We’re a UX web agency, so why are we interested in search engine optimization and search engine marketing? To answer this question, we need to understand the link between UX design and SEO. For starters, UX is all about making users happy, and so is SEO.
We’ll talk more about that in this article, explain the difference between search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), as well as talk about how you can drive relevant, quality traffic to your website by using SEO and SEM best practices.
What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?
To understand the difference, let’s explain what the concepts of SEO and SEM are:
- SEO is an acronym for Search engine optimization.
SEO is the practice within digital marketing concerning the process of optimizing a website to maximize the number of visitors by ensuring the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. Too formal?
Let’s try to explain SEO in everyday language: trying to get that first sweet spot in search results while also getting visitors to click on your link by giving them relevant information, then making them stay on the website by showing them an excellent time.
SEO contains On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
On-Page SEO is when you choose target keywords (like “WordPress Agency”), create and optimize content targeting those keywords – content that’s beneficial and relevant to those searching for it.
Other areas that affect On-Page SEO are page speed and responsive design.
Off-Page SEO is when you move away from your website by creating a natural and high-quality backlink profile. This happens when others that enjoy your content is sharing your site’s links. It could, for example, be social media sharing. How well-known your domain is and its reputation counts here as well.
- SEM is an acronym for Search engine marketing.
One could say that SEO is a part of SEM, because while SEO is the optimization and improvement part – SEM involves promoting the website through advertising and therefore also includes SEO marketing tactics. It’s not the best practice to advertise (read: spend money) if you haven’t set up the criteria to get the user to also stay on your website.
Let’s try the everyday language again: you purchase an ad on search engines and choose one or more words when you want this ad to show up. A user then searches for that word/words and voilà, there you are! Payment choices can differ, for some, you only pay when users click on your link, and others can set a fixed amount for a specific date range. Prices will depend on user demand, how many competitors that also want to buy this placement for the ad, and where you choose to place it (like at the top or bottom).
Which one is better?
SEM can be a very efficient way to reach new customers and increase revenues for smaller companies or businesses that are just getting started. But, as you might guess; SEM rarely gives a return on investment (ROI) without SEO being a part of its marketing tactic.
Just using organic SEO is less costly and will build up search credibility, BUT it will take a
When you’re choosing between these tactics we would suggest evaluating your needs; would you benefit from paying for ads to get more leads, or do you have the time to let your website grow on its own?
One thing is sure, though, at Looping.Tech, we always optimize for search engines, and never build websites that aren’t set up to use SEO tactics.
Still unsure about what to do? Contact us! We’re glad to help, at least you’ll get some feedback.
The state of SEO and SEM in 2019.
Let’s take the time to filter some of the most common questions we get concerning SEO and SEM.
It takes so long to rank, why should I even care?
You’re correct, SEO is becoming harder, and many companies feel the need to spend more money to get the results they want – so I understand your frustration. However, the reality is that you have no choice but to work with search engine optimization tactics if you care about getting relevant, quality traffic to your website from organic searches. Most search engines require it, and it compliments the user experience.
Will Google’s updates affect my search results?
You’re not alone; a lot of businesses are worrying about this, and I have to tell you that this possibility can’t be avoided.
It’s no secret that Google continuously roll out updates to their algorithm, and although I know it’s frustrating how it might affect your search visibility – with the way our societies are evolving today, I think it’s unavoidable.
To stay on the positive side of things, setting up a quality marketing strategy and staying up-to-date with the changes is enough for most businesses. At least, we get guidelines on how to promote your online content via Google’s SEO Starter Guide. Why not check it out?
Should I be using Schema.org?
Schema markup  is a way to structure data on the internet and web pages. Search engines use this as a way to provide value from search results in the form of information the user might care about – it also makes the website visually stand out.
Head over to schema.org and check out their schemas. If you want a simple tutorial on how to use schema markup on your website, follow this article: Get started using Schema
Look at figure 1 as an example; this is the product page for Body Bazar’s Just Argan Oil. I was looking for organic argan oil to buy, and here in the search results I can directly see that 23 people have reviewed this product, the average rating is 4,7, the price is 295 KR, and the item is in stock. 🙌🏻 This is super beneficial information for me as a user looking to find a product that matches my criteria.
