The internet is a beautiful (and sometimes, daunting) place, but in a world full of data, web users are more than just ones and zeros. No two people are the same, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to delivering a great user experience. There are, however, some easy ways to improve your site in order to keep people on the page.
Page loading time is one of the biggest issues facing web developers today. A slow site can be frustrating to use at best, and impossible at worst.
In fact, research performed by Google suggests that over half of mobile users exit a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load, meaning every single second counts.
Fortunately, there are some quick ways to improve Page Speed score (and therefore load time):
- Compress images – Images are large files, which – left unchecked – can contribute a big chunk of the overall file size. Compressing these images using tools like TinyPNG can reduce the sizes of these images by up to 80%!
- Avoid overusing pictures – Even when compressed, too many images can still cause speed issues. Additionally, when text is broken up or formatted oddly to accommodate said images, readability is affected, which could result in confusion and frustration for visitors.
As best, practice pages should take less than two seconds to load.
Big changes have been made to the Google Algorithm in recent months. Mobile-first indexing is here to stay, and Google are rewarding rich, high-quality content more than ever. This means that your onsite content will improve your SEO as well as your onsite performance!
How is quality content essential to SEO in 2018?
- Depth of Content – Not only are people engaging more with quality content, but Google now rewards it more, too.
- Human-Focused Content – Search engines are becoming ever-more effective at spotting (and delivering penalties to) ‘over-optimised’ sites with a dubious, unnatural link profile.
- Removing Repetitive Content – Vintage SEO tactics from 2011 have led to content hangover; content campaigns, blogs and guides are all keyword-stuffed and repetitive.
Having content that is useful to your users sounds like a no-brainer, yet the vast majority of pages online are too concerned with outdated practices, attempting to ‘trick’ the search engine algorithms by releasing thin, useless content with low-quality links.
Not only is this strategy now ineffective, it also devalues the user’s journey, making them more likely to exit the site, never to return (probably).
As a best practice, every single bit of content on a page must offer something of value to a user. Anything else should be removed. Plus, doing so will reduce file size and therefore loading time!
User Experience (UX)
So your pages are lightning fast, and your content is world-class, but your bounce rate/click through rate is nowhere near what you expected – why? Sometimes it is essential to have an extra set of eyes to look over your site, to give an unbiased view of their first impressions and to give their opinion on how you can make the user journey feel more natural.
There are endless ways in which you can get feedback on your site, from the market leading software packages, to simply asking a friend! One thing is for sure though; the more information you receive, the faster you will see results – knowledge really is power!
Five second Test by UsabilityHub provides web designers with a multitude of unbiased feedback of their first impression of a landing page, home page, logo or any other content. A tester is given five seconds (duh) to view the tested page, and is then asked to describe what they think the site does and what they like or dislike about it.
Five Second Test and other usability tests provide actionable insights into what real people think of our site. When it comes to bounce rate, first impressions are a big factor. If the side is hard to use, or the design is less than desirable, chances are that people will look elsewhere.
Heat mapping software comes in a whole host of varieties, but they all aim to serve one purpose: to show you exactly when and where users are clicking on the site. Elements on the page which are regularly clicked on show as “hotspots” on the map.
Most good packages available will offer basic heat maps; scroll maps, which offer insight about how much below the fold content is being viewed; visitor recordings, showing cursors of real visitors as they interact with the page; and conversion funnels, which break down how many users convert and at which stages visitors are leaving your site.
These qualitative data insights offer information which Google Analytics never could, and help to remove the guesswork from website optimisation.
So you have stacks of feedback on how your site could be improved. You have also formed hypotheses about what could be changed to improve UX, but which changes should you apply to yield the best results? This is where A/B testing comes in.
A/B testing (also called split testing or bucket testing) is a method of testing two versions of a website at the same time, where 50% of users see version “A”, while the other 50% see version “B”. The variation which performs best is then chosen. The cycle of forming and testing a hypothesis is repeated.
A/B testing takes some of the hard work out of web page optimisation by performing these time consuming tests automatically, allowing you to make changes backed up by data from real users.
Multivariate testing takes this a step further, by testing combinations of various changes (ie, button A with background colour B…). This allows for much more efficient testing and implementation, but it also takes a lot more traffic to produce results.
Page speed is a great way to ensure you’re retaining as much incoming traffic as possible, but it isn’t everything; a fast loading site means absolutely nothing if it isn’t backed up by valuable content. A great site should be as unobtrusive as possible, and navigation should feel native to the user. The more natural the user journey feels, the more credible your site will look – simple!
Aim to get your page load time down to that target of two seconds, but don’t sacrifice quality for speed. You should always optimise your page as much as you can, but no more than that. Maybe your blog post doesn’t need that 1.5MB Super HD Image as a header to support your point, but if a page does, don’t remove it for the sake of chopping off a few tenths of a second (but certainly compress it!).
When in doubt, Google’s PageSpeed Insights is your friend; it will show you ways to optimise your page without removing content. Equally, user testing, qualitative analysis and A/B testing will help to make your site better for the things that truly matter – humans!