UX or user experience is a vital factor for a successful business. The term basically describes a site's functionality in terms of allowing customers to quickly find what they need with minimal effort. UX design affects search engine rankings, traffic flow and conversion rates. Style, navigation and content are some of the characteristics to keep in mind when looking to improve UX design and increase conversion rates.

Navigation Essentials

Andy Crestodina, Chicago based web designer and Strategic Director of Orbit Media offers a number of recommendations concerning UX and navigation. He recommends sticking to standardized formats when planning the layout of a site. Visitors are accustomed to seeing navigation bars that lie horizontally across the top or vertically down the left side. Keep navigation labels simple and to the point. One-word descriptions save clients time while browsing. Limit the number of items on the navigation bar to seven at most, which is directly associated with the maximum number of items easily stored in short-term memory. Studies performed by psychologists show that items in the beginning and ending of any list are the objects retained in memory. Known as the “serial position effect,” keep this aspect in mind when designing navigation tool bars. Position important or main items at the beginning of the list and less significant items in the middle. Always place the contact link at the end of the bar. Having hundreds of menu items clutters the page and deters attention from any main points of interest. Pages should easily flow and link one to another. Amazon, for example has a guideline of no more than 100 links per page on the site. However, having the fewest number of links per page adds to a positive UX. Link juice calculator tools help website developers determine the number of page links and evaluate dilution levels. Including drop down menus may help or hinder conversion rates. Too many small drop down menus may become annoying. On the other hand, usability evaluations suggest that mega menus displaying numerous sections may peak interest. Buttons are also controversial issues. While some believe visual buttons further simplify sites and add elegance, the text contained within each button is invisible to search engines if they are implemented as images rather than text. (http://blog.kissmetrics.com/common-website-navigation-mistakes/)

Page Loading Speed

You put the time, effort and perhaps money into designing the perfect blog or website. You happily begin receiving visitors on a daily basis and perhaps receive some pleasant comments. Suddenly, numbers start declining. Repeat visitors may become far and few between. There are fewer subscriptions to the email list. Products are not selling or services are no longer required. In time, the site becomes stagnant. The UX problem may very well lie in the time it takes for the page to load. According to an article at "Copyblogger," in 2011, Amazon technicians decided to revamp their site by changing codes and optimizing images. What they did not consider was the fact that reducing page load would lead to a dramatic increase in conversion rates. In fact, rates increased by 15%. Page speed also affects search ranking, as Google's algorithm considers speed a factor. Faster websites equate to a more pleasurable user experience. Slow pages cost businesses money. Studies suggest that even a delay of one second may cost 7% in sales revenues. When attempting to evaluate the reason for page speed hindrance, start with the host. Evaluate the quality of service. Maybe some days are good and others bad. Generic, free sites are typically not going to provide the same benefits of a paid premium host. Complex plug-ins and widgets also notoriously create overloads. Something as simple as a “comment plug-in” may put undue burden on a site. Incompatible apps or browsers cause glitches and inhibit performance. Adobe Shockwave Flash is a prime example of having a history of incompatibility issues. Once a page is up and running, attracting visitors, traffic increases and sales begin, site owners often choose to place special ads on pages. However, too many ads slows loading time. Oversized images or graphics may focus visitor attention to a specific area of the page. However, an abundance of these images also increases load time. Similarly, the more elaborate the design theme, the greater the hindrance. Sign-up forms, affiliate codes or analytics codes are all items that pull power from the server.. There are a number of tools available that help site owners evaluate page loading times. (http://www.copyblogger.com/website-speed-matters/)

Simplify Checkout

Add to cartThe "Daily Egg" suggests that when offering products online, site owners should optimize shopping carts to ensure sale completion. Baymard.com reports that more than 65% of the time, sales fall through at the shopping cart. High shipping costs or hidden fees are major deterrents. Free shipping influences customers 93% of the time. Clearly displayed, guaranteed free shipping often encourages visitors to make multiple purchases. If specialized shipping, sales tax or variable charges are necessary, designers recommend positioning a calculator in the shopping cart as early as possible to avoid an air of deception. Keep all shopping cart items visible throughout the process, so that customers do not have to endure the hassle of backtracking. Clients also should have access to the cart regardless of the number of pages entered. While placing the current cart on a drop-down menu may seem tempting, this action has proven to drop sales. The upper right corner of the page remains the standard shopping cart location. Keep the number of pages involved in the checkout process to a minimum. Resist the urge to have multiple pages that require form information, questions, additional offers or products. Consider adding an “express checkout.” Ask that clients establish an account or provide personal information after purchase completion. Large retail sites often provide clients with a number of options. Customers may log-in to an existing account, register before shopping or create an account later and shop as a guest. Some sites may also only ask customers for an email without requiring the need for registration. Offer a wide selection of payment options. In addition to a variety of credit cards, successful business sites also offer customers the chance to pay for purchases via debit cards, e-checks or PayPal. Little more than one-third of customers abandon shopping carts. However, the action does not necessarily mean a failed sale. Adding “save for later” or “wish list” options often encourages clients to bookmark a site for return visits. Email reminders are also time-tested tactics. (http://blog.crazyegg.com/2012/08/14/decrease-shopping-cart-abandonment/)

Website Responsiveness

Blog-Mobile

Don Dodds, Chief Strategist of M16 Marketing reminds business owners that UX must extend to mobile device users. With the abundance of mobile devices used on a daily basis, businesses have the opportunity for increasing sales dramatically by accommodating users. Make sure that web pages function well and appeal regardless of whether customers use a desktop PC or a smartphone. A single site designed well serves the purpose. Whether creating your own site or having the assistance of a web designer to build the company website, responsive web design, or RWD, is vital to a positive UX and today's successful business. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/don-dodds/the-importance-of-respons_b_3870347.html) Businesses reach more consumers using the Internet. Likewise, consumers have access to more products online. The quality of UX separates successful companies from struggling enterprises. By considering client UX in every aspect of a site, companies win the race for customer numbers and conversion rates.