It’s also a way for search bots to understand the context of your content.
Is it worth paying for search engine marketing?
SEM does allow businesses of any size to reach lots of people and potential customers.
While SEO strategies can take months to kick in, search engine ads give result pretty much instantly. As soon as your campaign has been approved, you can start receiving traffic from organic keyword searches.
When you choose to pay for ads, we do recommend to keep track of your campaigns. Look at how much you’ve spent and if there’s any return on investment (ROI); what was your goal when you created the ad and did you feel that goal was met?
If you don’t see any improvements or results after several months, can you cancel the campaign directly?
Also think about how you’ll make users convert once they’ve clicked on your link because it’s all about the conversion rate in the end.
How can I get the Featured Snippet spot?
The featured snippet block is placed at the top of the search results page in Google search, see figure 2. It is supposed to include a summary of the answer to the search and enhance the result that Google thinks provides the best answer.
It’s not possible to pay for or to require this spot. Google programmatically determines if your web pages contain a likely answer to users’ questions, and if so – displays that result as a featured snippet.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to rank for the featured snippet spot:
- User questions are likely to bring up featured snippets so make sure you answer how, what, when, where, why, or who questions related to your topic.
- Do your keyword research. If you want that featured snippet spot, you should be sticking to SEO best practices.
- Answer multiple questions. Ahrefs  made a study about this topic where they saw a link between a web page getting the featured snippet spot, and that the page is also more likely to become featured in related searches. From this, we can conclude that focusing on a specific topic will answer many questions about that topic rather than splitting it into smaller articles by answering just one question per article.
- Format your content nicely. Make it both visually but also semantically easy to distinguish what is what in your article. Take advantage of structuring your content into headings, paragraphs, bullet lists, etc.
- Add a “how-to” section. There are many questions related to step-by-step explanations, so if you find yourself writing a page about a specific topic that you also could divide into a “How-to” step-by-step guide, then do so!
What if you don’t want to rank for the featured snippet spot? Then you can opt out by preventing them on your page.
Ask a developer to add this tag:
<meta name="googlebot" content="nosnippet">
I heard SEO is dead?
SEO tactics have changed a lot during the years, but it will remain a relevant field. Even if we’re moving to voice recognition, it just means our devices find results based on our personal preferences; the machines will crawl the web and communicate with websites, making it even more critical that the websites are optimized.
If we look at the funny side of things, Neil Patel (whose is a well-known name in this industry) says this question comes up every year.
People have been saying “SEO is dead” ever since SEO was born.
– Neil Patel 
How can I use Google’s Mobile-First Index to my advantage?
For those of you who don’t know; mobile-first indexing is the default for all new web domains as of July 2019, and this means that the mobile version of your website becomes the baseline for how Google determines your website rankings. It’s called mobile-first because it’s not “mobile-only”, the desktop site can still be included in the index, but the lack of a mobile-friendly experience could negatively impact your rankings of that site – and another site with a better mobile experience would potentially receive a higher ranking, even for desktop searches. You could say that the mobile version will be the primary version of your website.
First and foremost, Google says they will notify website owners when they have been moved to mobile-first indexing. When you get that notification via e-mail, the transition is likely happening within a few weeks.
Here’s how to make your best of the situation:
- Strictly avoid serving content through flash as it’s incompatible with mobile devices. The same goes for any other technology with the same conflict.
- Make sure your mobile version is optimized or that your website is mobile responsive.
- Make sure your mobile version contains essential, high-quality content.
- Page speed on mobile is going to be incredibly valuable.
- Metadata should be present on all versions of your website.
- Continue to follow accessibility guidelines such as using alt-text attributes on icons and images, even on mobile.
- Ensure that any links to sitemaps are accessible from the mobile version as well.
Is there a future for digital advertising?
Back in the good old days when I grew up (I sound like my lovely grandma ) TV ads used to annoy the crap out of me. And when users started to live through the internet, the ads followed! SEMrush  states three fascinating facts we can take into consideration:
- Google gets 90% of its revenue from online ads.
- Facebook gets 75% of its income from mobile ads.
- IBM studies indicate 144 million people worldwide used ad blockers in 2015.
People! Let’s realize: it’s all about FINDING BALANCE! The reality is that lots of users find commercials annoying, but at the same time digital advertising is a way of living for many and ads can also be beneficial when they meet the right customer, so we can’t expect advertising to go away.
