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Creativity is essential. Your web design ideas and user experience will help you grow your website. Create your website more engaging.
It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come as internet users. Can you imagine waiting 2 minutes and 30 seconds for a website to load over dial-up now? Can you imagine sifting through WordArt and hyperlink-strewed pages to find a certain crumb of information?
Of course, you can’t. Despite websites becoming objectively better since the first one went live, capturing and holding attention has become increasingly difficult. Because the internet's novelty has worn off, we may be increasingly online, but we’re overwhelmed.
The good news, however, is that small and (for the most part) non-technical changes can make all the difference when it comes to upping user engagement, whatever that looks like for your website. In this post, we’re going to show you four such changes:
1. Explore conversational commerce
Conversational commerce was first coined by Chris Messina, who is perhaps best known for inventing the hashtag.
It refers to using messaging tools, such as live chat and chatbots, to improve the user’s buying experience. 79% of people say live chat is their favorite way to get in touch with a business.
Medina first coined this term in 2015, and technology has come a long way. Six years ago, chatbots weren’t an accessible option for small businesses (too expensive to develop), and neither was live chat (too time-consuming).
Now, however, they’re options worth exploring. After all, what better way to engage your users than to... literally engage with them?
For chatbots, try a platform like Drift, which makes the building process surprisingly easy, and has an accommodating support team for when you get stuck. Or try MobileMonkey for talking to your audience across multiple platforms, including Facebook Messenger and Instagram.
Choosing a paint color is difficult at the best of times, but online? Harder still. That’s why Dulux offers an interactive homepage quiz and a ‘virtual assistant’ – designed to help users avoid choice paralysis and confidently order some paint samples.
Adding live chat to your site is even easier. Depending on your site's platform, you can add live chat functionality via an app or integration.
If you’re a small business without the manpower to monitor live chat constantly, that’s okay – make sure you’re upfront with your users about when they can expect to find you online (and try to keep this consistent), and have an automated message for those trying to use the live chat outside of these hours.
2. Strip back your design
If your website is a few years old, the chances are the amount of content on your site has increased. It’s also possible that you’ve read a few posts like this over the years and experimented with different design techniques and trends.
Experimentation is good. Your website is never a finished product; there’s always more to learn. But every now and again, it’s useful to take a step back and ask yourself…
a. Is this design best serving my users?
b. Is it clear what step users should take next?
And, quite simply…
c. Have I overdone it?
Or better yet, ask your users these questions.
Run an onsite poll for qualitative feedback, email your database and use tools like Hotjar to analyze how they interact with your site. From click ‘hotspots’ that aren’t clickable to disappointing scroll depths, this is bound to throw up some useful insights.
Along with this new information, try to keep the following key things in mind when stripping back your design:
The most important information (and only the most important information) should be the biggest and most prominent, with everything else descending from there.
When everything tries to stand out, nothing will. Plenty of empty space is essential (and it doesn’t have to be white).
Think about how you want your users to navigate around your site and what information they’re likely to need. Your nav bar should be clear and concise, and your About and Contact pages should always be easy to find.
Minimal color scheme
You should only have one accent color as part of your color scheme. Use this to only draw attention to the most important parts (such as CTAs).
Oatly’s pared-down design allows its unique tone and USP to shine through. Your eye is also drawn to the carton – the only color on the page – and clicking this takes you to a map where you can find your nearest Oatly fix.
Before you make any big changes to your site (even changes you’re certain are improvements), we suggest testing the new version against the original one using a tool like Optimizely. This will give you concrete evidence that you’ve made the right call and, hopefully, show the positive impact of your hard work.
Recommended: 15 Most Amazing Web Design Tips for Perfect Site
3. Speed your site up
You could have the most engaging website in the world, but it will be for nothing if most of your users drop off before it loads. An important (and too often overlooked) part of engaging your website users is getting their attention quickly. 40% of users will only wait three seconds before they give up and abandon your site.
Optimizing your site load speed isn’t the most exciting project, but it doesn’t have to be all that technical. There are a few steps you can take yourself before you might have to seek out some technical assistance:
Run your page through the PageSpeed Insights tool
This free tool from Google will tell you how quickly your site loads (under three seconds should be the aim) and also point out any problem areas. This gives you a really useful base to work from.
Make sure all your images are compressed
Hi-res images can weigh a site down, making it slower than it needs to be. Use a free online image compression tool to reduce the resolution without visually affecting the image.
Upload all videos via a third-party platform
Videos are a brilliant content marketing tool, but they can carry the same issue of weighing your site down. This is easily avoided, however – instead of uploading these directly to the backend of your site, embed them via a third-party site such as Vimeo or YouTube. Hosting the video on one of these websites keeps their weight off your site. You should also avoid setting them to autoplay.
Speak to your hosting provider
If you’re getting a lot more visitors than you did when you first set your website up, or have a lot more content now, you may have outgrown your current hosting plan. A simple upgrade could speed things up and doesn’t have to cost a lot.
Set up lazy loading
This involves coding your webpage to show the immediately visible, above-the-fold elements first and then loading the items further down the page (rather than waiting for the whole thing to load before you can see anything). This involves editing your website’s code, so it might require additional support.
4. Humanize your website
While the Covid-19 pandemic has been an extremely challenging time for many businesses, it has also really put small businesses in the spotlight in a good way.
So if you have a small business, lean into that fact. Tell your origin story, and put a picture of you (and your team, if you have one) on your website. This kind of information doesn’t need to stay tucked away on an About page – it can also form a core and compelling part of your homepage.
Laura Aston is the face (and the name!) behind Lauren Aston Designs. Here’s an extract from the business’ About page, which adds real personality and trust to the brand.
The pandemic has altered the kind of imagery big brands use, too. Deliberately ‘low fi’, or ‘undone’ images were catapulted from indie to mainstream in a few months, and we don’t see things going back to how they were previously.
The takeaway here is to fill your site (and your social media) with images of real people using your product in a real way and to avoid stock imagery at all costs.
These images are more relatable and engaging and add an extra layer of social proof and credibility to your site. In the case of Lauren Aston Designs, the relatable images also reassure customers that they’ll be able to knit something that resembles the pattern they’re given!
‘Engage’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to web design. But the first and most important thing to work out is: how you want your users to engage with your website. What’s the number one outcome you want to achieve?
The four ideas we’ve covered above are all engaging (some in a more covert way than others), but that doesn’t mean they’re all right for your site and your audience. Working back from your main goal, and collecting both qualitative feedback and hard data, is the best way to spot which opportunities will serve you well.
That said, don’t be afraid to be adventurous once in a while – make sure you have a robust testing process to measure the impact!
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