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How to Serve Up an Appetizing Website User Experience

The 5 critical elements that drive conversion rates and revenue

A positive website user experience translates into higher conversion rates. Unfortunately, many businesses fail at this and focus only on a nice web design. Your website’s design is like delicious food at a restaurant.

You may love the cuisine at a restaurant, but many factors play into having a good “restaurant experience,” including the quality of the service, pricing, the ambiance and décor, and the location, to name a few. The user experience on your website is incredibly similar. Put yourself in the shoes of someone coming to your site for the very first time.  How easily can they navigate the site? Does it build trust and credibility?  Can visitors with varying needs each find what they’re looking for? 

A website that converts well—or, to use our restaurant analogy, gets diners to come back again and even tell their friends about it—requires these central factors:

Atmosphere is Everything

Never underestimate the power of emotion.  It influences even the most mundane decisions, often on an unconscious level. The first element to evaluate is the general ambiance or “feeling” of your website.  In a restaurant, the best meal can be ruined by an environment that is too loud or crowded, or by a wait staff that isn’t friendly. 

Consider how well the overall tone of your site—from visuals to layout to text—aligns with the tone of your brand and your target demographic.  For instance, do they desire the feel of a “quiet, intimate meal” or a “night-on-the-town?”

The Danger of “Too Much on the Menu”

One of the easiest ways to turn off visitors is a website with too much going on.  Logic might dictate that you should try to entice your customers as many ways as you can, but more options aren’t necessarily better and can often backfire on you.  Sometimes termed “the paradox of choice,” too many choices actually throw the human mind into overwhelm and can result in indecision. 

Think about being confronted with a 20-page menu at a restaurant; you don’t even know where to start.  What’s more, you don’t have a clear sense of the restaurant’s specialty, and in today’s world, defining your brand clearly and succinctly is everything. 

Keep it simple, and steer clear of “visual bullying” like distracting animations, automatic audio or pop-ups. Like an overeager wait staff who won’t leave you alone, too many distractions will only annoy visitors. 

Don’t Just “Let Them Eat Cake”

In a restaurant, accommodating customers’ diverse needs is important—for instance, ensuring that vegan or gluten-free diners can each find something to eat or get specific answers about certain ingredients.  On your website, the same idea applies.  It’s essential to design a simple, user-friendly navigation so that different visitors can easily find what they’re looking for.  Pages and content should also be constructed in a way that gently entices the visitor to take the next step. 

To do this, consider the few key categories your offerings can be organized into.  Then, build your site map from there, along the possible decision points toward your desired outcome.  The more you can serve your offerings in bite-sized pieces, the better they’ll be digested.  

Catering to Every Flavor

With so many people accessing the web via their phones or smart devices today, a mobile-friendly site is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.  Much like a restaurant that takes an hour to get seated or has an inattentive wait staff, web users have a low tolerance for non-optimized sites, and many will leave such a site immediately.  Ensure that your site is compatible with and easily viewed on a variety of devices and software. 

Also, while a simpler, cleaner look and functionality are the hallmark of mobile optimization, we are seeing carryover into desktop users desiring this. Ask your web designer to take a “mobile first design” approach, considering how the content, design and functionality will be laid out for mobile at the outset. 

Give Users Some Comfort Food

On the hierarchy of human needs, feeling safe trumps just about everything else.  If a restaurant has a “D” rating, it doesn’t matter how tasty their soup is; you’ll probably take a pass.  On the flipside, if a chef has many five-star reviews, diners will be confident in what they’re getting.  With your website, too, it’s important to establish a baseline of credibility.  Any business can claim to be “the best,” but giving actual, impartial evidence is what engenders confidence. 

Some excellent ways to build trust include displaying award logos, reviews or testimonials, your longevity in the industry, and trust symbols like an SSL certificate for security.  Anything visual is particularly powerful.  Make sure these are prominently displayed, especially on the homepage, which is often a user’s first point of contact.

As we’ve seen, just like the dining experience at a restaurant is critical to its ultimate success, your website should offer an engaging ambiance, a trusted emotional connection, a simple and clear menu of offerings, an intelligent yet easy navigation, and optimized-for-all functionality. 

While taking the time and thoughtfulness to create this positive user experience might seem like added work or just another expense, it’s actually a lucrative investment.  In multiple studies, positive user experience translates into higher conversion rates and customer satisfaction.  Now that’s definitely some food for thought. 

About the Author:  Mikel Bruce is the CEO of TinyFrog Technologies, a full-service web agency specializing in WordPress web design & development. Founded in 2003, TinyFrog’s nimble team offers a UX & conversion-based approach to web design to help businesses ultimately improve their bottom line.

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