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].