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How to Improve Your User Experience Online

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There are many places where businesses can fall down - and one of the areas that always gets overlooked is the User Experience online.

What does this mean?

Well just as many businesses spend money training staff in shops to behave properly and treat customers with respect, and designing window layouts and displays - this is all investment in how much your customer then enjoys the shopping experience at your retail unit. The more they enjoy it and the better the User Experience - the more likely they are to return.

Well, if your business is based online, the principal is exactly the same. If you sell any kind of product of service online - then you could be loosing money and custom, quite simply - if your user is having an unpleasant or a bad experience on your website.

As soon as a potential or current customer enters your website - you are under scrutiny. Think of it like 'impressing them' - you want to make every second of their experience with you as pleasant and seamless as possible - because if you don't the likelihood is - they'll either go somewhere else instead (to one of your competitors) or they'll be left with a bad impression of your business and will be less likely to recommend you friends, family and colleagues.

So how can you improve your user experience?

Well, the experience a user has on your web page is made up of several different factors. Each factor will have more importance to different types of people - which is why it's so important to polish all of them and ensure your website is running smoothly all round.

Some areas are easily to amend and improve - some will take a little more time and effort. But they are all important and should all be looked at and seen to at some point during this process. An easy way to see which areas need more attention in the initial stages - is to ask friends or family to try their hands at your website. Aks them for suggestions and ask them what they did (and didn't) enjoy or rate.

1. Web Design

Take a look at your website. Now imagine you are looking at it for the first time. Is it clear and obvious what you're selling - or what your business is about? Is there any confusion there that might throw people off upon their first visit? First things is first: you need to make sure that you're communicating the right thing on first impression - a lot of this is down to how your website has been designed. Web design can be expensive, but if your website is on Wordpress - a simple high quality theme might be the answer. Places like Theme Forest are a good place to start looking, as they have lots of different designed selling their themes for reasonable prices too.

2. Navigation

This also comes down to web design and the structure of your website. It should be pretty easy to figure out if you're succeeding here or not - just take a look at your home page. Is it easy to navigate? Can you easily locate a search box or help button? Is it messy or does your website guide your user around effortlessly? A good way to test this is to choose a product or service and ask a friend to try and locate it on the website. If they struggle to find it within a minute - your site needs rethinking. And your navigation needs polishing up.

3. Functionality

This is perhaps one of the most important aspects. You need to make sure all your pages are working and the website is actually functioning. The last thing you want is broken pages and broken links - so ensure you've gone through and corrected these. Imagine if a broken page popped up as someone was about to purchase something? Not only would you loose custom - but the customer would feel uneasy about transferring any payment through your system.

4. Your Server

You know those websites that are always down or broken? Or that take so long to load - you end up leaving out of impatience? The key to this is picking a good server and hosting agent. You can compare the different companies that provide this on websites like this. It means you're signing up to a reliable source - and means your website won't be consitantly crashing. As your website gets more popular too - you may want to upgrade your server - for a bigger demand. All things worth considering.

5. Images

I don't know about you - but I find nothing more annoying than a website with dozens of broken images. An easy way to get around this problem is by using images with a lower resolution - designed for web use (and not print). Print images will always use a higher amount of pixels and be better quality, but for the web - this is a bit pointless. Cutting down on your image size will make your web pages load quicker too - which is a big bonus, incase your customers aren't the patient kind.

6. Invest in Design
Look at your website from a first impressions, point of view. Does you logo look professional, or does it look like something you threw together on paint? If it's the latter then you might want to pay a professional graphic designer to update it for you. it's amazing how much more trust people put into websites that look good. 99 Designs is a good place to look for designers if you want a quick turn around and good results. You put forward your outline, and designers can pitch for the job - letting you choose your favourite.