6 Ways We Lie to Ourselves About Our Web Sites
Let’s face it, we lie to ourselves every day. We lie about how much we weigh, how much we eat, how much we spend and how much TV we watch. We all say we eat less and exercise more than we do, which which does not benefit anyone. Business owners and developers often lie to themselves about their applications. So the question is what do you lie about to yourself and are you bold enough to admit these lies and do something about them.
Today we’re going to cover six things that web site owners tend to lie to themselves about and how to correct those lies. These are all the simple performance and user experience blunders (we know are not good) you can correct to make your business more efficient and appealing to customers and employees.
1. It loads fast enough
Love2Dev is passionate about creating high performance web applications. We evaluate websites everyday and find most sites lacking in the loading department. While page load time is not the entire story, it does tell the large part of the overall story. More often than not web site pages take 5 to 10 seconds before they’re fully loaded which means customers become impatient and leave. Employees who have to deal with this sort of experience over and over again during their day also become frustrated. Customer & technical support staff likely hear similar frustrations about slow loading pages from your customers.
There are many things that you can do to improve your overall performance. The first thing to look at is time to first byte, or how long does it take for your server to send the first file of your application. A poor time to first byte indicates a bad server-side configuration. Typically you can overcome this problem with a static website solution or caching your database calls closer to the web server. Solutions for this are NoSQL databases and static web site generators.
I been a fan of NoSQL databases for several years. Recently we moved from a NoSQL solution to a series of simple JSON files in cloud file storage. This coincided with a switch to a statically generated web site. The site generates with a build tool, rather than a web platform. There are many solutions available for static site generation if you don’t want to forgo your existing web site engine, such as WordPress. We will cover those in a future article.
2. Customers Can Find What They Are Looking For
We tend to lie to ourselves about how easily users can find what they’re looking for in our applications. I often notice business owners and developers architect their application navigation based on their intimate knowledge of the application or information architecture. However the average customer does not possess this knowledge and often feels lost.
Along with performance, users report that navigation is their number one required application feature. For example many applications and web sites adopted a hamburger icon to launch menus on smart phones a few years ago. However, user research indicated the average user had no idea what the hamburger icon represented. This left users lost trying to navigate an application, and as a result they never found key features or options.
We believe it is wise to perform user acceptance testing - where users with little to no knowledge of the system structure will test your website or web application. We encourage you to find average people to perform this testing on your site/application to determine if your navigation and structure is easy to use. If you find customers are frustrated trying to accomplish a task or notice a sudden drop in activity in a specific area, chances are your navigation is lacking. If users can’t see it, they won’t do it.
3. Our Checkout or Call to Action Workflow is Simple
Just like poor navigation, confusing or complicated work flow is also a deterrent to average users. While you may need to collect dozens or even hundreds of pieces of data; users don’t have patience for this and often don’t have access to the required details. When customers feel overwhelmed by or lack access to data, they give up and move on to something else. This means your application’s effectiveness has diminished.
The one-click purchase button is one reason why Amazon is so successful. This removes friction from the purchase process. Additional examples are Chipotle’s burrito button or Domino’s tweet emoji. These also allow customers to rapidly order without much effort. Of course, the customers must have their account setup and configured to leverage these features.
There are many online examples where companies successfully eliminate complicated forms to sign up, create new accounts or make initial purchases. You should challenge yourself and your staff to determine the minimal fields required for a transaction. If possible ensure the user’s profile is somehow available in pre-populated fields. Find any opportunity to eliminate extra fields and user friction, and do it. Your business will improve immediately.
4. 3rd Party SAAS Scripts Don’t Affect User Experience
Using an online service provider can often reduce valuable time to market. However, most third party services offer poorly developed scripts or infrastructure that hinders your site or application. This creates unnecessary frustration as users cannot interact with your application while those services are downloading and executing. If those services experience network latency or downtime, it may keep your application from rendering at all.
We encourage all of our clients to audit their third party service subscriptions and eliminate any unused services or those that perform poorly. You can most likely find an alternative service with better performance or create your own version in a short amount of time.
Over a year ago, we wrote about how we eliminated the use of Disqus in our blog. This hosted service was the only source of negative customer feedback for Love2Dev. It was causing our application to load slower, especially on mobile devices. Once we eliminated Disqus the application loaded much faster. We are in the process of creating our own comment system and hope to launch it soon.
This is just an example of how we audited our external services and eliminated one problem. Many business employees sign up for these third party services and inject them into your application, often without informing other developers, managers or IT administrators. If your site application renders poorly or hesitates once it is rendered, chances are a third party script is causing this poor user experience.
5. Customers Can Connect With Us
Most sites have a contact form, but it is often buried out of sight. If your site navigation is complicated or vast, some visitors may not find your contact page. If customer contact is important to your company, than you need to prominently feature various ways customers can contact you on your site. Simply put, one contact form is not sufficient.
If your company’s customer base is the general public, customer relationships and your company image is tied to your web presence; then you need to prominently feature a link to your contact form, post your phone number and email addresses so visitors can easily find them. Do not limit yourself to phone support or email, also consider online communication such as online technical assistance via chat, Skype or other social networks. To be successful today you need to have a social web presence, where your customers live and do business. Make sure your customers can connect with you in their medium of choice.
6. We Don’t Need A Good Mobile Experience
Several years ago we passed the mobile moment. This was a point in time where mobile traffic and devices started out-pacing traditional PC based traffic. However many businesses still ignore mobile platforms.
Google and other search engines evaluate websites and won’t show non-responsive sites in search listings on mobile devices. Not being responsive may also hinder your desktop search engine placement. If your site is not receiving equal traffic from mobile devices compared to classic PCs, your website may not be available to mobile users. Mobile customers may find it frustrating and go to your competition.
Technology is constantly evolving and faster each day. This makes it difficult for businesses and technologists to keep pace. It is important to create a client-side application that is flexible enough to work across today’s variety of client devices and the client experiences becoming popular in the near future; for example consider HoloLens and the emerging class of connected consumer devices. If your site is not ‘flexible,’ it may not work well on these devices, thus eliminating a potential customer segment.
Love2Dev specializes in mobile friendly web applications. If your application is not built with a mobile first mentality, you may need to rethink your strategy to create an experience that is pleasant and useful to all your current and future customers.
Consider which of these lies you believe about your websites:
- It loads fast enough
- Customers can find what they are looking for
- Our workflow is simple
- 3rd party scripts don’t affect user experience
- Customers can connect with us
- We don’t need a good mobile experience
Now, will you be bold enough to admit it and do something about them?
We covered some ways to repent and fix the issues, without too much detail. None of the above issues alone will make a huge impact on your sales or brand impression. If you suffer from believing more than one of these lies and continue down your current path, you would choose a path of lower sales, less satisfied customers and employees, and even planned obsolescence.
You may need to battle management or developers with a “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” attitude. You may have to break the “rules” or conventions of how it’s always been done in your company. Don’t be afraid to put up a red flag at the next meeting when you hear one of the above lies. Soon you may find a small following of like-minded employees willing to take the risk of making your company a better place to work and plan for the future.
If you would like further information about this article, our services, or a performance audit of your company web sites (internal and external), please contact us at Love2Dev. We will be happy to discuss this further. We strive to help your company succeed.