User experience (UX) is at the heart of website design and management. It’s essentially the human experience of using your website.
What happens when a user lands on your site? Is it clear they’re in the right place? Can they find what they want quickly and easily? Do your pages and content load instantly?
Your UX gives potential members and constituents the very first impression of your association, and plays a direct role in gaining repeat web visitors and more conversions.
So you want it to be outstanding.
The tricky thing is that we don’t all see the world in the same way. A UX that works well for one site may not be the best for another website audience.
However, today we’ve picked out five time-tested strategies to instantly improve the UX of your association website based on thousands of hours of user research.
Tip #1: Make your content scannable
You want your content to be consumable. Consumable content is scannable.
Users don’t read. They scan.
So get out your design toolbox — bullet points, spacing, images, color, contrast, typography, headlines, subheaders, supporting text, numerical lists, and other basic principles — to break up pieces of content, keep your website visitors scrolling further down the page, and drawing their attention to important tidbits of information.
As you increase the scannability of your content, bear in mind that color contrast matters. Light text on a light background and dark text on a dark background can be hard to read.
Tip #2: Speed up your site as much as possible
The longer your website takes to load, the more likely visitors are to leave and the less likely they will take any action on your site or return again. When your website is fast or even seemingly instant, it’s perceived as easy to use and more approachable.
In fact, as your website’s load time increases from one second to 10 seconds, the chances of a web visitor immediately leaving or “bouncing” increases 123%. Even if your page load speed goes from just one second to three seconds, the probability of bounce increases 32%.
Google itself aims for a page load time of under a half-second but says it should at most be under two seconds. If that doesn’t convince you, then consider the fact that about 50% of people would rather have faster load times than any animations or even video.
To speed up your website, you can make adjustments like compressing and optimizing images, having a robust and dedicated hosting server, removing unnecessary plugins, minifying your code, and using a content delivery network (CDN) like Cloudflare.
To learn how to improve the speed and UX of your website, in particular, use Google's new web.dev measurement tool. Just enter in your URL and click “Run Audit.” It returns a list of ways to improve the quality of web pages in four main areas: performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO. You can even track your progress over time.
You can also use GTmetrix to see how fast your web pages take to load and how files are loaded on your site. This way you can tell if a certain plugin is hogging resources, for example.
You can also run your site through Google's PageSpeed Insights tool to get actionable items to instantly improve your website’s load time.
Tip #3: Replace stock photos with authentic visuals
A picture says 1,000 words. Yet too often stock photos are used on association websites.
Royalty-free pictures can be a HUGE turnoff to potential members and constituents and negatively impact your UX. Oftentimes, cheesy stock images:
- Inadequately represent your brand.
- Detract from your website's look, feel, and personal touch.
- Damage your credibility.
People have short attention spans. And there’s no doubt that authentic images are a powerful way to quickly grab visitors’ attention, increase engagement, and drive conversion.
But stock photos are NOT the solution.
Instead, you should invest in a 360-degree view camera or pay a bit extra for custom imagery that showcases your value as an organization.
Professional photos will separate your association from the sea of competitors out there.
Tip #4: Use ‘F’ patterns and ‘Z’ patterns to prioritize your content
Organizing and prioritizing your content in a strong visual hierarchy helps visitors find what they want quickly and easily. The visual hierarchy of your web pages is a key element in delivering an excellent UX that captures user’s attention and leads users to take the desired action.
To create a visual hierarchy that communicates priority, place the most important information near the top left corner of each page. It’s standard in most cultures to read top to button and left to right.
So, text-heavy designs should follow the shape of the letter F. In other words, it should start at the top left and move horizontally across to the top. Users then typically cast their eye downward along the left-hand side of the page in search of short, left-aligned headings that pique their interest. From there, they quickly scan right.
Less dense designs, on the other hand, should follow the shape of the letter Z. Again, viewers usually start at the top left and move horizontally across to the top. But for less text-heavy pages, they then scan downward on a backward diagonal slope to the lower-left corner of the page before moving their eye across to the right-hand corner.
Tip #5: Use more white space
White space may be called “negative space,” but there’s really nothing negative about it when it comes to improving your site’s UX.
White space is key to eliminating clutter and making your content seem more digestible. White space along with a clean design and simplified layout increases usability by helping visitors quickly locate the right information or understand the action they need to take.
It aids the UX and holds the user’s attention by balancing your design elements and enhancing the organization and “visual communication” of your content.
Takeaways to Improve Your Website User Experience
It’s vital to approach UX design strategically rather than intuitively.
Sometimes the urge to follow your gut feeling or assumptions about your website audience and what looks good can be what’s standing in the way of an outstanding UX.
To learn how you can test and validate UX design choices, check out our detailed guide on Website Optimization 101: How to Do User Research.