What is User Experience (UX)?
Simply put, UX is the experience of a user navigating through your website, usually to get information or complete an action.
Many factors affect UX and need to be considered if you wish to assess your own website’s UX. Is your site organised in a comprehensive manner? Is the navigation easy to access? Are the contents and categories easy to understand and engaging? Sites with poor UX will have a confusing and difficult to navigate structure. Users will be unsure of how to get the information they need and get ‘lost’ within different categories and sections, resulting in a frustrating and fruitless ordeal.
Usability, that is the degree to which something is able or fit to be used, plays a vital role in UX, describing how technically fit for purpose your site is. UX goes much further into the overall experience and how it is perceived by the user. As such, the terms should not be used interchangeably though there is a large area of overlap.
Does UX Affect SEO?
SEO is the process of optimising your website to rank as well as possible in search engine results. This includes showing search engines that your site is valuable and useful for users.
UX targets the way your site visitors interact with your website, and it influences SEO in two key ways. Firstly, search engines like Google assess website on many factors that will affect UX, such as site structure, readability, quality of content, ease of access for information. Secondly, Google takes user behaviour on your website as evidence of the quality of your site. A site with poor UX will frustrate visitors and cause them to leave your site quickly and go back to the search engine results page. This indicates to Google that the website is not useful for that particular query and it will start ranking it lower.
In this way, UX and SEO go in a circle of SEO bringing visitors to the website, UX dictating how they behave on the website, and this impacting the SEO which impacts how many visitors it can bring to the site.
Before you start switching up your navigation and changing your website theme, you need to understand how visitors are currently interacting with your site. The best way to do this is through Google Analytics and if you do not already have a free Google Analytics account, we would highly recommend signing up now.
Google Analytics provides an overview of who is visiting your site and two behaviour metrics relevant to UX: bounce rate and session duration.
Bounce rate refers to the number of visitors who land on your site and leave without interacting with any other pages or elements. They metaphorically ‘bounce’ back out. This is a powerful indication of UX, as in general the higher the bounce rate, the fewer visitors are engaging with your site.
Session duration provides information on how much time a visitor spent on your site. The longer they spent, the more interesting they found the content, and the better you can rate your UX.
Improving UX and SEO
Now that you understand how UX and SEO go hand in hand and the metrics you can use to get feedback on them, you can use this information to make changes to your website. Here are three tips to get you started:
1. Using Clear and Appropriate Headings
Headings might not be something you think about, especially if your site is a few years old, but when a new user lands on your site, proper headings signpost your users to find the information that they need. Search engines also depend on headings to understand what a site is about, to better know what queries to rank it for. Would your headings make sense to someone who has never visited your website before?
2. Improve Site Navigation
In most cases you want visitors to browse through more than one page of your website (not least to reduce your bounce rate!) so it’s important that your navigation is organised in a clear and logical manner. Navigation is often an afterthought to web design but it is worth drafting a few options before deciding, as there are different ways to organise the information on your website.
Make sure you have a navigation menu on each page of your website for visitors who do not enter through the homepage. Ensure that navigation paths are kept short and include a search bar so if a user is unsure on the navigation, they have the option to search directly.
Over 50% of global online traffic comes through mobile devices, so don’t neglect the mobile experience and test your mobile navigation too.
3. Speed Up Your Site
The speed that your website loads on mobile and desktop devices are a ranking factor for search engines. Slower load speeds also increase the bounce rate as visitors become frustrated with the wait and leave. In these ways, a slow page speed negatively affects your SEO in a direct way, however, it also has an effect on the overall UX.
It can be difficult to judge the load speed since it will vary from device to device, and can be affected by location, cached pages etc. Use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool, a free tool that will tell you your speed for desktop and mobile, and how it would be rated by Google.