like that it has had to take on shiny new synonyms so we don’t get bored of talking about them.
- Copy – words
- Content – words
- Output – words
- Newsletter – words
- Blog – words
In fact, looking out across the sea of LinkedIn writers, very few of these specialists use the word ‘words’ in their bio or description of their specialism. Unless it’s ‘wordsmith’. Yuck.
(In the interest of that ‘nuance’ I mentioned it is important to note that ‘content’ & ‘output’ can easily encapsulate images, video, audio, etc, and is not limited to words. But it made it much more dramatic to leave this part out of the last paragraph.)
I’m not attacking copywriters or downplaying the role of words on a website or as part of a well rounded SEO strategy or web design. Of course they play a huge part in attracting traffic and your business communication in general. Having a great copywriter in your team or in your network is a huge asset to be used as often as you are able. Remember the last time you tried writing out copy for your own business? It took ages, was still wrong, & to this day you’re unhappy with it. What the fuck is a semicolon, anyway? How do these people do such great work in such a short amount of time? Should I be paying them more?! Probably. If you want a great exercise in humility try writing an engaging blog post of around 1500 words in less than two hours. I dare you.
What is user experience?
It will be refreshing for you to hear that user experience (or UX) is exactly what you think it is. Ensuring that your users have the best possible experience when interacting with your business online.
A big part of ensuring good user experience is social media management. This deals with users at the ‘arms reach’ of your business, your external touch points before they get to your main website. Clearly, encouraging your social media audience to engage directly with your business is massively important so I’d strenuously encourage every business to look into engaging a social media manager if you don’t already have one.
The UX of your website actually begins before you tweet, or stream, or go live, or do anything on a social media platform. It will determine which platform your business should be on and which platforms to not be on. Yes! Platforms to bin off completely. I can hear your cheers.
User experience doesn’t just determine your website’s layout. It should determine your imagery, your words, & your layout. UX data will tell you how users prefer to move around your site and you will tweak your site with that in mind. It will often throw up some issues with your site that you disagree with. User experience is about your users, not you.
This cannot be stressed enough and is often a delicate conversation to have with a client. My usual gambit goes a little like this – users give zero shits about what imagery you like. The fields in which they grow their fucks is barren when it comes to how you prefer the navigation of your website. They don’t care if your team/boss/board/wife/husband like how it looks. Your website is not for you. Your website is a tool. Nobody questions the aesthetic design of a hammer – it is perfectly suited to its task. Your website should be the same.
Pretty reasonable and sensitive, right?!
Obviously I don’t speak to clients like that, but that is absolutely the message I want to get across. Putting personal preferences, egos, pre-existing assumptions, and your favourite colour to one side in favour of cold hard data will benefit your business. That’s the long and short of it.
5 UX improvements you can make. Like, NOW.
Here are 5 simple alterations you can make to improve your user experience. They take very little time, know-how, or effort and should show results pretty much straight away. Have at it.
- Social media engagement. You’ll likely have a social media platform that struggles to generate the same engagement as others. You have two options. Bang shed loads of energy into it to improve it (which you’d likely argue you’re already doing) or just sack it off. We binned off Twitter and Insta and haven’t looked back. Try it! Why bend over backwards for no reward? You should have already determined where your Ideal Customer Persona’s hang out online – if your data says they’re here but they’re not either your data is wrong or your content is wrong. You can either spend time and money fixing it or you can capitalise on your social media successes elsewhere and ditch the struggling platform.
- Calls to action. A call to action is any device on a website that encourages a particular action. These could be hyperlinks in bold or as an image, a ‘subscribe’ or ‘click here’ button, pop-ups – anything that calls to an action. Too often websites fall into the trap of littering pages with too many calls to action. It just becomes confusing. Our message? ‘Chill the fuck out’. Keep your calls to action simple and targeted, you can always make other pages for another service or product. In fact, that’s likely to work better for your SEO, too.
- Anchor links. An anchor link is a link that returns you to a particular section of a page. I hate long form pages that scroll forever but user data says that they’re popular and users like them. However, scrolling up and down to find the specific bit you want to read again on a page that feels a mile long is a pain in the arse, though. Scatter anchor links throughout your copy with ‘callbacks’ to each section at regular intervals.
- Get a volunteer. There is nothing more valuable than the opinion of someone who has zero personal stake in your business. Have them look over your site and tell you what they like about it in terms of the experience of using it. It’s important to select someone who fits the profile of a key customer or client. See what they say, write it down, take it to your digital team to discuss. This will provide a useful baseline to test against with other users. See if the observations hold true for the majority. If they do, action them. If they don’t, don’t.
- Value. Ensure your website is providing value. The old days of ABC are way behind us – the world doesn’t work like that anymore. Not every page should sell something but every page should provide some sort of value. Make sure you’re providing what your audience wants, free of charge. (For those of you who haven’t seen Glengarry Glen Ross, ABC stands for Always Be Closing.)
Remember, user experience may be the single most important factor when it comes to your website design & content. Making sure it’s right is the easiest thing in the world – ask your users what they think and what they want, listen to them, then implement what you can.
As for our added value? Here’s more specific help on how to create product pages that actually sell, and 5 SEO tips that take no time and need no expertise.