In the past few months, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has pushed countless businesses into a digital transformation they hadn't planned for. As a result, many didn't have the time to go through the lengthy planning, design, and testing phases that usually come before the launch of a new business website. Of course, just getting a site up and running at all in such a short time is something to be proud of.
Now, however, as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on communities everywhere, it's time for businesses to recognize it’s not likely to be business as usual again anytime soon. That means it's time to make plans to move out of 'emergency mode' and start making sure that you’re getting the most out of your new digital presence.
Some would argue that such an effort should begin with a plan for an SEO makeover to start attracting more customers online. But there's something far more foundational that needs to be done first – make sure your site offers the best user experience (UX) possible. After all, what good is attracting more traffic if all the new visitors leave with a poor impression of the business?
If you’re a business who had to stand up or expand a website in a hurry, here’s a simple 4-step hit list to help you get your UX house in order.
Step 1 – Seek uniformity and work from there
The first step toward ensuring a great UX is to make sure that visitors have a similar experience on the site, no matter where they are on it. Doing that begins with assessing every page and making sure that they all follow a single, overarching layout that has room to contain all of the needed features and elements.
This is especially important if the site was put online quickly and content added over the past few months as business conditions changed.
In doing this, most businesses should opt to use sleek web design principles that minimize clutter and maximize usable screen real estate.
Once everything's in line with the main design, work to introduce variations to page content that fit within the overall layout but add some visual appeal to each page.
One way to do this is to retain the same menu, header, and footer on each page, but to vary the content areas. As long as the various content pages don't clash – by using similar color schemes, fonts, and visual styles – the site will remain interesting and coherent, which is exactly what the goal should be.
Step 2 – Simplify text elements everywhere
One of the keys to a great UX is to make sure visitors can find what they need in the shortest time possible.
To achieve that goal, it's best to eliminate lengthy and complex text elements that force the visitor to stop using the site and read for an excessive amount of time. More often than not, they'll skip over this text and end up increasingly frustrated with the site – which all but guarantees a quick exit.
Although there are no hard and fast rules to follow when simplifying text – because product information, blog content, and help sections are necessary – the best rule of thumb is to aim for about 30% text content and 70% visual content on every possible page. That split typically allows enough text for sharp, useful sentences but prevents viewer overload.
Also, wherever text is used, making sure it follows proper typographic hierarchy will allow the viewer to absorb what's important even if they don't read every word.
Step 3 – Make help easy to find
After completing the first two steps, the site should be in decent condition with respect to UX. It should be coherent, clutter-free, and designed to highlight relevant information in an easy to absorb way.
While that's a great start, such simplicity can come at a cost. It's that the site won't be encyclopedic – and that means customers are going to need help from time to time.
This is where the aforementioned text-heavy elements come into play. Make sure to create (or augment) a help section that includes frequently asked questions, any relevant business policies, and contact information should a customer need it.
Better still, add a live chat element to the site and make direct help available from every page. If resources are limited, consider deploying a chatbot to handle routine questions, but always give visitors the option of talking to a person if that's what they'd ultimately prefer.
Step 4 – Create a high-performance landing page
At this point, the basic elements of a good UX should be in place throughout the website. But, before it's time to pivot to SEO, advertising, and marketing, there's one more thing to do – create a high-performance landing page to serve as a point of entry for new visitors.
Doing this serves a few critical purposes:
- First, it provides an opportunity to drive conversion behavior among first-time visitors.
- Second, it creates a single, measurable page to track the efficacy of marketing efforts.
- And third, it offers an opportunity to make a great first impression that can stand apart from the rest of the main website pages.
There are several ways to go about creating an effective landing page, and the one to choose will vary based on the behavior the page is trying to encourage. The one thing that every landing page has in common is that it will take a great deal of testing and adjustment to arrive at the right design.
To get started, set some goals that the page needs to accomplish and then create a design that checks all the right boxes to serve that purpose. Then – test, test, test until everything is perfect!
Off to a solid start
Just by addressing these four points, any business that has had to put together a new website in a hurry can ensure that their customers have a top-notch digital experience in no time. That will allow the business to make the most out of the present circumstances, and allow a hastily-constructed website to become a solid foundation for future digital success.
Best of all, it'll prepare the site for both expansion and an influx of visitors that will come from subsequent efforts to optimize and market the business. And with all signs pointing toward the need to continue leaning on digital sales for the foreseeable future, now's the perfect time to get started.