The user experience on your website.
A good website must be easy to use, intuitive, and visually appealing, all while taking into consideration a number of additional, technical aspects. Given this, how should you present your site while balancing the various aspects that affect the user experience? This article demonstrates the importance of the user experience on your website to ensure that it generates the desired results. The first part of the article examines conflicts that may arise between the user experience and highlighting products in the context of an e-commerce site. The second part illustrates the importance of the mobile experience on your website. Finally, the last part describes the concept of the “reservoir of goodwill.”
E-commerce: Should you prioritise the user experience over highlighting more products?
When launching an e-commerce project, you will often be required to take the difficult decision as to whether to favour the experience that users enjoy on your website over the fact that you need to highlight your products. In some instances, prioritising one may entail sacrificing the other to a certain extent. For example, you may opt for an avant-garde, cutting-edge website design, with animations that aim to present your products in a particular way to impress your visitors. Even though this is potentially a way to stand out from your competition, and offer a visual experience that is out of the ordinary, it may also make browsing your website less intuitive, making it harder for your users to access the pages they want to see. In summary, you could find yourself with a visually stunning site that is frustrating to use. Do not, therefore, let yourself be dazzled by a visually appealing design proposal that causes you to forget the purpose of your website: to make it easy to sell products to your target audience.
Another example of the conflict between the user experience and the accessibility of your products often arises when optimising your site for search engine (SEO, or “Search Engine Optimisation”). Google and other search engines need a certain amount of text on the pages of your site in order to find them and highlight them in the list of search results. Nevertheless, it is often difficult to add all the content required to optimise search engine results without affecting the design. For example, you may opt for a minimalist design on your product pages, which would reduce the amount of text shown. The consequence of this decision is that product pages will appear less frequently among the top results generated by search engines. You could, therefore, find yourself with an e-commerce website that looks perfect from a design perspective, but which few people will find, and which offers very little information about your products.
The solution to this dilemma? Always think about your different priorities. There is no point in having a good-looking site that is impossible to use or find. You must, therefore, always find a balance between user experience and the more technical aspects of the site, always bearing in mind the results that you are looking for.
The mobile experience on your website
Never think of the mobile experience offered by an e-commerce website as secondary. In 2015, Google announced that, globally speaking, the number of searches from mobile platforms (phones or tablets) had exceeded the number of searches from computers. The smartphone hasn’t been just another gadget for many years, and indeed, it has become an indispensable platform on which your current and prospective customers may spend several hours per day. The mobile experience that your website provides should not, therefore, be seen as a “bonus” but must genuinely be a priority, because there is a high degree of probability that traffic on your website will mainly originate from mobile platforms. To ensure that your visitors have a positive experience, whatever device they are using, pay close attention to making your site “responsive” – i.e., it must adapt to all screen sizes.
A potential customer who reaches your website on a mobile phone, and who discovers an unoptimised experience, will quickly be frustrated and will leave your site in favour of one of your competitors. It would be a pipe dream to suggest that users will take the time to come back to your website later from their PC: the majority simply won’t bother.
In addition to the user experience, having a site that is optimised for mobile platforms is crucial for a good SEO performance. Google is aware of the contemporary importance of mobile devices and has adopted an approach known as “mobile first” when ranking websites. This means that, if your site is not responsive, or if it offers a poor mobile experience for any reason, you are at risk of being seriously disadvantaged in terms of SEO.
Nowadays, responsive websites have become the norm. If you buy a pre-made theme for a turnkey CMS solution such as WordPress or Squarespace, you can assume that this will be responsive. Nevertheless, if you develop your own website design, it is important to ensure that your designers and developers always bear the mobile experience in mind. If your supplier treats the mobile experience as secondary, it is a good indication that it’s time to find a new service provider!
The “Reservoir of Goodwill”
Web users have very little patience when browsing a website, and strongly prefer sites that are easy to use and do not require them to think too much. A user who is frustrated by a site is a lost potential customer. This is illustrated by the concept of the “reservoir of goodwill,” which was introduced by Steve Krug in his book “Don’t Make Me Think.” Krug indicates that all web users have a limited reservoir of goodwill when interacting with a website. Every frustration uses up some of that reservoir, while each positive experience fills it up again. If users encounter too many frustrations, so that their reservoir is emptied entirely, they will simply give up and go elsewhere.
What might use up your users’ “reservoir of goodwill?” It could be difficulties encountered when accessing your product pages, a broken search engine, or a registration process that is too long and complicated. Remember that users have very little patience online, and if your site doesn’t work properly, they won’t hesitate to visit your competitors’ websites instead.