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Why Does User Experience Matter?

Did you know that, according to research from Amazon Web Services, 88% of online shoppers say they wouldn’t return to a website after having a bad user experience?

If people are visiting your website and they cannot use it effectively – because it’s slow to load or, perhaps, difficult to understand – then it’s very unlikely that they’ll come back.

Despite how fundamental it is to websites, user experience (or UX) is often overlooked as a metric. We chatted to Kelly, our Senior Technical SEO Lead, about the importance of user experience to SEO and have put together this handy article for you.

If you’re looking to elevate the user experience of your website, read on.

What’s the difference between UX and UI?

While UX (user experience) refers to the entire interaction a user has with your website, UI (user interface) includes the site’s screens, icons, buttons, and other visual aspects. In other words, UI is the aesthetic part of the site. At the very least, an effective UI will help keep people from abandoning your site, but an effective UX will lead to conversions and happy customers.

Regardless of these acronyms, though, all websites need to:

  • Be easy to use and navigate. Customers need to be able to find what they are looking for easily. Is the site easy to read? Does it have a search function? Is the information they need “hidden” amongst walls of text?
  • Have a clear customer journey. There should be clear calls to action throughout.
  • Fulfil the user’s search intent. Are users looking to buy things or find information?
  • Work as intended. There should be no broken links or buttons etc.

Why does user experience matter?

User experience, Google & your site

As SEOs, it’s our priority to get pages ranking, right? And how do we do this? By giving the users what they’re looking for in the most helpful format.

That being said, user experience is not just an essential part of website design, it’s also a critical element in Google’s algorithm.

If there are elements that do not work, are difficult for users to navigate, or make it hard for users to find what they are looking for, they are likely to leave the site because it has provided a poor user experience.

This is an important part of SEO as, even with amazing design, brilliant content, no technical issues, and fast loading times, user engagement and experience can still be poor if a site’s elements don’t work properly or users find it hard to navigate.

How does Google determine UX?

Google uses RankBrain (a machine learning algorithm) and User Signals, which are patterns of behaviour that it uses to rank sites in search results. For example:

A user clicks on a search result and goes to a website.

It looks broken to the user on a mobile (or they can’t easily find what they wanted), so they bounce back to Google and click on the next site down.

This is a clear signal to Google that it doesn’t fit the user’s search intent. If enough people do this, then Google demotes the site in the SERPs.

RankBrain looks at behaviour metrics (like click through rate, dwell time, pages per session, % of returning users, and bounce rate), and then it tells Google whether visitors enjoy navigating through your site.

If users can move from one page to another effortlessly, click on links, read your content, and then come back again, this means they have had (and are having) a good user experience.

If a user visits your site and then leaves again (bounces) and never comes back, RankBrain tells Google the site is either irrelevant to your users or provides a poor user experience.

UX and accessibility

Another fundamental reason why user experience matters is for accessibility reasons. Web accessibility is an initiative by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that aims to make websites accessible and usable for everyone.

In 2019, a study found that out of the top million homepages on the web, just 1% meet the most widely used accessibility standards.

An accessible design also improves the user experience. For this, you need:

  • Legible, easy-to-read fonts and text
  • Easy-to-use navigation
  • Fast load times
  • Contrasting colours for text on coloured backgrounds.

There are lots of other non-technical things you can do as well to help, such as:

  • Great page titles help users and screen readers to quickly understand what your content is about.
  • Good heading tags means that content is well-structured and organised, following a logical sequence.
  • Use of Alt text on images helps visually-impaired users and search engines to understand what the image is about.
  • Anchor text on links helps users and search engines understand what the link is and where it is going.

How to test web accessibility

Tools such as Lighthouse and Google Page Speed Insights offer tips and show any issues with the accessibility of your pages. You can also try the free tool at Accessible, which shows you various elements that could be improved.

You can test colour contrasts manually which may help when choosing different colours. Read the full guidelines from W3C for more information on accessibility.

