Good website design is not only about making your website look beautiful. While a beautiful aesthetic certainly helps, good website design is mainly about creating an enjoyable experience for customers visiting your website.
By designing your website to be easy to use, you’ll make your customers happy, and as a result, search engines will notice. Search engines measure your visitors’ interactions with your website, and show your website higher in the rankings, which brings even more visitors.
The outcome for you is more visitors and more sales – that’s exactly what you want!
We’ll dig into which website design and usability features are most important for search engine optimisation (SEO).
You’ve heard that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important for your website, but you might not know how SEO is connected to User Experience (UX) or User Interface (UI). So first:
A quick summary of SEO, UX and UI
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): The process of making your website appear in search results (such as Google) for certain keywords or phrases. It’s also known as “Optimising your content” to include information that your target customer is searching for. Search engines use hundreds of ranking factors (the details of which they keep top secret!). What we do know is that ranking factors include features like keywords, content length, readability, page load speed, website security and mobile usability. Making sure your website is strong in these areas is good SEO, and improves your ranking. For more information, see our article on how search engines work.
User Interface (UI): In its most basic form, computer code is made up of millions of 1s and 0s, called binary code. Since that’s impossible for humans to read, User Interface describes the design that makes all those 1s and 0s into something we can understand and enjoy using. The User Interface includes design elements like how a website looks and where text or images appear. Plus, User Interface creates a way for humans to interact with a website, like clicking a button to perform an action.
User Experience (UX): Good User Experience design is about creating a smooth process for the user. The focus is making it easy for customers to use a website and perform the actions you want them to take. Let’s say you want a user to find your product online, read the product description, view some photos and check out through your eCommerce store. Good User Experience design makes the online shopping process an easy and enjoyable experience for customers.
So now let’s look at how these elements work together in a website:
How does website design affect SEO?
If a website is poorly designed or downright ugly, visitors get a bad first impression. A few seconds after landing on a website, they’ll be repelled and click away.
Not only has that website lost a potential customer, but a quick exit (also known as high bounce rate) is a strong signal to search engines that something is wrong with the website.
High bounce rate tells search engines thatWith enough visitors bouncing, this can seriously damage the site’s search engine rankings, because Google (and other search engines) learn that the page is a poor match for that search term. If you see a bounce rate of 50% or more for a page, you should look closely at your written content, website usability and focus keywords to see how you can improve your SEO and reduce the bounce rate.
A website’s navigation structure also makes a difference to SEO. If visitors can’t find the information they need within a couple of clicks, they’ll simply give up and leave. But when visitors are able to find the information they need quickly, they’re more likely to read a few pages and spend more time on the website.
- Keep your website’s navigation simple by including the most important pages in your top navigation bar.
Longer time on site is an indication to search engines that website visitors are interested in your content. Readers were engaged enough to read a whole article, then read another related page. One way to improve your SEO is to create some pages with detailed content. Helpful, interesting articles of 1000 words or more, plus lots of internal links to other articles, can help with your “time on site” rating.
How easy a website is to use also makes a difference to sales and conversions:
How user experience (UX) affects conversions
Ultimately, if the user experience is positive, the customer might buy something through the eCommerce check out, or submit a contact form. Completing conversion actions such as a purchase or contact form is another indication in Google Analytics that the customer has reached a satisfactory outcome. On the other hand, if UX is poor, customers will leave and shop (or read) elsewhere.
Of course, you want to achieve all these positive outcomes for your website, so next we’ll dig into which features make for good website design and usability.
How can I best design a website for SEO?
Mobile responsive design
With so many customers using their phone or tablet as their first choice for search and online shopping, your website simply must have a mobile responsive design. This is for two main reasons:
Websites that work well on mobile are far nicer to use. Your customers will certainly notice (even if it’s subconsciously) that your website works on their mobile. And when everything works, they stay on your site, read lots of pages, view products, check out and you make a sale. Or they submit a form and you capture a lead, if that’s your goal.
Search engines know that users love their mobiles. So Google and other search engines are placing a high emphasis on mobile usability. Google has implemented mobile-first indexing, which means that mobile responsive websites are now ranked higher than non-responsive websites. And higher ranked websites get more clicks, and more conversions.
