When it comes to creating a beautiful website design, user experience is arguably the most important piece of the pie. No matter how great your product is or how noble your company’s history, if you don’t provide visitors with an enjoyable digital experience, you might as well throw in the towel.
That’s how important UX is.
A bad user experience will cause users to abandon actions and leave quickly, ultimately harming your business’s bottom line.
Now, many technical and design elements comprise user experience design – the navigation, the layout, the multimedia, the calls to action (the list really DOES go on and on). But there is one possibly detrimental factor that is often overlooked: Site speed.
How fast your overall website, as well as each individual page, loads is critical to maintaining a strong user experience, and something as little as a big image can throw the whole thing off-balance (pun intended).
Here are 5 ways that site speed affects your user’s experience – plus, what you can do to ensure the time they spend on your website is enjoyable from start to finish.
1. Users are impatient
Unfortunately, living in a digital age that quite literally put the world at our fingertips came with some setbacks – one of them being that most consumers are itching for instant gratification. When they want something, they want it now. When they need to know something, they need to learn it now.
So, if your website has poor user experience – such as tricky checkouts, difficult navigation or a slow site loading time – visitors will simply abandon ship and find the next website that will give them (you guessed it!) what they want when they want it.
The numbers back up this consumer behavior, too. One study found that about 40 percent of users will leave a website if the page takes more than three seconds to load, making optimal site speed even more imperative.
2. And they don’t give second chances
It may come as a surprise, but Internet users are not often a forgiving bunch – and a slow site speed makes them ruthless. A long loading time drastically increases bounce rates, decreases conversions and lessen the chance that a user will return to your website in the future.
What’s more? Slow web pages and sites lose credibility in the eyes of consumers, meaning a user’s negative opinion of your website will last longer than you think.
3. Customers are often on their smartphones
Don’t put all your eggs into your desktop basket! More and more users are taking to their iPhones (or Androids…) to surf the web and complete purchases, which means it’s even more important to spend some time developing a fast and seamless mobile experience.
Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily something many businesses are doing yet. About 60 percent of mobile internet users have had issues loading websites on mobile, despite smartphones accounting for 80 percent of online sales or price comparison.
What’s more? Google is placing an increased importance on mobile-first designs when they create their rankings. And we all know that if Google says it, it must be true.
4. Slow site speed diminishes brand loyalty
In every corner of the world wide web, you want to cultivate a strong connection to your brand with users. However, a subpar loading speed with jeopardize this greatly.
According to Velocitize, 52 percent of users said that site speed does play a factor in determining their brand loyalty – after all, would YOU be loyal to a brand that, in a way, wasted your time waiting around when another product could get you what you crave in half the time?
Plus, a study from Akamai found that 75 percent of users would cease purchasing from a company that frequently had site speed errors such as freezing or crashing. That’s right – three-fourths of users could completely abandon a company based on simple digital design.
But don’t fret – this also means you stand the chance of gaining someone else’s 75 percent, so long as you optimize your site properly (we’ll get to that a little later).
5. Your site will rank lower on Google
Okay, okay – this one technically isn’t directly user experience, but its incredible important nonetheless. Enter: search engine optimization, the bread and butter of any business website. As we’ve learned, a slow site speed turned users into ruthless judges who demand instant gratification and a perfect site (it is what it is). To add insult to injury, a slow site sends copious red flags to Google, who will then push your website lower on search rankings.
Why’s this? Well, it turns out that you don’t necessarily need people determining that a slow site speed is undesirable, because technology can do it for us. Once Google recognizes this, they determine that you may not provide a great user experience for visitors, penalize you, and reward those who does.
So, while SEO optimization may not exactly be UX design, it ties into the same idea of providing a pleasant experience for every consumer that visits your website.
Bonus: What you can do to improve site speed
You might feel scared into oblivion about a slow site speed now, but you don’t need to be! There are plenty of tools that can help you test your speed, fix your speed and rectify any issues that arose when your website’s speed was, well, less than ideal.
- There are tons of online tools that can quickly test your website speed, such as Google, Web Page Test and Uptrends. According to Moz, sites that load in 2.9 seconds are in the top 50 percent of websites, sites that load in 1.7 seconds are in the 75th percentile and websites that load in .8 seconds are faster than about 94 percent of the Internet.
- Actually fix your site speed. Easy ways to do this include compressing certain image sizes, streamline tracking codes and utilize caching when you can.
- Implement basic SEO best practices — such as interlinking, strong H1 and H2 tags, and re-indexing your website after you’ve improved the speed – to rectify any lingering SEO dings you gathered before you improved your website.