Is the Design of Your Website Affecting its Performance?
It’s all well and good having a beautiful all-singing all-dancing website, but does it actually achieve what you intended it to do? The visual design of your website is crucially important, it’s the first impression a visitor receives of your company. If it looks unprofessional, has mistakes or is incoherent with your brand then people aren’t going to hang around for long. When we’re developing a new website for a client one of the first things we do is to establish who the target audience are, and what the customer wants the website to achieve. With some brainstorming and research we then identify what design theme, elements and features would help to inspire confidence and provide an excellent user experience.
How would you know if the design is hurting performance?
Unless you have a benchmark from a previous version of your website it’s hard to tell whether your website is performing optimally. If you do a little digging into the analytics, and into analysing the performance then there are a few good indicators that could potentially highlight problem areas. Here are a selection of indicators that we would look for to see if a website is achieving its goals (which you’ll define as part of creating your digital strategy):
- Conversion rates / enquiry levels / sales levels – Dependent on the specific goal of your site either of these statistics is a pretty clear-cut statistic of whether your site is doing well. For example if it gets a lot of traffic to your site yet it hardly ever generates a sale then this is probably a sign that something is amiss.
- Bounce rates – If you use a website statistics program such as Google Analytics then it’s really easy to view a statistic called the ‘bounce rate’. For those that don’t know, the bounce rate is the percent of people that visited one of your pages on your website, but then left the site before viewing another page. Perhaps what they found wasn’t what they were looking for, or perhaps there weren’t convincing enough ‘calls to action’?
- Checkout abandonment – This isn’t really a stat that you would be aware of unless your web developers have set up multi-stage conversion tracking. This basically records how many users have abandoned the checkout at the various stages. It is normal to see a gradual drop off of customers as they proceed through the checkout and have more chances to change their mind. If one particular step in the checkout has a huge abandonment rate then there might be a technical issue, or it just might not be very user-friendly?
- User feedback – It is one thing to run through a website yourself, however have you actually had any feedback from the intended audience? User testing is vital to help you identify any issues that can sometimes be easy to overlook from an “insider’s perspective”. Anything from focus groups, usability tests and more can help point out anything that is causing your users problems. An easy way to find the right demographics to test your website is to use a service such as WhatUsersDo – they offer a great value ‘pay as you go’ service whereby ‘test’ users are recorded interacting with your site.
- Low visitor levels to the site – I’ve included this one here as I think it’s important to point out that if you’ve got low levels of visitors to your site then it is unlikely that the actual site design is to blame, it is more likely that you need a greater amount of high quality content on the site, or a higher degree of domain authority (ie: more high quality inbound links). Even this isn’t clear-cut however, as the coding of the site, including the speed with which the site loads, will affect how highly Google lists your site in the search rankings. Here are a few ideas to help you get started in marketing your website…
Aspects that will help increase your website’s performance…
Each and every website is unique and the actions you need to take will vary dependent on many different factors. Here are a few ideas to help you improve the effectiveness of your site and to get it generating the sales or leads you want it to.
Is the site’s design professional and attractive?
Has the website been professionally designed and is it styled appropriately for your target audience? It’s essential your site looks slick and professional if you want to inspire confidence in your users. As you would expect, the design has to suit what your visitors expect. For example you wouldn’t expect a solicitor’s website to be full of really bright colours and loud imagery (although it could if this fits into the marketing message it’s trying to convey!).
Is it user-friendly and informative?
This potentially covers a wide-remit as there are many aspects to website usability and creating a positive user experience. Imagine you are a potential customer coming on to your site for the first time, can you easily find the information you require? Does the site lead you through the conversion process, from the landing page right through to the sale / lead capture page? If the customer journey isn’t smooth or is confusing then you’re customers aren’t likely to hang around long.
The website navigation is also a big factor in how user-friendly your website is. Has it been designed to be really clear, yet still providing enough links and information for the end-user. New styles of menu (eg: megamenus) are widely used nowadays to convey large amounts of information in a well-categorised and easily understood form on the navigation bar.
Are there sufficient calls-to-action?
After you’ve shown your potential customer all of the information they need, it’s important to actually follow-up with a clear call-to-action that will encourage them to take the next step in the process. Depending on your specific website this could be anything from signing-up, completing a ‘call back request’ form to purchasing an item from your shop. The calls-to-action should be clear, and usually work best when in a bold or possibly contrasting colour. Examples would be ‘Download Free Guide Now’ or a simple ‘Buy Now’ button.
What does your site look like on a mobile device?
Having a mobile-friendly website developed is becoming increasingly important as users continue to increase their web consumption through smartphones and tablets. This is still a rapidly growing area, and definitely not one that any proactive company should ignore. As an example in July 2013 mobile devices accounted for 17.4% of global web traffic. Visitors coming through from a mobile device may have different intentions to regular desktop users however. Stats have proven that they are more likely to conduct product research and leave the actual purchasing for when they are on a desktop computer.
With a rapidly growing base of mobile website viewers it’s essential your site looks great on a mobile or tablet. There are many ways that this can be achieved from having a dedicated ‘m.’ website (eg: m.bbc.co.uk) to responsive design techniques that change the page layout according to the user’s screen size. If you try resizing your browser now you’ll see how this site resizes for different screen sizes. If your website looks a bit like a dogs dinner when shrunk onto the screen of a smartphone then perhaps it’s time to get in touch with your web developer for an upgrade?
Is the checkout simple and straightforward?
It’s surprising how many ecommerce stores have really complicated checkout processes. The name of the game here is to reduce the amount of steps to the minimum necessary to capture only the essential information you need to deliver their product. Any more and you risk over-complicating the process, and providing more potential abandonment points. If you have a look at a lot of the major online retailers then you’ll see how they keep the checkout process as simple as possible, and remove extraneous elements on the page such as the navigation menu and promotional graphics.
Do you demonstrate credibility?
If you can, make sure to include a variety of testimonials and customer comments throughout your site. Don’t just put them on one specific page, sprinkle them throughout the site to give a constant reassurance of credibility to the website visitor. Also try and display logos of associations that you are a member of, together with any accreditations and awards your company has won. If you have an ecommerce website then you need to convey the feeling of security – for example clearly displaying the ‘SSL’ padlock symbol and mentioning your “secure checkout”.
If in doubt, test!
One of the most important things you to do is to test different strategies, different layouts and different graphical elements. It can be really susprising the difference in conversion rates that even small changes can make to your site. There are web applications out there (some free!) that allow you to test different combinations, and then they report the different conversion rates that each variation has generated.
For example say you are playing around with the text in a ‘buy now’ vs ‘add to cart’ button. You could test to see if one or the other generates a higher action rate. Alternatively having different coloured links or a different layout to the page may inspire more user actions. It’s always worth testing different variations as what you might think to be ineffective may in fact have quite a dramatic effect on increasing your site’s performance.
To summarise, it’s really important to regularly assess the performance of your website – perhaps on a weekly or monthly basis. This will help you flag up any newly arisen issues, or if performance is continually low then perhaps there is an inherent problem with the site functionality or design? Take a look through the different statistics that will help you identify the issue, and then test different fixes to see if they result in a higher conversion rate.
If you are having problems with your site then why not leave a comment below? We might be able to help suggest a potential cause and solution to turn your site around.
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