How to Improve User Experience

How to Improve User Experience

Our attention is increasingly focused on the online world, and with the widespread adoption of mobile devices, and rising data speeds, accessing a website has never been easier. There is also more choice than ever before for online users, with social media apps competing with traditional websites for our attention.

In this crowded and competitive marketplace, how can you make your website stand out from the crowd? One of the most effective ways is to analyse and optimise the user experience of your website. User experience (UX), is crucial to many website users, even if they may not consciously register it in these terms. For example, 88 percent of online shoppers say they would never return to a website after a negative UX experience.

In this article we take a look at precisely what user experience entails, and some of the steps you can take to provide a better user experience on your website.

What is UX?

In essence, UX strives to understand what users want from a particular experience, and to optimise the experience in line with that desire.

User experience can be understood more clearly using the user experience honeycomb created by Peter Morville, a designer and information architect. Morville created the honeycomb to distill the essence of the various facets of UX design into six key design elements:

  • Useful: Your content should be useful and fulfil a specific need
  • Usable: Your website must be simple and easy to use
  • Desirable: Visually, your website should be attractive and thoughtfully designed
  • Findable: Website content should be findable and easy to navigate
  • Accessible: Website design should be accessible to all people, taking into account disabilities
  • Credible: The company and website should be credible and invoke trust

UX Experience

Improving UX on Your Website

There are many methods of improving the UX of your website, and we’ve listed some of the most impactful below:

Frequent A/B Testing

A/B testing is at the core of UX, and is one of the most effective ways of judging what elements are contributing to a positive user experience, as well as identifying areas for improvement.

There are many free tools available that allow you to perform powerful A/B tests on your website. A tool such as Inspectlet allows you to monitor what how people interact with your website in the form of heat maps, while Google’s free Optimise tool allows you to quickly and effectively perform A/B tests by sending traffic to different variants of the same landing page.

Streamline your Site Structure

Research has shown that two of the UX elements that users value above all else are efficiency and convenience. So how do you translate this insight into the design of your website?

You can begin by streamlining your site structure, by ensuring that every web page and every piece of content, serves a unique purpose. If the purpose is unclear, or if there is significant crossover in content with another page, then this may create confusion for the end-user hoping for efficient and convenient interaction with your website. You can simplify the experience by removing these superfluous pages, as well as ensuring the structure of your site flows logically throughout, with clear and effective CTAs on each page.

No. of Website Pages

Regularly Audit your Site for 404s

Encountering a broken link on a website can be an extremely frustrating experience for an end-user, and for a first-time visitor, they may choose to never return. Prevent this experience from occurring on your website by regularly auditing your site for 404s. You can audit your site for 404s by using SEO crawling software such as Screaming Frog, or by creating a custom 404 report in Google Analytics.

Intuitive Navigation

Intuitive navigation is subjective to an extent, but it is also the case that many users have an ‘intuitive’ feel for how websites should be designed, particularly in relation to navigation. Navigation is the exoskeleton of your website, holding the pages in place in an order which complements the whole.

You can analyse at behaviour flow reports in Google Analytics to see how users interact with your website, and where they drop off, The drop off points are where you can focus your attention, as there is likely to be some sort of impediment, perhaps as a result of design, resulting in users bouncing off your website.

More Whitespace, Less Clutter

It is crucial that you capture your end user’s attention immediately when they visit your website. Research has shown that a minimalist homepage design can help to retain a user’s attention, with attention increasing by 200% in response to an increase in whitespace around headlines and text. Ideally, you want a user to focus immediately on the most important information when they visit your website. Cutting back on unnecessary information, and increasing whitespace around your key features helps to focus your user’s attention on what’s really important to them.

Optimise Site Speed

Page load time is a crucial element of any website experience, so much so that Google will give significant weight to it when it comes to ranking your website in their search engine. A slow-loading website is a website that provides a poor experience, with over half of users abandoning a website altogether that takes longer than three seconds to load on a mobile device.

If you are struggling with page load time on your website, there are a number of fairly straightforward steps you take to quickly upgrade your performance. For more details, check out our in-depth article on How to Increase Page Speed.

Once you’ve optimised the speed of your key landing pages, use the StatusCake Page Speed Test to monitor the impact of your changes. Page Speed Tests are built into the free plan, with users able to increase the testing frequency on the Superior and Business plans.

Mobile-Friendliness and Responsive Design

Last, but by no means least, to provide a positive experience for your end-users you must maintain a responsive and mobile-friendly version of your website. While this can be an expensive undertaking, it is absolutely imperative in today’s mobile-first world. People will interact with your website on a variety of different devices and screen sizes, and it’s crucial that you design for their experience as much as the traditional desktop user.

