User Experience Optimization (UEO) is a critical element of website design and digital marketing strategy. You don’t just need to get people to visit your website—you need to provide them with a valuable experience once they are there. After all, there is no point in spending money on driving traffic to your website if your site leaves visitors feeling uninformed, disinterested, and unmotivated to take additional action. So how can you maximize user experience? Be sure to keep the following tips and tricks in mind.
Understand your target audience
The aesthetic and functional elements of your website should be designed with your target audience in mind. A website designed with baby boomers in mind will probably differ from a website geared towards millennials. The key to optimizing user experience is therefore understanding who you are designing for. To hone in on this, start by creating specific buyer personas—a clear picture of your target buyer that includes their needs, wants, preferences, spending habits, and relevant demographic information, including age, income, education, and location. This helps you better understand—and meet—your clients’ expectations.
“In web design jargon, “friction” refers to just about anything that prevents a user from accomplishing his or her goal, whether that goal is finding and purchasing a product on your website or finding your business’s contact information to make a phone call.”
So, when a user can’t find the button to select an item and put it in his or her shopping cart, or when a user can’t figure out how to navigate past your home page to find your contact information, that’s friction. Slow page loading times, interface inconsistencies, distracting visuals, and functions or features without a clear purpose are all examples of friction. There are several different ways to minimize friction and optimize user experience.
Focus on clarity and coherence. Good web design moves userstowarda goal, whether the goal is making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter. When optimizing your website for user experience, it is important to keep these goals in mind. Ask yourself, does this content move users toward their goal? If not, your content isn’t adding value to your site, it is just distracting your users. To maximize clarity and coherence, cut out all of the superfluous stuff. Focus on creating a coherent and compelling aesthetic, using crisp typography that is easy to read, and limiting visuals to what is absolutely necessary.
Leverage the power of “chunking.” Large swaths of text will overwhelm your user and make it hard for them to find the information he or she is looking for. Instead, break your content into pieces to ensure that users don’t feel too overwhelmed. A grid pattern is a great way to break content into chunks, as is making use of contrasting images and short section titles.
Use UI patterns to eliminate steps. UI patterns, including guided actions, default settings, and wizards/stepped forms, help you to reduce friction and design a website in a way that is much more user friendly.
Ditch the bells and whistles
Websites with unnecessary features—or ones that are just for show and don’t do anything to convert users or add value to your message—are not only distracting, they can actually sabotage user experience. “I'd be happy to never again visit a website that has music, sound effects or unnecessary animation,” explains ArieOpps, the President of Illuminate Marketing, a Toronto-based marketing firm. “A well-constructed video or flash animation that truly supports your messaging can be very valuable—but only if it helps convey and not compete with your message. Ask yourself if your animation provides a true function or if it's just cool. If it's just cool, lose it.”
The bottom line? By optimizing user experience, you will improve key metrics like bounce rate, time on page, and conversion, and in turn you’ll improve your own bottom line.