When it comes to websites, first impressions are critical. This should come as no surprise to anybody. Human beings, by their very nature, tend to make snap judgments. Those initial impressions your website creates will be a critical factor determining whether your website creates a customer or if a visitor hits their back arrow and just keeps browsing.
In fact, in research conducted by Google, it was shown that it only takes about 50 milliseconds (or 0.05 seconds) for a user to form an opinion about a website. They decide that quickly whether they like your site or not, whether they’ll stay or leave. This is why 55% of website visitors will leave a website in 15 seconds or less (according to Tony Haile of Chartbeat).
This should come as no surprise. The modern web user tends to be skeptical of what they might find when they click on a link. Over the years, they have clicked on many links that have taken them to pages that are not what they are looking for or are poorly made. People are fully aware they will most likely have to visit multiple websites to find what they are looking for and that they will most likely go to several websites that completely miss the mark along the way.
Due to this, users will click on a link, make a snap judgment and then either keep reading or hit the back arrow and keep browsing. They want to avoid wasting as much time as possible while engaged in this process.
According to the research by Google mentioned above, the websites that tend to create favorable impressions are websites with low visual complexity and high prototypicality. This basically means if a website is simple and familiar, visitors are more likely to approve and spend more time on it.
Since website visitors tend to be skeptical, clicking on links and expecting websites to be disappointing, efforts taken to help them quickly and easily find what they are looking for can be very powerful. Imagine, for instance, sitting down at someone else’s computer and finding they had replaced the keys on their keyboard with keys only differentiated by 101 different colors.
If you are anything like me, your initial reaction would be to panic a little bit. In this case, I would just stand up and walk away and not even bother to sit and try to figure out how to use their system. This is an example of a non-intuitive system and web users behave the exact same way. When I type a 6 I am used to looking for a key with a 6 on it, as I am sure you are as well.
You don’t want to create hurdles that website visitors will have to overcome to use your website. Website visitors do not want to make an extra effort trying to sort out how to use a website or learn a new navigation system when they first land on a website. You want them to feel comfortable right off the bat and assure them that they will be able to find what they are looking for right from their first glance.
An intuitive website
If you design your website to be intuitive for users, the various elements will be designed in such a way that that the user can navigate, access information and take actions in a natural and effortless manner. You don’t want users to have to think about what to do.
An intuitively designed interface will not be screaming for a visitor’s attention, but that does not mean it will necessarily be ordinary. Great visual design will complement and enhance the usability of a website without getting in the way of the user experience.
While many designers will sacrifice usability to create designs that visually stand out, this can be a mistake. Remember that most visitors will leave the site quickly if the website does not look obviously useful and easy to use. You don’t want to cost yourself conversions in an attempt to show off design skill.
Don’t let your website be an afterthought. Give it the attention it deserves. The user interface of your website should encourage and enable visitors to buy your products and interact with your brand while putting your brand in a positive light.
Start by conducting the necessary research and reviewing objective data. Several studies have shown that using proper testing and research can massively increase conversion rates. There are a variety of tools at your disposal that can all add to the effectiveness of your user interface design.
From reviewing data in analytics packages to surveying customers or even interviewing customers and performing usability studies, there are several options available to help you develop a better understanding of your customers and their needs. A/B tests can be a powerful tool to refine designs and enhance performance.
As you are collecting data, look for trends and insights into customer behavior that will help improve your website. Create personas for your main customer groups to help you better empathize with your customers. Seek to understand why visitors come to your website. Learn their behavior while on your site, for instance, what pages do they go to and why? What actions do you want them to take? Are they taking them? What negative issues do visitors experience while visiting the current website?
Develop an understanding of your target audiences’ intent. Once you understand their intent, you can develop a plan for how to update your website that will cater to your customer. Streamline process to assist visitors completing their intended tasks, creating a path they can intuitively follow without being distracted by unnecessary clutter or complexity.
Utilize your layout and design to make your website intuitive and natural to use. Look at the data you have collected while putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and design in a way that will clearly communicate what your company is about while making it easy for visitors to get where they want to go. Website navigation should be simple, engaging and consistent across your entire user interface.
Remember the importance of simplicity, your homepage should quickly and clearly convey in a few words what the company is all about and the benefits it can provide to visitors. Make sure you create a design that is seamless with the company’s branding and other marketing materials. You want to present visitors with a uniform brand experience regardless of what channel they use to engage with your business. You only have a few seconds to engage visitors, so make that time count.
Make sure you don’t forget to put proper focus on copy and graphics to make the page more engaging and easier to read for website visitors. Keep copy short and inviting.
There is an enormous value in following user-focused design process. In a recent study by CEB Global, optimizing the purchase path was found to increase the likelihood of a purchase by 96%. Additionally, it increased the likelihood of recommendations by 115%. Customers want to quickly and easily navigate the purchase process and if you optimize the experience for them, making it simple and intuitive, the payoff can be substantial.