I see a positive future for digital advertising as more laws and regulations are set up to tell companies, social media influencers and other stakeholders in the business to start taking responsibility, making advertising more personal, clearly state their collaborations and ads, etc. This way, we might keep the benefits while trying to remove the displeasure.
Understand the link between UX and SEO.
Search engines provide people with help and answers they’re looking for.
Let’s take the example of schema markup that we discussed above. Schema markup was invented for users! When a website has schema markup in place, users get a lot more information about the site than they usually would in the search results page. This is a user-focused improvement the community made because search engines exist for users to gain the information they need.
At the same time, we know that good user experience has to be authentic and that it will be based on the user’s satisfaction. The seven factors that influence user experience are; valuable, useful, usable, findable, credible, desirable, and accessible.  Your website should provide the user with value, your content should fulfil a need, the website should be easy to understand and use, your website content should be locatable onsite and offsite, users must trust what you tell them, you need to connect with users on an emotional level, and content should be accessible to everyone.
We directly notice that UX and SEO connect at the “findable” factor, but also indirectly on other factors. Let’s take some examples:
- Page loading time and speed – (usable). This is one of Google’s most prominent ranking signals and also of great importance to users who unlikely will stay for long on a slow website.
- Simple site architecture – (locatable). Google bots can easily navigate through a website that has good architecture and link structure. This is also one of the things we look at while doing user testing; how a user will navigate your website, and how long it takes for them to find what they’re looking for.
- Website Responsiveness – (accessible). After mentioning Google’s mobile-first indexing earlier in this article, I think we can silently agree on this one.
- Spammy SEO practices ruin the experience – (useful). Writing for search engines and not for people will do you no good! Make sure that the text is informative and engaging for users, and don’t spam keywords – that’s a no-no! 🙅🏻♀️
- Write comprehensive and in-depth content – (valuable). Try to cover an entire topic in-depth when you write an article instead of writing many, short articles about more or less the same thing but in a different context. Try to include some Q&A-approach.
- Link building matters – (locatable). Without fantastic content, you’ll never get links – and without link building, you won’t get to the first page. A good link structure will also allow users to explore more of your awesome content; preferably related to the answer they were looking for by having a suitable link structure.
The number one job of a search engine is to show the best result for a specific search query. To do this, Google has a machine learning model that measures how users interact with the search results and ranks websites according to that interaction. This model is called RankBrain , and Google has previously announced that this model has been one of its most important ranking factors. Why this is so important is because the purpose of RankBrain is to find the best result for the intention behind the search phrase and not for the actual search phrase alone. That’s why Google uses artificial intelligence (AI) so that the model can learn from user behaviour. Google tries to leverage this by mainly focusing on two things;
- How long time a user spends on your website, and it does this by looking at the bounce rate. If enough people quickly bounce off after entering a website from an organic search, Google will see that as a sign that the site does not fit the search results ranking well enough.
- The percentage of people that click on your result, this is called “click through rate” (CTR). Does your website look enticing to the user when they scroll through the search results page? How long time did it take for users to click on your result? If no one clicks on the result, the website will likely not keep its place in the rankings.
The lesson to take from this is; UX is crucial, and SEO is vital – following their best practices will benefit you in both areas.
Recommended Reading: Improve Your Website’s User Experience.
Context, not content, is King. 👑
As we’ve understood, search engines are focusing more on the user by implementing algorithmic changes to make this possible. Let’s take a moment to look at how far we’ve come.
In the early days of search, the top results were often of poor content quality (with a lot of keyword stuffing). It could take a long time to find quality information on the web.
Then came the days of “content is king“. It was initially an essay by Bill Gates  that he wrote in 1996 with this slogan as the title, and the message was clear; for the internet to thrive, its content must be of high quality. Companies must invest in well-prepared content that’s enthusiastic and interesting for their target group. Sound great, right? So, what’s the problem? Well, we could say that we lack a crucial part of the puzzle. Great content is just not enough.
The content needs to work together with the context to provide the ultimate value to users. Without the context, something is lacking.
The bottom line: UX has become the part and parcel of your SEO.
