The user experience is a function of design, operability, and style.
As the crux of inbound marketing is driving traffic to your site, many inbound strategies focus on keeping users on the page. Building engagement. Improving landing pages. Precise calls-to-action.
And while you should always be striving to find new ways to entertain and educate your audience, streamlining the bottom of your sales funnel isn’t the only strategy in an inbound marketer’s playbook. It’s true that you need to make it easy for customers to transition from the evaluative stage of purchasing into paying customers, but this strategy assumes they make it to the bottom of the funnel in the first place. Plenty of other factors can trip you up before that point.
If your site’s inoperability, complexity, or, let’s face it, gaudiness, turns users away, you have no chance of seeing them buy. It stands to reason that your web page must be optimized for a quality user experience. Poor site design leads to high bounce rates and low marketing success, regardless of the industry served.
So, where do you begin?
We recommend performing a top-to-bottom assessment of your site with the following considerations in mind:
Ramp Up the Style
First and foremost, your site must have style.
Consider the impact that ugly websites have on brand perceptions in this day and age. Unprofessional web pages don’t just fail to create trust—they plant a seed of doubt in your users’ minds. If they can’t even build a decent website, how can we trust them with our business?
Avoid turning off your users from the get-go by using effective visual design. Put your most important page elements front and center. Make navigation simple. Don’t overload them with garish colors, obtrusive ads, or annoying pop-up CTAs.
For an example of some truly exceptional site design, take a look at Italian shoe company Measponte. As a luxury retailer of high-end designer products, the shoe store knows that its customers appreciate elegance and style. Its design is simple, featuring carefully selected colors, high-impact images, and flowing transitions as you scroll. The site design is appealing and reflects the values of the brand.
…But Don’t Sacrifice Speed
Style is important, but not at the cost of page loading time.
Image Credit: HubSpot
Take a look at data compiled by HubSpot that shows the importance of speedy page loading:
- Forty percent of users will ditch your site if it takes more than three seconds to load
- Traffic growth is highest when pages load in one second or faster
- Bounce rates increase by a whopping 100 percent when page load times are longer than four seconds
Lengthy page loading is often caused by too many resource intensive on-page elements, like plugins or videos. Be unique with your design, but don’t sacrifice the user experience in the process.
Make Deliberate Choices
Nothing on your site should “just be there.” Unnecessary page elements add clutter and distraction. Each link, text block, and image should have a purpose and reflect the overall goal of your site.
Time.com realized that its home page traffic was decreasing as a result of more visitors arriving from articles shared on social media. The page’s goal was to keep users reading no matter what, and its traditional homepage directory no longer cuts it. Time altered its site design to feature continuous home page scrolling; a now common strategy for news-oriented sites.
The result? Bounce rates lowered by 15 percent. This joint effort to showcase Time’s brand alongside a stronger UX is detailed by Time’s managing editor, Edward Felsenthal:
“In many ways the major objective of our redesign was to showcase for those users the full Time offering.”
Note that this drastic decrease in bounce rates was unrelated to content production, landing page optimization, or CTA tinkering. The benefits were found entirely from a relatively simple site adjustment that completely changed the user experience.
…But Always Be Careful
Not everything you think helps your UX actually does. It’s hard to predict how a broad user base will react to the changes you make, despite what your market research tells you. Even the smallest adjustment to color or design can make an impact.
According to Microsoft, the specific blue hue used on Bing generates $80 million in annual revenue for the company by virtue of clicks and ads. But look at it on the flip side: If Microsoft had arbitrarily chosen a color with less user engagement, it would be missing out on $80 million each year. They say small stones create big ripples, and the mantra holds true for every aspect of your site design.
Balancing UX and Design
Striking a balance between the user experience and the best possible web design can be a tightrope walk. You need style, but not at the cost of speed. You need originality, but not complexity.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a qualified web design firm if you have trouble with this process. As we’ve discussed, even the slightest adjustments to your color scheme or content layout can impact the user experience. And for better or for worse, that’s what inbound marketing is all about: Tinkering with the details until you find the right way to succeed.