Great examples of accessible websites

Here are some examples of some great AAA and AA compliant websites within the WCAG Guidelines:


 How do we measure user experience?

Now that we know why user experience is so important – for Google and accessibility purposes alike – let’s look deeper at how we can measure UX ourselves.

Here are some of the core metrics that impact UX:

  • Bounce rate
  • Organic click through rate
  • Time spent on page (dwell time)
  • Pages per session
  • Percentage of returning users

However, relying on tools (like Google Search Console) alone cannot really help us to evaluate UX entirely. We need to look at the site with human eyes too — checking for things like readability, visual appeal, and clarity.

It is also essential to assess whether your website is user friendly, both on a mobile and desktop, especially when considering that poor site mobile optimisation annoys 48% of users and mobile loading speeds cause 53% of site visitors to leave entirely.

Measuring UX: think like a customer

To get an accurate gauge of the quality of a site’s UX, we need to well and truly think like a customer. When our SEO team are looking at a website, they’ll spend a few minutes investigating the following:

  • What does this company do / sell?
  • Does the site load quickly? (Under 2 seconds is ideal)
  • Is the site easy to navigate?
  • Is the layout user friendly?
  • Obvious issues like button malfunction or obscuring
  • Broken user elements like links, buttons, forms
  • Are there clear headings and good content structure?
  • Is there a clear customer journey with good calls to action?
  • Can users do what they came to the site to do?
  • Does the site design look good? (especially on a mobile)
  • Does the site inspire trust? (Owing to the presence of awards, reviews, well written content)
  • Can users contact you easily if they need to?

The 5 Second Test

We also use something called the ‘5 Second Test’ when assessing user experience. Why five seconds? Well, studies have found that visitors only spend around 5 seconds assessing your website before deciding whether to stay or leave.

During these crucial moments, a website page should give us enough information to answer questions like:

  • What is the purpose of the page?
  • What are the main elements of this page?
  • Who do you think the intended audience is?
  • Did the design/brand appear trustworthy?
  • What was the initial impression of the design?

User experience in action: a worked example

Let’s run you through a quick real-world example, shall we?

Imagine you own an e-commerce site selling trainers. You’ve spent lots of money on the site, investing in creating brilliant content for it, filling it with amazing pictures, and taking the time to make sure its load speed is fast. Unsurprisingly, you get lots of traffic.

Recently you’ve noticed that sales are down a lot since there was an update of your WordPress core, but you don’t know why. Traffic still looks good and people are spending time on the site. What you don’t know is that the update has moved your chatbot over the top of your add to basket button so users can’t add products to their basket anymore and therefore cannot buy any trainers!

The user cannot convert on your site and they have had a bad user experience.

And that’s why UX matters, folks!

Ask your users what they think!

It’s really important to ask your customers what they find difficult to use on the website so that you can rectify any issues they may be having. Places you can find this information include:

  • By asking your customer services team
  • Online unlinked brand mentions: To see this, do a Google search for your brand with quotes like this: “[Brand Name]”
  • Online reviews: Search places like TrustPilot, Reevoo, www.reviews.io, Google reviews, Facebook, Twitter etc, or use tools like GoFish
  • Organic search: Search for things like “[Brand Name] Reviews”, “[Brand Name] Complaints”, “Is [Brand Name] / [Product Name] Any Good?”

Take note of what customers find good about the site and also what they find frustrating, as all of these things will be affecting user experience and may lead to negative reviews. Ultimately, work hard to fix the things that your customers are unhappy about!

The future of UX…

Google has said that future algorithm updates will go even further and concentrate even more on content that is not only good for the user, but helpful and relevant.

Need help with your user experience?

Here at Sleeping Giant Media, we’ve been delighting our clients by delighting their users with well-optimised site content for years now. So, get in touch with our team today to discuss how our Data, Content, and SEO services can help improve your business’s digital performance.

And, in the meantime, be sure to keep up with our blog for the latest digital marketing updates.