Towards the end of last year, Google announced a “Page Experience” update for May 2021. Websites with a good page experience will get a boost, and those with a bad page experience will see their rankings drop.
“Oh great,” you might be thinking, “the success of my website depends on something that is largely subjective.” But you would actually be surprised how united even the most diverse audiences can be on the things that lead to a good or bad side experience, regardless of whether they realize it or not.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through five web design trends so your users can prepare for the big update (and overall long-term online success). Some of these are quick fixes, others are slightly more technical, and others are overall more fun – but all of them can have a significant impact if used correctly.
1. Check the visual hierarchy of your site
Even if you’ve never heard of the term visual hierarchy, your site has one. Like any newspaper, billboard – and even this article.
Basically, the visual hierarchy is about making sure that the right parts of your page (web or otherwise) are getting the right attention. When done well, it makes your content more attractive because it brings order to your design.
Using different font sizes is a classic example of visual hierarchy in action. Titles and promotional messages are set in a larger font (because they are most important), while the terms and conditions are hidden in a nice little bit at the end (so as not to attract too much attention).
But there are also some less obvious changes:
- Did you know that users spend 80% of their time viewing the left half of the webpage? A site boost could be just a left alignment away.
Does clicking on your logo redirect customers to your homepage? This is what 36% expect of them.
Do you have a clear call to action? Whether you want your customers to contact you, view your store, or review your portfolio, a colorful, clear call-to-action is still an effective way to trigger action and give your customers a direction to follow.
2. Speed things up
Slow websites are generally a bad experience. 40% of users leave a website if it doesn’t load in just three seconds.
If you know your website may be getting a little faster (you can run it through Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool for a judgment from the experts) there are a few simple steps you can take yourself.
First of all, make sure that you have compressed all of the images using a free tool like Kraken.io. This reduces the file size (which can be very large in high-resolution photos) without affecting the images visually. 25% of pages could save more than 250KB by simply compressing images.
Videos come next. Try not to upload these directly to your website, but rather to embed them using a third-party platform like YouTube or Wistia. Having a third party host your video will keep their “weight” off your website. This should help your content load faster.
If none of these fixes seem helpful, it may be worth speaking to your web hosting provider. If you are at the limit of the bandwidth or storage footprint of your current plan, upgrading could be the answer.
3. Leave out the artwork
Stock images (especially stock images that really look like stock images) are a no-go for the modern website, especially stock images of people. At best, your website will look a little generic, and at worst, it will look a little sticky.
Fill your website with photos of your actual team, your actual customers, and your actual product in action. This will make it more interesting, trustworthy, and human. If you want to try something a little more experimental, we love the growing trend of combining graphics or illustrations with photography to create something absolutely eye-catching and unique.
The bold homepage of the I Weight Community draws your attention right from the start and focuses on its high-profile founder – Jameela Jamil
4. Make it personal
Personal web design is not about calling every user by their first name (although that should definitely be the goal with email). It’s more about using the information you already know about your customer and the customers who are behaving similarly before them and using that to refine their experience.
Depending on your site, this might display a Related Products section, Previously Viewed Content or Products, or even Top Picks For [name]’, Netflix style.
While the ideal is to have an experience tailored to each user, the bare minimum should be to tailor your website to its location. Are your prices shown in local currency? Does your checkout page ask customers in the UK for their state or zip code?
5. Always create ‘mobile-first’
The sad truth is, you can take all of the above steps to improve your website. However, if the mobile experience is bad, it is all for free.
Google now only crawls the mobile version of your website. This means that the entire evaluation of the quality of your website is based on the mobile experience alone.
However, Google’s guidelines aren’t the only reason you should focus on the mobile version of your website. More than half of all searches are performed on mobile devices, and the rate of growth in mobile e-commerce has only been accelerated by the pandemic. In short, by having a great mobile experience, you are giving people what they want.
How do you put this into practice? We think the best way to start is with a simple change in perception: instead of thinking about how to improve my website on mobile, develop the best possible solution for mobile and then adapt it to work on the desktop . Essentially, think and build mobile first.
In this article, we’ve walked you through five user-centric web design crowd-pleasers, all of which should have a positive impact on your website when the expected May update comes out.
Beyond making these changes, however, it’s important to find out what’s important to your audience and what they’re looking for when they come to your website specifically. There’s a lot you can find out by cleverly manipulating page data, but sometimes it’s the higher quality feedback that is most helpful. So try doing a survey on site or emailing a survey to your database for this really valuable, specific feedback.
About the author
Hannah Whitfield writes for Website Builder Expert, a premier resource for getting people online. A good website is essential to any modern business, and Hannah wants to help readers get the most out of their website.
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