Before we start, there are a just a couple of things to go over.
Unfortunately, improving on-page user experience is not just a checklist of ‘quick wins’ to tick off.
Even if you follow the below steps and brainstorm your own tailored list of changes to improve your user experience, you might not get anywhere without going through these key rules…
- Set up tracking and analytics
Make sure that you’re tracking user behaviour accurately and consistently. Google Analytics is a great place to start (especially if you’re able to set up your own tailored event tracking with Google Tag Manager), but heatmapping tools like Hotjar also provide a good overview of how users are responding to your content. A lot of these tools are free, so make the most of them!
- Have clearly defined goals
Once you’ve got tracking set up, establish some clear KPIs for successful user behaviour on each of your pages. Whether it’s buying a product, signing up to emails or simply spending longer than 5 minutes reading your content, make sure you know exactly what a ‘conversion’ means to you. Then write your KPIs down in a spreadsheet and create some benchmark data reports before any changes are made.
- Conduct a competitor analysis
The list below is a helpful guide, but make sure you take a look at what your competitors are doing before considering what changes to make. This might give you a few great content ideas and can be used to kick off a brainstorm to improve your pages.
- Don’t make assumptions about your users
It’s easy to assume that creating a big button will improve click through rates, or that a relevant video embedded into the page will enhance user engagement. Sadly, users don’t always react the way you expect them to. If you come up with a list of changes to make, don’t implement them without testing them first (see our next point…)
- Test, test and test
Test. Test everything. Establish your KPIs, create your benchmark data and test your changes one by one. That way you’ll be 100% sure whether your changes are having a positive or negative impact.
Now we’ve gone through the rules, take a look at our 10 tips for improving UX!
Make it digestible
When users arrive on a page, the last thing they want to see is a long page of text that may (or may not) at one point answer the question they were searching for.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of writing out every piece of information a user might want to see. But it’s much better to research the most common search terms relating to your topic and pick out the key information your users will want to know about.
If you really need to put lots information on the page, make sure it’s well-written, separated by clear paragraphs and consistently formatted.
Use familiar keywords
Research the most common search terms relating to your page and try to use them within your copy.
Not only is this good for SEO, but if users land on your page and immediately start to see familiar keywords, they’re much more likely to engage effectively with your content.
Titles and headers
Your page title and headers are important for both SEO and user experience, so think about what keywords you want your page to rank for and pick out the most common phrases. Repeating the same general phrases across your website won’t work well, so make sure your titles and headers are unique, specific and relevant.
- Calls to action
This is one of the easiest and most effective thing you can do: make sure your main CTA stands out from the rest of your text.
A button usually does the trick. Easy.
Don’t have too many CTAs
After landing on a page, there’s often a number of paths your users could take. And of course you want to make all of these options immediately clear to visitors to make sure that they definitely don’t ever leave your website.
Giving users lots of different options has to the potential to disorientate and confuse, so pick your main CTA and make it stand out from the rest.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t link to any other section of your site or have smaller CTAs on that page, but keep your content clean by making them smaller and less obvious.
It can be difficult to know the best place to put your main CTA.
A lot of advice tends to fall towards putting it above the fold, so that users don’t have to scroll down to click on it. That may be true for some people, but testing a few different placements never hurt anyone.
Try not to assume what your users will respond most effectively to; test the CTA at the top of the page, in the middle and at the bottom. Find what works best for your visitors.
Use effective wording
Unfortunately, this is another instance where one-size-fits-all won’t work. Write a list of possible CTAs that you think might work and test them one by one.
Generally, however, it’s good to be specific and relevant. Phrases like ‘Click here’ don’t tend to work as well. Use text that tells your users exactly what will happen when they click the button.
- Above the fold
Okay, it’s not the nineties any more. People know how to use the internet and of course we know how to scroll.
Still, recent studies show that 80% of our attention is still directed to ‘above the fold’ content. Whether this is completely true or not, it’s fair to say that what you put at the top of the webpage is worth giving a second thought.
This doesn’t mean that you should definitely put your main CTA at the top of the page. If that were true, I would have put our email subscription form at the top of this blog (hint hint), but that would have been annoying because we both know that’s not why you’re here.
Think about your user intentions, come up with some possible structural variations and then test them.
This is an easy one. Pick high quality images that are relevant to your page, add descriptive image alt text to keep them SEO and accessibility-friendly, and get them down to a reasonable size.
There’s nothing worse than clicking on a page and waiting ages for the images to load. It’s important to find a balance between high resolution (to keep the image high quality) and file size (which takes longer to load).
If you’re finding that your average page load time is quite high, this may be a good place to start!
- Don’t make your page too busy
We’ve been through this a little already but just to reiterate, make sure your written content and images are well-sized, consistently spaced out and (where necessary) split into paragraphs.
Inconsistency in alignment, typography, image style and use of design elements will make your page look messy and busy. In this instance, white space works in your favour; it helps to balance out and organise your content effectively.
Ultimately, keep it simple.
- Meta descriptions
Another quick win! Make sure every one of your pages has a unique, relevant, keyword-optimised meta description. This will ensure that when users see your page in Google, they’ll have a clear idea of what to expect from your content (rather than seeing Google’s auto-generated preview).
The description should have no more than 160 characters, as Google will start to truncate the sentence. If you want a preview before making it live, Screaming Frog has a feature that enables you to see what your page’s search snippet will look like.
Slightly obvious, but make sure to check every link on the page is working correctly to avoid errors. If you want to do this for your whole website, tools like Screaming Frog are perfect – and the free version lets you crawl up to 500 pages at a time.
When you create a link, make sure you’re using relevant and unique anchor text (the clickable words in the hyperlink). Using generic phrases like ‘Click here’ and ‘Find out more’ aren’t always good for user experience or SEO, so make sure that it’s obvious to the user where they’ll be clicking through to.
If you’re clicking through to an external website, it’s often preferable to change the target attribute to blank (a target=”_blank”) to make sure the link opens in a new tab. By default, links will open in the same window, so this means that when users click on a link they don’t completely leave your website.
This isn’t always an easy win, but try to make sure your page is located in a clear and obvious part of your website. This is important so that users can easily locate your content if they land on a different part of your site, but it’s also just helpful to give users a bit of context for your page.
A great tool to check whether your page is in the right section is Treejack, which enables you to upload your sitemap, try out different user journeys and test whether users are able to find your content effectively.
If your page is in the right section, make sure your URL accurately reflects its location on the site.
- Page speed
I mentioned this briefly when talking about images, but it’s worth its own section. Look at your average page load times and if it’s more than 4-5 seconds, start investigating the main causes.
I’ll be honest, I’m bored of hearing this. And I think that it can be a mistake to dive straight into mobile-first design.
But mobile is important and I can’t write a post about UX without mentioning the fact that an increasingly high percentage of online user journeys now involve the use of mobile devices.
It’s easy to forget, but when making any change to a page it’s vital to check it on mobile. And when you’re testing to see whether a change you’ve made has improved your UX, separate your results by device to get a clear breakdown of user behaviour.
Ideally, mobile user experience requires a completely separate strategy; users tend to be looking for instant results and often interact with websites in a different way. So when you’re thinking about how much text to put on a page, where to place your main CTA or which image is most effective, remember to think about mobile too.
Think we’ve missed something important? Let us know in the comments below!