2021 is a year when certain web design mistakes are more punishing than in past years. Two very recent developments account for this.
- Lockdowns have greatly increased demand for BOPIS. BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store) requires special website features that were once frills but now necessities for many types of small consumer businesses.
- Google is ramping up its focus on user experience (UX) in its search algorithm. Whereas in the past, content was the key to good organic rankings, beginning in 2021, how well visitors enjoy using a website has become much more important.
Many of the 13 mistakes we review here address these two issues. The second issue, which affects SEO, is important even if your business does not have an SEO campaign underway. If your website is SEO-unfriendly, you will find supporting an SEO campaign in the future much more expensive (if not impossible).
1. No Online Ordering Option
As just mentioned, consumers (as well as small businesses) have grown accustomed to BOPIS. Restaurants, retailers and even B2B companies must give customers a way to place orders online if they service local geographic markets.
Adding an online ordering option to the website can be accomplished in several ways. A fully customized e-commerce module is the most user-friendly approach, but also the most expensive and time-consuming to launch. Less expensive but also quite effective is an e-commerce platform integrated with your existing website. If this is beyond reach, a phone-in ordering option, properly presented on the website, will give you time to develop a fully digital solution without losing customers in the interim.
2. Slow Page Loading
When web pages load slowly, Internet users rapidly grow impatient and give up. Recognizing this, Google is now more greatly emphasizing page loading speed as a ranking factor. But over and above SEO considerations, slow page loading is bad for UX all around. Whether your visitors come from Google, social media or word-of-mouth referrals, if your pages load at a snail’s pace, your sales prospect will run to the competition like a racehorse.
This mistake is common in different niches. Users will leave you quickly not only if you have a slowly-loading marketplace but also a website offering online services, like a platform with music clips or online games. For example, if you had a certain type of online casino, no one will stay on your website if it takes 15 minutes for your Irish casino online to load. Users will prefer high-speed alternatives, even if design and graphics aren’t as fantastic.
Many factors can slow page loading, so a skilled developer is most definitely needed to identify and fix problems. Common issues include improper image sizing, formatting, hosting and/or serving. Inefficient hosting, outdated content management systems, rich media ads and too much traffic are other common culprits.
3. Poor Mobile Experience
Not only do customers expect BOPIS, but they also expect it when accessing websites on mobile phones. And because mobile phones account for over half of Internet traffic, Google continues to ramp up SEO emphasis on mobile-friendly website design.
Many small businesses have responsive websites that adjust web page display to fit the screen size being used. If you do not have a responsive website (or a separate mobile website), your first order of business should be to get one. If your mobile site is already good, focus on design enhancements to make it better.
4. Poor Local Optimization
If you serve a local market, your website should be on Google’s radar. Certain aspects of local search optimization are easy to implement, and they enhance UX all the way around.
Important steps to take include adding NAP (name, address, phone number) to all pages of the website, posting positive customer reviews and weaving local themes into your content. Adding a full company profile to Google My Business will also help improve the online visibility of your company.
5. Not Enough Visual Content
Noticeably important in 2021 is user demand for visual content, particularly video. Large blocks of text have always been intimidating to website visitors, but today, with video and image content being so prevalent, website visitors expect and need it — especially on mobile phones, where extensive reading involves so much scrolling and squinting.
Video and high-quality custom photos fulfill user expectations and enable you to better showcase the value of your products, services and organization. Yes, creative costs are involved, but visual content need not be a Hollywood production to be highly effective.
6. Company-focused Content
Small companies are especially prone to talking too much about themselves and not nearly enough about the customer’s problems. Concentrating on benefits and the entire spectrum of your customers’ needs improves your credibility, makes prospects far more likely to inquire or order and improves your brand image. In addition, eliminating company-focused content trims down web pages, making them more inviting to visitors.
7. Poorly Positioned or Nonexistent Credibility Elements
Small enterprises must always establish credibility to overcome a website visitor’s unfamiliarity with the brand and inherent skepticism. Credibility elements include number of years in business, customer reviews, BBB rating, awards, etc. They should appear on the home page, relevant product/service pages, the About Us and Contact pages, and perhaps in the footer or even the header of all page templates.
8. No HTTPS
Data security is a major concern of website visitors and one of the initial determiners of UX satisfaction. Seeing HTTPS URLs in the browser’s address bar reassures visitors that any data they transmit will be safely received. Whereas in past years HTTPS was a should-have, in 2021 it is a must-have. Google uses HTTPS as a ranking signal.
9. Weak Calls to Action
Is saying “Contact Us Now” enough to motivate skeptical or indifferent website visitors to submit an inquiry form? Probably not. Create meaningful offers: discounts, seasonal promotions, free trials, extended warranties, lifetime guarantees, free service calls, discounted service rates and free consultations are among the many tried-and-true inducements that vastly improve website conversions.
10. Confusing Navigation
Being creative on the company website is effective but not with respect to navigation. Users are conditioned to expect certain navigational links in certain places on the web page and labeled in certain ways. Navigation must always be simple and straightforward. Test the UX of your navigation in desktop and mobile screen views.
11. Poor Typography
Fonts strongly affect UX. Fonts that are too small frustrate users. Fonts that are too large have a comic effect. Poor color contrast, hard-to-read font styles and too many font styles all reduce the likelihood visitors will read your content or enjoy reading it. Don’t underestimate the damage done by faulty fonts!
12. Poor Color Schemes
The color palette of your website affects UX just as much as, or even more than, fonts. Too many colors, too few colors, clashing colors, colors with the wrong psychological effect — all these issues immediately discourage visitors from exploring your website.
13. Poor Form Design
Bad forms discourage online orders and inquiries. Eliminate unnecessary fields, add dropdown menus to speed up completion, make sure forms display properly and are easy to use on desktops and mobile devices, and add a data security message to reassure users their information will not be stolen or misused.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing company that specializes in SEO. With decades of marketing, sales, and management experience, Shorr has written for leading online publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur, and for the American Marketing Association.