Online connectivity is becoming more popular and more important than ever. People depend on the web for entertainment, information, and performing errand – making SEO and SEM even more vital for businesses.
That’s all we have for now.
How about you? Do you have any stories about how SEO or SEM has driven traffic to your website? Any specific tricks that have worked for you?
We’d love to hear about them and as always, thanks for your feedback and support! Let’s keep #thepowerofcommunity going.
 “Home – schema.org”, Schema.org, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://schema.org/. [Accessed: 11- Jun- 2019].
 T. Soulo, “Ahrefs’ Study Of 2 Million Featured Snippets: 10 Important Takeaways”, SEO Blog by Ahrefs, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://ahrefs.com/blog/featured-snippets-study/. [Accessed: 11- Jun- 2019].
 “Is SEO Dead?”, Neil Patel, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://neilpatel.com/blog/seo-dead/. [Accessed: 11- Jun- 2019].
 “Ad Blockers and the Future of Digital Advertising”, SEMrush Blog, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.semrush.com/blog/ad-blockers-and-the-future-of-digital-advertising2/. [Accessed: 11-Jun-2019].
 “What is Usability?”, The Interaction Design Foundation, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/usability. [Accessed: 12- Jun- 2019].
 “Google RankBrain”, Moz, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://moz.com/learn/seo/google-rankbrain. [Accessed: 12- Jun- 2019].
 ““Content is King” — Essay by Bill Gates 1996”, Medium, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://medium.com/@HeathEvans/content-is-king-essay-by-bill-gates-1996-df74552f80d9. [Accessed: 12- Jun- 2019].
WordPress is the world’s most popular and widely used Content Management System (CMS), and while it’s well-known for being a blogging platform, it also dominates in other areas such as e-commerce.
To put this into context, W3Tech’s  usage statistics from April this year (2019) shows that WordPress powers about 33.5% of all websites online – which is a pretty huge deal if you think about it! This is including all other CMS avaliable + customed ones.
However, this does not mean that WordPress is the best choice for every business model. Your brand is unique and requires the most appropriate solution to fit your needs.
Lets discuss the pros and cons of WordPress CMS to find out if it might be something for you!
Pros of using WordPress.
To be honest, the advantages of using WordPress to build your website deserves an article of its own. But here’s a summary of some pros.
62% of the top 100 fastest growing companies in the US (@inc5000) use WordPress.
– Nelio Software 
As you might know, one of our focus values is making digital products accessible for everyone, and that’s one reason why we love WordPress. The team behind this CMS puts a lot of effort into making WordPress accessible and they have regular team meetings, as well as guidelines for both content managers and theme/plugin developers to keep testing and improving their system’s accessibility.
Many hosts have one-click installation for getting WordPress up and running within minutes. And for those who don’t, WordPress can very quickly be uploaded and set up on your server, either by a developer or if you’re a bit tech savvy you could follow a tutorial.
Free and open source.
This means that the source code behind the WordPress software is released under a license where everyone has the right to study, change, and distribute the software for any purpose. This offers powerful features for growth and success because the CMS is supported by a large community of people contributing to the project. It also means that WordPress is completely free to use.
WordPress works well with SEO for many reasons; you have the ability to edit your permalinks, metadata is added automatically, your images are SEO-optimized – there are also several famous SEO plugins to assist you further.
Scalable and changeable.
The way WordPress works with themes and plugins makes it easy for you to setup a website and get started, then change it’s design by switching theme or adding more functionality by installing plugins as you continue developing your website and business model.
Supported by a great community.
This might be connected to the “open source” aspect, but it’s really worth its own space. There’s hundreds of thousands of developers, content creators, and site owners dedicated to make WordPress what it is. That community comes together to analyze, collaborate, to question things and solve problems – maintaining the system and keep improving the experience with WordPress.
Cons of using WordPress.
WordPress i not perfect, but then again; no software is. Here are some of its disadvantages.
Security is in your hands.
Putting the security aspect here might seem unfair to those who know WordPress well and regularly work with the CMS, so we want to highlight the fact that any security issue one might have with WordPress does not come from the fact that the WordPress core itself would be an insecure system to use. Sure, all software has vulnerabilities – but the team behind WordPress take security very seriously and they always strive to prevent and fix issues. What makes this insecure is the fact that YOU are in charge of your website (unless you hire an agency for hosting that includes support), this means that you’re responsible for setting good passwords, making backups, installing updates, deleting unnecessary themes and plugins, etc. All of these things require your attention, automatically making your website vulnerable if you don’t.
