It’s the holy trinity for any web design agency worth their salt, and essential if you want that new website that you’re considering to be successful. This particular recipe for success isn’t too secret, in fact it’s so firmly rooted in common sense, and so simple that it’s amazing that so many sites out there ignore it. This particular recipe is as follows; Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), plus an intuitive User Interface (UI), plus a great User Experience (UX) equals profit (hopefully that equation in the title makes more sense now). Whether you design websites for a living or if you want to your business to start reaping the benefits of a new website, you should be expecting your website to follow this basic format; it just makes sense. Your SEO campaign should be drawing visitors to your website through whatever SEO tactic happens to be the flavour of the month, and once a visitor has arrived at your website it should be clear where they need to go and in some cases there should be an indication of where they should go. Providing a clear UI that guides your visitor through your site will help them to access your high quality content, and this will feed into a great UX, as your site proves to be engaging. This in turn will benefit your SEO campaign as you reduce your bounce rate, keep visitors exploring your site and ideally this will lead to them completing whatever call to action you have in place. Effectively you should see a higher percentage of visitors converting into clients. In this article we’ll look at some of the elements that feed into creating a great UX for your visitors, but don’t panic, we won’t get too technical and this information will be beneficial to you whether you require someone such as ourselves at Michael Bell One to design your website with these elements in place, or if you’re a web designer looking for a few new tips and tricks.
Content is Still a Vital Asset
We’ve covered this many times before in our previous Blackboard Monday articles and other posts on the Michael Bell One blog, and whilst it’s not an exclusive element to a successful SEO campaign, having high quality content is truly vital to the success of your website. No matter what the focus is of your site or what kind of visitor numbers you are hoping to achieve, people are visiting your website for a reason. That reason may be out of pure curiosity or as a result of a specific search, and whether you want to tickle the average passer bys fancy, or if you want to make sure that your website is the place to go in answer of search term ‘x’, you need good content. You want to make sure that your content is engaging, relevant and fresh. Let’s use a really a really abstract example to explain this: Say your audience is searching for the term “what colour is the sky?” then you don’t just want your content to simply answer that question by saying that it’s “blue”, you want an engaging answer which draws on every aspect of why blue is the answer. You want to discuss how elements of the atmosphere come into play, you want to dispel the myth that it’s because the sea is blue, you want to offer up pages that further delve into related answers to this question, that discuss how our eyes perceive colour differently, and you could even consider a blog article that uses clickbait tactics such as titles which lay claim to blue not even being a colour. Aside from all this blue-sky thinking (apologies for the tedious pun), the aim here is to give visitors a reason to explore your expertly designed website, to complete your call to action, leave you some positive feedback and keep coming back for more.
Being Responsive to the Growth of Mobile Devices
We can’t stress this enough; having a responsive web design for your website is immensely vital in this day and age. If you’re unaware of what we mean by responsive, essentially a responsive website will scale depending on the size of the screen or device it is being viewed on. So your website will provide a great UX with a usable UI whether it’s being used on a 50” monitor in a board room, or on an iPhone screen. Unfortunately we’ve all visited the occasional website that doesn’t scale well, and we’ve had to struggle through pages where the text is too small to read, the menus difficult to navigate and links that require your fingers be impossibly thin. These websites aren’t responsive, and will only work well on decent sized monitor. A lot of attention was drawn to this not long ago when Google made it known that it would rank websites based on how responsive they were. Whilst you won’t find your SEO campaign penalised by lacking a responsive website, you’ll miss out on a huge number of mobile visitors, which are one of the fastest growing web browsers on the planet, and you could see your campaign slowly begin to stagnate.
Think like Steve Jobs, Make your UI Intuitive
The term “intuitive UI” might seem like a phrase that the late great Steve Jobs would have championed during one of the many high profile conferences that Apple held, but rest assured that Steve knew what he was talking about. One of the reasons that Apple is so successful (aside from having access to a seemingly limitless marketing budget) is due to the emphasis that they place on design. If you’re unaware; Sir Jonathan Ive is the man responsible for helping Apple to make millions out of rectangles with curved edges, amongst other popular design choices. Apple devices have always placed an emphasis on intuitive design, with the goal being that even if you’ve never picked up an iPhone before, the design is instinctive enough that you’ll be able to do everything from sending emails, to playing Candy Crush Saga, to even making phone calls within minutes. Your website should aim to achieve similar levels of intuitive design. You want a visitor to your site to be able to easily find their way around, to be able to access pages that are relevant to them, without having to resort to using Google to navigate to where they want to be. There are a number of methods to achieve an intuitive UI:
Be Aware of How the Human Brain Works
Don’t panic, you won’t need to be sign up to an anatomy class or overcome your need to avoid that friend who has the psychology degree, but you do need a rough understanding of how the human brain works, and how it absorbs and pursues information. In Britain and many other countries where we read from left to right and top to bottom we have inadvertently trained our eyes to look to the top left of any source of information when we begin searching for answers to our questions. There are exceptions to this rule, as well as visual tricks that you can implement to convince someone’s brain that they want to look elsewhere, but generally speaking the top left is where our eyes want to go. There have been numerous studies into this, but without getting seriously off topic on this subject, just look at the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) on a desktop computer.