When you optimise your current or new website with a mobile friendly design, you’re saying to Google “Pick me! Pick me!”. And if Google’s algorithm is happy with what you’ve done, your search ranking will get a boost. It’s increasing the overall SEO appeal of your site.
Sometimes it’s the little features that make the most difference to user experience, like:
Tap to dial numbers on your mobile site
Your website visitors like what they see on your site, and they want to contact you. Perhaps they want to ask advice, or check if an item is in stock in a particular colour.
One way you can make it easy for customers to reach you is to set up “tap to dial” on your phone numbers. This way, any customer viewing your website on a mobile can tap your phone number to call you, without missing a beat.
If they have to highlight the number, hold down to select, then copy, then open the call screen, then paste, then dial, you’re making it way harder for them. Just reading the list of steps is exhausting! For some customers, it’s just too much work (as silly as it sounds) and they’ll give up.
Make life easy for your customers by enabling tap to dial on all your website’s phone numbers. Ideally the clickable phone numbers should show up with an underline or your standard link text colour, so readers know they can tap to dial:
It’ll improve user experience (UX) and your sales conversions, because the whole process happens without a second thought.
It’s as simple as creating a hyperlink to tel:+61If you need help, ask your web developer to create dialable phone numbers on your website.
Easy to use forms
The rule of thumb with forms is to keep things simple. Remember that every action you ask a user to take is one more step towards “I can’t be bothered” and losing them. Only ask for the bare minimum amount of information you need for the form to be useful.
Name: ideally one box of free text (user can write anything they want), rather than first name and surname separately
Phone: free text field
Email: free text field
How can we help?: free text field
If you absolutely must ask for something else, keep it brief.
Also, it’s wise to be conscious of what you make a compulsory field (usually marked with *), because those red field errors are super annoying to customers. Depending on your business type, customers might not want you to call them back during business hours; they might want the privacy of an email. If you like, you can ask customers to say how they’d like you to reply.
Other usability conventions are that form boxes should be big enough to tap with a finger on a mobile screen, and text should be big enough to read. The SEND button (or other action text if you prefer) should be obvious. You don’t want to leave users wondering what to do next.
And finally, your website should show a polite Thank You message so the visitor knows their form worked.
If you want to track form submissions, it’s easy to set this up in Google Analytics as a conversion goal. You can track a user’s journey through your website, with the goal of reaching the “Thank you for submitting” page, and see how many users complete the action.
Strong internal link structure
Another search engine ranking factor you can optimise is Page Views, or the number of pages per visit. You can increase your website’s pages per visit score by including relevant and useful internal links – they’re links to other pages on your own website. (You can find your current page view stats in your Google Analytics account).
When Google and other search engines see that a visitor came to your website via search, and they stuck around and read 5 more pages on your website, it shows that the user was really interested in your content.
This sends a signal to Google that they should send more people your way for similar search terms. This is why a strong internal link structure and increasing page views are both a good focus SEO.
Don’t auto-play music
One sure-fire way to make a user bounce off your website in a flash is auto-play music.
Why? Because if they’re doing a bit of sneaky holiday research on their work computer, and the website starts playing music loudly, they are going to exit that site immediately. At worst they’re panicked and possibly embarrassed, and at minimum they’re pretty annoyed.
The same goes for videos with sound. If you really want the video to auto-play, make sure it defaults to mute and include subtitles.
Most visitors will happily watch the video with subtitles (a stealthy way to do their online shopping at work or on public transport). If they’re really engaged, they’ll dig out their headphones to listen, or they’ll bookmark the page for later.
Implement these changes to your website’s SEO
Why not choose a few of the tips that you can implement in your own website? You can do many of them yourself; check usability of forms, improve your content, make phone numbers clickable. But some features like changing to a mobile responsive design might need help from an experienced website developer.
If you’d like an audit of your current website’s design and advice for how to improve it, or if you’re ready to start with a new design, get in touch on 1300 367 009 for a chat. (And yes, you can tap do dial our number on your mobile!)