How about website speed?
It is unfortunately very easy to make your WordPress website slow. The community behind WP try to keep it as efficient as possible, but because it’s a CMS and not a customed made webpage just to fit your needs, there might be many features included that you don’t use – making downloading all of it unnecessary. Also, some people like to add a lot of plugins (and they all come with their full set of features) as well as use page builders on top of WordPress, and then you have all of their functionalities that you probably just use maybe half of.
Together, they all increase the physical size of the webpage, thus slowing down its delivery time.
What kind of websites can you make with WordPress?
One of the common misconceptions about WordPress has been that it’s mainly for blogging. The CMS’s purpose was that at one point, but as we’ve mentioned above the software is supported by a great community that continues developing the platform which has drastically changed its capabilities over the years.
Nowadays you can use WordPress for almost any purpose. Here are some suggestions:
- Booking systems
- Business websites
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Forums / chatrooms
- Membership sites
The list is (almost ) endless!
Recommended Reading: Improve Your Website’s User Experience.
What you need to know when choosing WP.
It’s easy to make mistakes that cost time and money. That’s why we’ve included these things to know before you get started with creating your first website with WordPress.
WordPress is user-friendly, but you may need a developer.
When it comes to adding and editing pages, writing blog posts, or adjusting things like the menu, WordPress is about as easy as it gets. Depending on what themes and plugins you’re using, doing more advanced changes may be possible too.
But for the average website owner, you’ll want someone around who can get technical. Especially if you want a customized site. And even if you’re using an already customized site, continuous tech support can be a huge asset.
Self-hosted WordPress site vs WordPress.com
Many users new to WordPress wrongly assume WordPress.com is the only place to create a WordPress website. WordPress.com offer a ‘fully hosted’ WordPress service and the basic hosting service is free, but limited. You can therefore buy different add-ons or upgrade packages that are available.
With self-hosting, you yourself choose the provider who will host your WordPress site on their servers. Here you can choose your own domain name and have unrestricted access to themes and plugins.
In our experience, almost all businesses choose to self-host WordPress.
Change your settings.
With a clean and fresh WordPress site, you need to change the site title, tagline, timezone and other settings. Simply head over to Settings –> General to set this up, see figure 1.
It is also good to add an SEO plugin, caching plugin, setup WordPress comments, delete default content, upload a gravatar to display user photos, and install Google Analytics / Google Tag Manager while you’re at it with the settings and all.
Think about responsive design.
Responsive design means making your site easy to use on multiple devices. This means that it works well with mobile and tablets by having menus and other widgets that are easy to navigate with.
Look for features like a fluid site grid and flexible images that can translate to non-desktop devices. An example of a responsive theme would be one that can easily translate on a mobile device without any problems.
Use plugins with care.
It’s always a better practice to install a few really important plugins, even though the WordPress plugin directory contains thousands!
In case you don’t know, adding too many plugins to a site comes with a price. Some of the problems to expect include page speed problems, the increased security risk, and incompatibility with other plugins (which will produce errors).
Creating backups is the only way to make sure that you can easily recover your website in case of a disaster. Luckily, there are several great WordPress backup plugins to create backups. However, in some cases your hosting company will do this for you (which is great because; automation!) – so ask if you’re unsure.
Setup your website for security.
WordPress is quite secure out of the box. However, you still need to follow best practices to keep your website secure.
Some of these best practices are quite easy to do, like using strong passwords and regularly installing updates.
But we recommend that you read our article about how to secure your website for more information and an overview of how important security is, including a checklist for steps to take. In that article, we also talk about spam protection. Spam comments and e-mails can be quite problematic, they are both annoying and most of them contain links to malicious websites. Spam comments can affect your search rankings and your website’s reputation.
When to hire a web agency, and when to do it yourself.
This is probably a question you’ve asked yourself before, especially if you’ve sent some inquiries to web agencies and the quote you got back was just over your head. From this perspective you might ask yourself: what’s the value of hiring a WordPress agency anyway?
