Troubleshoot User Experience (UX) for Better Conversions

by Sharon Hurley Hall

Last updated on December 29th, 2017

User experience (UX)—it’s all about how easy it is for people to use your website to find what they want. Or, as Jakob Neilsen and Don Norman put it, the term…

“encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

Get it wrong and people will simply move on to somewhere that gets it right, so fixing UX has a direct impact on web conversions.

UX covers a lot of different parts of web interaction (not just usability, but a lot of emotional and psychological factors about how people use your site).

There’s been a lot of research to help you find where UX goes wrong so you can fix it. In fact, if you believe Smart Insights, you only need to test with five users to identify most of the problems on your site. Here are some of the areas you should look at.

Comb web design

Navigation – Can Users Find Information?

Let’s start right at the top (or maybe the side) of the page, with navigation.

An article by Shari Thurow on Marketing Land makes some important points about website navigation:

  • it should help users complete tasks
  • it should support the way information is labeled and categorized on the site (information architecture)
  • it should stand out from other page elements
  • it should be scannable
  • it should make sense to users

Other studies back this up. Exisweb published the results of replacing the hamburger (three stacked lines) menu icon with the word “menu” in a mobile interface. He found that 20% more people clicked the word.

Research from Zeebox found that a camouflaged flyout menu on the side of its mobile app dramatically reduced engagement compared with the top menu in words. While people are still suggesting that minimizing menus can boost the conversion rate, these tests don’t agree.

A test of several leading ecommerce sites published on Smashing Magazine threw up a number of other navigation usability areas to target. Two that stood out were making parent categories clickable and including products in more than one category.

Jakob Nielsen also talks about optimizing search because 36% of people never get the results they want the first time they search a site, and if they search again, they only succeed in 28% of cases.

The lesson: test navigation and search to see how easy it is for users to find what they want.

The Eyes Have IT – Reading Patterns

This study by Jakob Nielsen is a bit long in the tooth, but it still seems to hold true. A study of more than 200 users showed that people read web pages in an F-shaped pattern, looking at what’s at the top before moving to another horizontal area and then scanning down the left of the content.

However, as an article by Ritika Puri shows, it’s not all about the F. It may depend on whether users are browsing or searching. When searching, they may move faster to accomplish their goal.

Another, more recent eye-tracking study by Missouri S&T shows that users may scan the page for a short while—really short, just 2.6 seconds—before moving on to somewhere else. The ease of finding information, as well as color choice were said to influence behavior.

The lesson: users don’t stick around long. Use heatmap analytics to find the most read areas and put your most important content there.

Do Your Headlines Work?

One of the areas where users’ eyes stop is on the headline, and there, there’s only one statistic that matters. It’s from Copyblogger, and it’s this: 80% of people read headline copy but only 20% read the rest.

Getting the headline right is an essential part of the user experience. As Unbounce shows, this is about making sure those headlines outline benefits for users and show their relevance. Get some help from our article on headlines for maximum conversion.

There’s more research recapped on Conversion XL that show the importance of including numbers in headlines, getting the length right and clarity. Face it, most people don’t read all the way to the end, as an article on Slate illustrates.

The lesson: Appealing headlines increase the chances that readers will read all your content and help your site convert.

Troubleshooting Typography

Troubleshooting Typography

Image: Pixabay

One thing I’ve noticed as people move to more mobile-friendly designs is the type size on web pages is getting bigger. That’s a very good thing, as research published by Smashing Magazine shows.

Web pages that use the same font size as the printed page are hard to read because of the distance you are away from your screen. Add to that the waning amount of light getting to the retina as we age and you realize that small fonts equals small conversions.

People can’t do what you want if they can’t even read the text, the button or the navigation label. In contrast, people can connect more with larger fonts and we know the importance of emotion in conversions.

The lesson: bigger is better—up to a point—if you want people to read your content.

Is Your Content Relevant? (Especially Ad Content)

People don’t like ads, especially when they are not relevant. We already know the importance of relevant content (you didn’t think the Google was just blowing smoke, did you?)

The 2013 Online Personal Experience Study shows that people love relevant content so much they would give up some of their favorite things to get it. Some 74% of consumers get frustrated when ads are irrelevant. At the same time, many don’t want to provide information to help with personalization unless businesses are clear how they will use it.

The lesson: show how your content meets users’ needs and UX will improve.

Ecommerce Sites – Where to Focus for Better Conversions

NN Group recently updated its research into ecommerce user experience. It found that more sites were using large product images to provide needed information in answer to users’ questions, were showing product feedback via reviews and were making it easier to complete purchases when using discounts and coupons. However, difficulty in seeing whether products were in the cart, tiny product descriptions and cluttered customer service areas were issues that still needed to be addressed.

Research from Experience Solutions conducted with shows the importance of helping people find the information they are looking for. In the trial, the site provided information about top products, added product videos, included ratings and reviews, answered questions and smoothed the checkout process to improve conversions.

And a case study by Visual Website Optimizer proves that using a product filter to help customers refine their choices increased revenue for one retailer by 76%.

The lesson: ecommerce optimization matters if you want to reduce abandonment.

Conversion Killers for Mobile User Experience

Did you know that 80% of people have trouble with mobile transactions and 63% of them would be less likely to do business with a company after experiencing a problem? (Source: Tealeaf)

Conversion Killers for Mobile User Experience

Image: Pixabay

Google has been pretty clear about the impact of mobile UX on SEO, but usability is also a key concern. Recent Google research on site design highlights the following conversion killers:

  • unoptimized mobile sites
  • the need to zoom to find information
  • tiny, low-res images
  • unoptimized CTAs, especially for screen rotation
  • the need to switch browser windows

Avoid these errors and your conversions will improve. Instead, follow Adobe’s advice and take a user-centric approach to design for better conversions.

The lesson: think mobile first for better UX.

How to Get More from the CTA

The CTA is important to marketers and it’s also a key part of the user experience. For example, Marketing Experiments showed how changing the wording on a CTA button increased conversion by 66.6%. Users want to know how they can accomplish their goals on your site. As UserTesting found, adding calls to action to the footer of their site boosted conversions by 50%.

The lesson: tell users what you want them to accomplish in language they can understand and it’s more likely they will do it.

The eight areas outlined above are some of the most common UX failures. For more advice on user experience and testing, check out our article on Understanding the User Experience and Jakob Neilsen’s (yes, him again!) piece on UX research.

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Sharon Hurley Hall.



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Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.


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  1. Dominic Hurst says:
    October 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Great post Sharon

    UX is more than just understanding usability (although that is v important). As most people arrive at pages other than the homepage, it’s very important people know what the page is about and where that fits into the site. As you mention content and navigation are key.

    Creating an emotional connection with the user is fundamental.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:
      October 9, 2014 at 6:27 am

      Thanks, Dominic. Yes, helping people feel connected to what they see and hear online makes a big difference to conversions.

  2. Corey Pemberton says:
    October 7, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Great stuff, Sharon. I especially liked your points about the navigation menu. I’ve noticed the trend to minimize menus lately, and I had my doubts about how that would affect conversions. Good food for thought – especially about making parent categories clickable and including products in multiple categories. Time to see how my site holds up! Thanks, Corey

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:
      October 8, 2014 at 7:05 am

      Thanks, Corey. If you make any changes, come back and let us know how they worked out.

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