The 40-30-30 Experience
A website isn’t all about pictures, videos and words, it’s about an experience. How the user feels about a particular website will determine how long they will stay and continue reading or “bounce” and leave the site. Think of it like shopping. If a customer has a frustrating experience in a store, they may leave without making the necessary purchase. Sometimes, the customer will travel further, spend more and not get exactly what they want just so they can avoid a very unpleasant experience in the first store. The internet is no different. We believe that user experience is the overall most important element of a website. We feel that content, design, and technology all work hand-in-hand in order to make the user experience the best one possible. Planning how a website is designed, the content it contains and the technology it uses to support the website must all work together for optimal results.
When approaching user experience, certain assumptions have to be made. The main assumption is that the user does not know anything about the site. Like a new kid at school, the user is not only lost but also does not know what to do. That is why messaging is important. If the user can’t determine what is being offered within five seconds, the user will leave. Our society has the attention spans of a gnat and businesses compete for the user’s attention. That is why certain user experience principles are absolutes. For example, a user must be able to determine what a business does right away (a design principle). Any call the action must be visible and “above the fold” (a content principle). The servers that host the website must be set up properly and load the website very quickly (a technology principle).
Let’s take a look at each of the three user experience principles in more detail.
How a website is designed goes beyond how it may simply look. Just how auto manufacturers build prototypes and scale models of their cars before production. Most prototypes never make it for sale but are essential in the overall process of creating the final product. Design encompasses many elements, that, when properly orchestrated, will entice users to stay on the website and want to learn more. There are several visible and invisible elements to design and they include:
- Company Messaging: what does the company sell, stand for and offer.
- Branding: does the company have a slogan that exemplifies the corporate culture and offering.
- Site Map: looks like an organizational chart indicating what main sections of the website are.
- Wireframe: usually a hand-drawn layout of what the page will look like (without images or text).
- Navigation: where can the user access the various pages and how are they organized.
- Page Layout: how are the text and images laid out on the page and is the call to action well placed.
- Colors/Fonts/Images: do the colors and feel of the website match other corporate collateral and ads.
- Mobile Formatting: does the website automatically adjust for mobile and tablet users.
The invisible elements in the overall finished website include the company messaging, branding, sitemap, and wireframe. Although these items actually exist, the user will never know they exist because these items are used to create the overall website. What the user DOES see is the navigation, page layout, colors/fonts/images and mobile formatting. Regardless of being visible or invisible, there are many different items that comprise the overall design of a website, and that design, if done properly, can make a huge difference in determining whether or not a website visitor stays or leaves the site within seconds.
It has been said that content is king, and Google confirms it. Although we don’t know the actual algorithm Google uses to rank websites high on the search pages, we do know that there is a huge emphasis on content. Creating an authority website that is rich with content is certainly an excellent strategy for search engine results and just overall business credibility. However, content is more than just words and pictures. Content should be a process that takes a prospect from having no idea that a company exists or what they sell to engaging with them (directly or indirectly) and ultimately purchase the product or service. Think of it as the dating process. People meet, go to coffee, go on date, etc… it takes time to develop a relationship. Content on a website is no different. It’s a pathway that creates and nurtures a relationship. There are many factors that comprise of “content” including:
- Message/Tone: is the text written in a consistent voice and is the value proposition clear?
- Customer Avatar: what does the target customer look like (ie: male/female, age, demographic, etc.)?
- Calls to Action: does the website have an easily seen “call to action” or a next step the reader is supposed to take?
- Awareness/Engagement/Conversion: is there a plan that converts a prospect into a customer?
- Search Engine Optimization: does the website use SEO tactics to optimize for certain keywords?
- Content Formats (ie: video, blog, papers): are there other forms of content including blogs, videos, etc.?
- Follow Up Campaigns: does the company have an automated follow-up system designed to convert prospects into customers?
- Blogging: are blogs being used to support keyword ranking and elaborate on website content?
Content encompasses the way the story is presented to a prospect and walks that prospect through a logical path that leads to a sale. The biggest mistake most companies make is not knowing what that path looks like and just arbitrarily putting words on pages hoping the customer will buy the product. Obviously, there’s more to it than that.
It is our thought that technology is what drives the internet. The proper use of that technology can make the critical difference between attracting new prospects and customers to repelling them just as quickly. The technology a website uses is like the engine, transmission, etc of a car. We think of it as being “under the hood” but it’s what’s under the hood that makes the difference between the car starting every time or not starting at all. Our thinking is that if the website takes over 5 seconds to load, a visitor will leave or “bounce” even BEFORE and design and content take effect. That’s why we feel technology accounts for 40% of the overall user experience. Technology comprises of:
- Servers/Hosting: having the correct server is a balance between needs, costs and security.
- Framework/CMS: the proper content management system empowers the company to have more control of their website and make content edits.
- Theme: many themes have more functionality than needed. Sometimes a custom theme is better.
- Settings/Plugins: each plugin in another entry point hackers can use to enter a site. Keeping plugin use to a minimum and choosing the correct settings is critical.
- Scripting: some themes have too much scripting and slow a site down.
- Speed Optimization: reducing image sizes, condensing scripts and css are only a few considerations in overall speed optimization.
- Security: probably the most overlooked subject, poor security can destroy a company’s reputation and cause massive financial losses.
- Analytics: knowing what is broken is the only way to fix it. Analytics help a company optimize their sales funnel process to be more efficient and profitable.
Focusing on how the user interacts with a website drives everything. Creating a great user experience is based on design, content and technology. Making sure the website targets the right prospective customer (customer avatar) and having a story tell or a path to follow is what makes a website a powerful sales and marketing tool. The message a company has to say, how the content is laid out, where the navigation buttons are, and what calls to actions there are all determine how the user will interact with the website. The technology used is the base upon which design and content can be effective and must be optimized to make the website as fast and safe as possible.
For more information about how a website should be optimized or to have an audit performed on a website, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.