We’ve seen this happen before, and are here to clear things up.
We would say that, if in doubt – hire a professional! That means if you’ve never touched code or at all feel uneasy about what we’ve written in the previous chapters; better safe than sorry.
You will, most surely, always end up paying someone anyway.
From our experience, many businesses start by doing it themselves – then move on to hiring a freelancer that takes an inhuman salary and it turns out he doesn’t know a thing either (and leaves you hanging before deploying, or finishes with bugs) – then having to pay a professional consultant or agency for fixing all of this mess.
Just as I’m writing this in April 2019, one of our awesome partners are cleaning our new customer’s hacked WordPress site. This site was set up wrongly from the beginning (NOT by us!), and was, after a while, hacked with a URL injection which screwed up all their SEO placements (Google even ended up blacklisting their domain) until they moved over to our agency for help and now we’re cleaning up this mess.
- Even if WordPress in itself is free, you always need to pay for hosting. Web agencies work in this business, and are more than aware of good hosting companies out there. Something to take with you: choose a hosting with servers located where your customers reside.
- The agency will most surely help you to set up a great content plan for how to make sure your website suits your target audience, keeping SEO in mind (or at least, we do ).
- The majority of businesses will want to have a professional design, tailored to their brand. This means customization or a more professional looking and unique theme than the free ones.
- A good web agency will take care of your website’s loading speed and help you to optimize the content, like images.
- We should not forget about implementing GDPR and the Web Accessibility Directive.
- As well as setting up features like contact forms and similar functionalities.
- Oh, and another thing: the security aspect – again.
There are many reasons to hire an agency instead of creating the website yourself. If you are in that situaton where you’re considering this: contact us! We’re more than happy to help you figure it, at least you’ll get some tips.
Also, remember that websites are never “done”. They need to be kept updated and maintained both tech- and content-wise. So if you hire a WordPress agency, try to see if they have you covered with regards to that aspect so you don’t have to do it yourself. It’ll give you some peace of mind.
At Looping.Tech we absolutely love WordPress and it’s almost always the first choice we consider when discussing a digital solution for a client – however, please note that doesn’t mean it’s the solution we’ll end up choosing. And what we base that choice upon it something we’ll always discuss with the client – we’re never shy to consult or discuss with you regarding your solution. Lets take two examples:
- A client wants a WordPress website because they’ve heard so many great things about the platform, or maybe all of their competitors are using it. But as a web agency, we understand that some users may not actually need WordPress. For example, if the client just want a small website and does not need to change it regularly or continuously put out new content – they would probably be fine with a simpler solution.
- A client owns a small e-commerce business and have read that Magento is a robust e-commerce platform. We agree! Magento is an incredibly powerful software, but for cases like these the client could benefit a lot from using Woocommerce or another WordPress e-commerce plugin instead. They are not only easier to get started with, they have a lower cost, large amount of themes to choose from, and work well with a website that might have another focus than just e-commerce (like blogging, or other content focused sites).
To summarize, we love this system because of its ability to do so many things while also being very user-friendly, and because the community is always eager to take its functionality a step further. We think that if you choose to build your website with WordPress, there are lots of exciting possibilities to come in the future.
That’s all from us for now.
Are there any other articles or questions about using WordPress that you want us to make clear? Or any specific tips that have worked for you?
We’d love to hear about them and as always, thanks for your feedback and support! Let’s keep #thepowerofcommunity going.
 “Usage Statistics and Market Share of WordPress for Websites, April 2019”, W3techs.com, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://w3techs.com/technologies/details/cm-wordpress/all/all. [Accessed: 04- Apr- 2019].
 “WordPress Use of The Best Companies Inc. 5000 (2016)”, Nelio Software, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://neliosoftware.com/blog/wordpress-use-of-best-companies-inc-5000-2016/. [Accessed: 05- Apr- 2019].
UX is going strong as a business trend, and the facts are right in front of us: any company can leave a lasting impression on a customer. The science behind UX (user experience) is, simply put, the result that comes from observation, experimentation and data.
Entrepreneur Europe  presents some good points about why UX is among the most important metrics for a business to measure:
- The majority of consumers do not return to a site after a bad experience.
- The majority of visitors leave a site with unoptimized content.
- Company revenues increase noticeably after listening to and incorporating users’ suggestions.
