A good website user experience is vital to building relationships with readers. However, it’s difficult to get the formula right because:
- It involves 360 degrees of consideration, from design to interactions and page speed
- It must meet common reader expectations while also being “unique” to your brand
- The definition of a “good” user experience is continually evolving
User experience (UX) defines how your audience interacts with your website and move from one function to another to accomplish their goals. In publishing, you might call this the reader experience. If you offer a poor experience, such as dead-ends, error-prone interactions, clunky navigation or extensive contact forms, readers will bounce from your site and find the answer they are seeking elsewhere.
If you offer a good (or great) experience, you will see higher conversion rates. This means growth in readership and subscribers, better relationships with readers and even better performance in search.
User experience best practices for publishers
At ePublishing, we’re always working with publishers to improve user experience and grow readership. Our approach is industry-focused, drawing on the essentials of UX that are most important for success. Here are a few of our favorite tips:
Prioritize the mobile experience
Users are turning to their mobile devices to navigate the internet, research, find solutions, read articles and make purchases. Give as much thought to how your readers interact with your site on mobile as you do to the desktop version.
Maintain a competitive page speed
Expectations for a website’s load time seem to get tighter by the day. Google will penalize you if your website is too slow and your search results will suffer.
According to Google, on mobile, a page load speed of under three seconds keeps bounce rates (when a reader arrives to and leaves from the same page without exploring further) down, and some experts suggest businesses aim for under one second, as conversions decrease significantly when load time moves from one second to three. Google also reports that visitors stay on-site longer and make more purchases on faster sites.
Simplify navigation and discovery
The ease of the reader journey depends on your website organization and “architecture.” Users should be able to find what they’re searching for quickly and intuitively. Those who are exploring or researching should be able to find relevant content and resources. And it should be easy for them to take next steps if they want to engage further.
- Facilitate a successful user journey by:
- Providing clear navigation
- Developing and following a practical taxonomy
- Offering an easy site search function
- Ensuring interactions are functional (buttons, text boxes, etc.)
- Allowing for discoverability, providing additional paths that encourage a reader to explore everything you offer
- Testing specific user journeys based on intent, and updating based on the results
- Reducing the number of clicks from intent to solution
- Optimizing for search so it’s easy for people to get to your site
- Making it easy for them to join your lists with clear and simple calls to action
Incorporate design best practices
All designers, whether they work on the web or in physical environments, know that there’s a science to design. As such, there’s a bounty of research around human responses to color, typography, language and even sounds.
Build your visual brand with design best practices in mind. Don’t just think about aesthetics; function with user behavior in mind is just as critical. Consider page layout as important as colors and typography. Seek research as to where users’ eyes land on the page, how much text you have, and how you might balance any on-page advertising with readers’ needs on page. (Read why aligning ads with content is always more effective in our recent interview with ad sales expert Ryan Dohrn.)
Apply your design principles consistently across your website. For most publishers, a single page shouldn’t appear so different from the others that the user thinks they’ve been directed off of your site altogether.
Provide meaningful content
Your content should support the user’s intent, whether they’re looking for a direct solution, researching in your niche, or aimlessly exploring (but interested). Your library, filled with valuable evergreen content, should be as easy to navigate as any other task on your site. And you should take every opportunity to keep the reader engaged, suggesting relevant content and integrating calls to action. Take ownership of topics you want to capture specific audiences for by developing “longtail” content around niche topics. Keep irrelevant information out of the mix so as not to jam up the reader’s interest.
Research, reflect and refine
Research should both inform your initial design and continually fuel your website’s evolution. Work to understand your audience and the various personas on your site. Map out what their journey should look like and design navigation that easily accommodates. Once the experience is in play, use analytics, heat maps, reader surveys and usability tests to check website performance and identify where users get stuck or bounce and where they convert best.
Put the reader at the center
For publishers especially, a good user experience accounts for the human element at the core: How does the experience make readers feel? A broken “submit” button will leave them frustrated. A short submission form they can reach and complete quickly makes them feel accomplished.
To provide a good reader experience, a publisher’s website must:
- Facilitate a sense of accomplishment. Readers come to your site to learn, acquire tools and/or network. Make it easy to complete questionnaires, post comments, register and/or complete purchases.
- Create an immersive environment. Your website should captivate your readers, make it enjoyable and easy to search for information, and provide relevant content, products and activities.
- Project an authentic personality. Give your site a distinctive personality that readers can connect with, develop an affinity for, and continually revisit or subscribe to.
- Inspire curiosity and exploration. Give your readers a sense of autonomy and allow for exploration, rather than leading them through a generic chain of actions in which they can’t make decisions.
- Provide a meaningful experience. Design the experience with the reader in the center. Every step should be purpose-driven and oriented to their goals.
Does your CMS support a good user experience?
Developing a truly great user experience involves a lot of moving parts. The right CMS makes it easy to refine and improve your site to attract readership and enhance your value for the user. ePublishing supports publishers’ goals of engaging readers and increasing revenue.
Get a demo today to see how we can help you achieve your goals.