Notice anything? The bulk of important information is located on the left of the screen. At the top left you have your search query contained within the search box. You’ll find that your eyes are drawn down the page to your results, with what Google deems to be the most relevant result to you being placed at the top. Additional information can usually be found in an information box to the right, but the most important information, in this case the result of your search query, is located near the top left. The bottom right hand corner of Google’s SERP is barren, and for good reason. Very few people will look there, so why waste time filling that space? Using Google’s SERP as an example may seem a little odd, but it highlights how Google have redesigned their SERP over the years to take advantage of how our brains work. Whilst you’ll never be in a position to compete with Google (even Microsoft fail to do so), taking cues from some of the biggest companies in the world can’t be a bad thing, they invest obscene sums of money into design, so don’t be afraid to borrow some elements of their design for your website, just don’t directly copy as companies with a near limitless budget for design are notorious for being very litigious.
Breadcrumbs and Sitemaps
Whilst having a great UI should negate the need for breadcrumbs or a sitemap, they’re still very useful tools, and why not utilise something which most Content Management Systems (CMS) can generate automatically anyway? There will always be a certain percentage of visitors to your site who don’t get how your site is structured. We’re all different, and we all think in unique ways, it’s what makes us all so unique and special… *cough* Because of this breadcrumbs are a great way for someone who may have followed a path through your website and gotten lost to easily find their way back to where they once were. We’ve all seen breadcrumbs on websites before, but if you’re unsure breadcrumbs are the flow of links that brought you to the page you are currently on. For example they might look something like this if you’re our aforementioned blue-sky website:
Homepage > Why is the sky blue? > So it’s nothing to do with the sea? > How the atmosphere makes the sky blue
Each of these phrases represents a page that the user has visited in order to get to the page they’re on, or more accurately represents the parent for each page. If these are present any visitor to your site can quickly and easily go back a few steps to where they were before. So in the instances where they’ve turned up on ‘How the atmosphere makes the sky blue’ from say a Google search, they can easily get back to ‘Why is the sky blue?’ and explore further options to explore.
Sitemaps can seem to be equally archaic, but they still serve a purpose beyond keeping Google and various other search engines happy. For your visitors they provide a method of simple navigation of your website, without the need for your websites standard navigation options, whether those found in a navigation bar that permanently sits at the top of your website, or whatever form of navigation your revolutionary UI uses. This might seem like you’re undoing all the good work that you’ve put in to your amazing intuitive UI, but a well planned out sitemap is an essential addition to your site. As we’ve already mentioned there will always be the occasional person who doesn’t find your UI to be very intuitive, so a sitemap will serve as a way for them to easily find the page that they’re looking for. If you’re still perturbed by the idea of an old fashioned sitemap, look at it this way; have you ever tried to find something in a physical catalogue such as an old fashioned real life Argos catalogue, only to be baffled that the item you’re looking for can’t be found in the section you expected it to be, and then had to resort to the index for help? Your sitemap serves the same purpose.
Aim for Fast Load Times that Make the Flash Blush
Fast website load times serve two purposes. They allow search engines to quickly crawl and index your website, something we know that Google uses as a metric to rank your website. Fast load times are also hugely beneficial to your UX, as they make browsing through your website smoother for your visitors. Unfortunately we live in an age of disproportionate sharing of resources, and not everyone has access to super fast broadband, so whilst your blue-sky website might look great with its high resolution images of the sky being, well, blue, they won’t help your UX if every page contains multiple high resolution images and your visitor has internet speeds that were considered okay in the late ‘90s. A better practice would be to provide ‘web optimised’ images and make the option to download higher resolution images available if you feel that it is imperative that the choice be there. Doing so will mean that visitors to your website aren’t left checking their watch while your website loads, a dangerous time in which most people will consider hitting that back button away from a slow website. In these instances it won’t matter how pretty your high resolution images are, you’ve lost a visitor and increased your bounce rate. In addition to losing potentials client your SEO campaign will suffer.
UI, UX and SEO Are the Perfect Bedfellows
It’s clear that to succeed and rank highly in places such as Google’s SERP it is imperative that your website has provides an engaging experience to your visitors, complete with an intuitive interface and engaging content. Utilising SEO techniques you can get visitors to your website, but without utilising these steps these visitors likely won’t spend long on your site and more importantly won’t convert into clients. At Michael Bell One we are experts at high quality web design that provides you with intuitive designs, which we can shape to your requirements. Our team are highly skilled and aim to provide you with the high quality content that you need to keep your potential clients engaged and wanting to complete your call to action. We can couple the initial build of your responsive website with our dynamic SEO service in which we aim to get your website ranking highly on the major search engines. If you want to discuss your website needs with us, whether you require a brand new website, want to talk about redesigning your old one, or if you are interested in our SEO services, please don’t hesitate to contact me (Jake Judd) or David Park and we’ll be more than happy to discuss how the team at Michael Bell One can help you. You can contact us by using our online contact form, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling our Lewes office on 01273 478822.