- Google has indicated that UX is one factor they take into account for search engine rankings.
Apart from these considerations, Forrester Research  published a study showing how better UX design could yield conversation rates for businesses up to 400%.
So, let us take a moment to go through some of the best practices and ideas to improve your website’s user experience.
What factors affect the user experience?
As a business owner, it probably feels tempting to outsource everything related to UX, but not everyone has that ability. And even if you outsource it – you still need to make sure that your team is set up for success.
This might feel overwhelming at first because, at its core, the user experience is mostly about a human interacting with your website, so how can we really measure that experience?
The good news is that many times it’s the small things that influence the overall experience.
It’s important to realise that there’s no single definition of good user experience. User-centered teams don’t just focus on creating usable products, but also want them to be pleasurable, efficient, and fun to use as well.
The goal with the user experience is to escort your user through your website in a way that shows them what they need. A well-considered user experience strengthens your brand and increases business value in the long term.
Ways to measure your website’s UX.
Measuring the user experience on a small scale is relatively easy. Pay attention to user questions via phone calls, social media, emails and other communication channels.
You can also observe users (by directly watching them surf on your website during a UX test, for example) and just listen to what they have to say at the same time as you observe what they do. A lot of times we humans will say one thing, but do another – so it’s important to realise that difference.
There are a lot of ways to get users’ feedback like this.
Some best practices for the user experience?
Communication is key! Good UX will let any user know what to expect of a website, and what is expected of them when they visit a website. This clear communication will in itself set up a great user experience.
There are some best practices and UX patterns that are likely to ensure an improved user experience, but remember that UX rules are not set in stone; they change over time, and they’re impacted by both trends and user behavior.
This is why you should view them as guidelines and considerations but don’t get fixated on ideas – user tests and observations should go first!
True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features.
– Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group 
Consistent, easy and clear navigation.
Easy navigation is one of the most important aspects of good UX for every website. Your website will always have one or a few main purposes, and these ones should be immediately obvious. If it’s not, people will probably try to search for them or contact you in some way. To save time and improve UX, make sure the purpose of your website is very clear.
Deliver a responsive design – and try to make the mobile version shorter (remove anything unnecessary for smaller devices). Keep things simple.
Speed up your website.
We’re living in the age of immediacy, and this fact is changing people’s expectations for how long it should take for a service to deliver their needs. When it comes to your website, this should make speed and performance high on up your business agenda.
You can monitor your website regularly by doing speed checks. Also, track the amount of time users have to spend to accomplish their tasks – like filling out website forms: are they easy and quick to fill in? People will likely abandon a website that takes too much time and effort.
It’s also a good idea to host your website close to where your main users are located. Alternatively, you can take some help from a CDN service. The goal of a CDN is to provide high performance by distributing the website content relative to end-users for quicker delivery.
Write good error messages.
Play close attention to any error messages, they might indicate problems in the functionality of your website – problems you might not be aware of, but that blocks the user from completing a task. Therefore, make sure to provide highly visible error messages for the user when things go wrong. The error message doesn’t need to display detailed information about what exactly went wrong (this is for security reasons), but at least showing the user that “The action you tried to perform did not work out” – so that they can continue on their user journey.
Visibility of system status.
It’s ensuring for a user to know where they are on a website (like which page they’re visiting and how that page relates to the rest of the website’s architecture). This is especially important today when people often come from external links, social media clicks or Google-searches. Some examples to show the user where she is are breadcrumbs, and by highlighting the page name in the menu navigation. You should also provide visible feedback when the user interacts with your website, like clicks a button – the user is expecting something so happen here so make sure it does .
Tooltips, explanations and placeholders.
We have already talked about making it easy for the user to navigate – and we also want this smoothness for other interactions with the website. Whenever a functionality might not be super clear: provide a tool-tip (like if it’s possible to zoom in on a picture for better resolution). Try to include explanations in text as well as visuals like images, videos and audio. Put out placeholders for when the user is filling out forms so she knows which format is expected. This will prevent errors in advance and may also result in reducing the completion time so the user quicker can move forward with their tasks.
Also, don’t hide away explanations or clues from the user (like placing the text inside a box which is only visible when the user hovers over an icon). The only exception to this rule is when the clue takes up a lot of unnecessary space.
Across different cultures and regions.
Culture affects the user experience. Each culture places different value on different design elements, just as they do in their society. They also absorb content in different ways due to these cultural perspectives.
Therefore, know who your users are and consider the regional or cultural practices that are common in their area. This might include the meaning of certain colors and symbols. It might also include how the users usually navigate a site, how they process information, and even different standards such as date formats.
Know your users.
Know who your users are, why they visit your website (which problem are they searching for a solution to) and for which purpose. Understand their needs and wishes, but also their pain points: like which obstacles they encounter that creates frustration for them.
Make sure you are communicating your message clearly. Try to explain business terms in simple words, and aim to make sure that the user always understands why something is relevant, for example: in what way will the user benefit from taking this action, or how will it help your business that the user do this or that. In other words: what’s the purpose?
Recommended Reading: Improve Your Website’s User Experience.
How about international standards?
Standards are a type of formal agreement on a specific, detailed topic that allows us to set best practices across industries. There are several useful international standards on UX-related topics. The ISO 9241 usability standard and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are two of the most referenced ones.
Furthermore, we have The User Experience Professionals Association  with its code of conduct that highlights how to ensure your business meets user concerns. Among these principles we find:
- Be honest – you should never knowingly mislead a user.
- Provide benefit.
- Review your website for users with special needs (accessibility).
- Never discriminate against some type of user.
- Avoid conflicts of interest that could influence the quality of your service.
- Respect privacy, confidentiality, and anonymity.
- Take into consideration both the positive and negative feedback you get from user testing.
We also have Google as another example. They spent several years working on the problem of developing user-centered product goals, and that work led them to create the HEART framework .
This framework sets up five metrics to set goals for – and these are:
- Happiness (satisfaction).
- Engagement (how much a user interacts with your website).
- Adoption (the number of new users you get over a certain time frame).
- Retention (keeping your existing users for x amount of time).
- Task success (the percentage of successful completion of a specific task).
You can read more about the HEART framework in this article from Interaction Design Foundation.
Overcoming common obstacles.
One of the biggest challenges companies often face when they want to improve the user experience is the lack of internal understanding, either within the team itself or from other departments within the company.
If your company is big enough to need an in-house UX team, that team needs to be centralized: involved and embedded within the whole organization – working and cooperating with your other departments regularly like sales, security, marketing, graphic design, and development.
What are the alternatives for smaller companies? Make sure that the agency you’re hiring is user-centered.
Once you work side by side with a team that has adopted a user-centered philosophy, UX-related issues will always have a high priority. Even in the cases where the issue might not be solvable, you know that the team will try to find an alternative solution.
The bottom line: good user experience means better business.
UX is important and highly relevant for any business. There are rules, guidelines, and best practices – but the absolute best way is to test your website with its actual users, reflect upon the difficulties they face during these tests, and listen to their feedback.
And the reality is that it’s not a one-time event! The world is changing rapidly with new behaviors, trends, and patterns appearing regularly.
A business owner should make sure that his team is continuously working on improvements alongside seeking new insights from the outside world – in order to find new opportunities to increase both business and user benefit.
That’s all from us for now.
Do you have any great stories about UX improvements you’ve made? Or any specific tips that have worked for you?
We’d love to hear about them and as always, thanks for your feedback and support! Let’s keep #thepowerofcommunity going.
 M. Georgiou, “User Experience Is the Most Important Metric You Aren’t Measuring”, Entrepreneur, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/309161. [Accessed: 16-Sep-2018].
 “The Six Steps For Justifying Better UX”, Forrester.com, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.forrester.com/report/The+Six+Steps+For+Justifying+Better+UX/-/E-RES117708. [Accessed: 16-Sep-2018].
 “UXPA Code of Professional Conduct | User Experience Professionals Association”, Uxpa.org, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://uxpa.org/resources/uxpa-code-professional-conduct. [Accessed: 16-Sep-2018].
 K. Rodden, H. Hutchinson and X. Fu, Measuring the User Experience on a Large Scale: User – Centered Metrics for Web Applications. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA: Google, 2010.
 “The Definition of User Experience (UX)”, Nielsen Norman Group, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/definition-user-experience/. [Accessed: 16-Sep-2018].