Use Google’s free Mobile-Friendly test app to see how mobile-friendly your key pages are.

 

StatusCake provides a suite of performance monitoring tools that are easy to set-up and use, and providing you with invaluable insights into how your website’s performance is impacting your customers’ experiences.

 

Click here to start your free trial today.

The Cost of Website Downtime

The Cost of Website Downtime

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just behind us, and the Christmas and January sales on the horizon, the cost of downtime is a question that should be of concern to all business owners and e-commerce managers. It should be a concern, but is website downtime always given the consideration it deserves in your business?

A company website is a critical component of any modern business, but for businesses who rely on online sales, it really is of paramount importance. The continued success of your business depends upon the ability of your website to remain fully operational, to be able to deliver the seamless experience that your online visitors have come to expect from your website.

Once your website fails to meet those expectations, however briefly, the ramifications for your business can be significant, resulting in revenue loss, damage to your brand reputation, and even a decline in search rankings.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how we calculate website downtime and how that translates into meaningful data for your business.

How is Website Downtime Calculated?

Before we attempt to understand the cost of website downtime, it may be helpful to look at how downtime itself is calculated. Here at StatusCake, we specialise in website monitoring and have unparalleled experience in analysing website downtime across different industries and sectors.

Website uptime is generally measured as a percentage. This percentage is calculated by the number of times the availability of a particular website was tested, divided by the number of times an error was recorded. For example, a website which was available every time it was tested would return a website uptime average of 100 percent, while a domain that was down every time a test was performed returns an average website uptime of 0 percent.

Calculating the Cost of Website Downtime

Using the aforementioned calculation, we are able to measure how often websites are online as a percentage, but how can that be converted into units of time, and later, sales and revenue? As website uptime specialists, we have created our own Uptime and Downtime Cheat Sheet, a resource which we can use to translate uptime percentages into monthly and yearly downtime in days, hours and minutes.

Here’s how average uptime scores translate periods of downtime on a monthly and yearly basis:

  • 99 percent uptime: 7 hours, 12 minutes downtime. 3 days, 15 hours and 36 minutes of yearly downtime.
  • 98 percent uptime: 14 hours, 25 minutes downtime. 7 days, 7 hours and 12 minutes of yearly downtime.
  • 97 percent uptime: 21 hours, 36 minutes downtime. 10 days, 22 hours and 48 minutes of yearly downtime.
  • 96 percent uptime: 1 day, 4 hours and 48 minutes of monthly downtime. 14 days, 14 hours and 24 minutes of yearly downtime.
  • 95 percent uptime: 1 day, 12 hours of monthly downtime. 18 days, 6 hours of yearly downtime.

In these calculations, you can clearly see how a short period of website downtime can quickly add up over a period of weeks and months into a significant period of time in which your website is out of action. 99.9 percent uptime is generally considered to be a very competitive average, but even this level of downtime results in 8 hours and 46 minutes of downtime over the course of a year. Is your website meeting that target, or are you falling below it?

It is often said that time is money, and nowhere is that more applicable than in the world of online sales. Website downtime truly does come at a high cost, with the cost incurred to your sales, reputation and search engine rankings increasing exponentially the longer your website is offline.

When it comes to calculating potential revenue lost following a period of downtime, the picture is slightly more complex. Here, there is no absolute figure which can be used to accurately determine an average, and will vary hugely according to the duration of downtime, the time of day and the date. Website downtime which occurs in the early hours of a Sunday morning, for example, will not be as catastrophic for your bottom line as downtime during peak hours of the Black Friday sales.

The volume of sales generated by your website is also another variable to consider. For example, if you generate an average of £1,000 in revenue per hour, then every minute your website is offline is an average cost of £16.66 in lost sales. In this calculation, lost revenue increases rapidly for larger businesses, with any sustained period of downtime quickly adding up to eye-watering amounts. To take one of the most extreme examples of this fact, a period of downtime for e-commerce giant Amazon on ‘Prime Day’ is estimated to have cost the retailer as much as $100 million in lost sales!

Clearly, armed information presented in this article, the uptime of your website should not be considered as an afterthought, but as a pressing priority that could make or break your business. Seen in this context, the cost of a dedicated website monitoring service such as that provided by StatusCake should be seen as a long term investment rather than an unnecessary expense. Time is money online, and few businesses can afford to leave money on the table due to unscheduled website downtime.

 

StatusCake provides a suite of performance monitoring tools which are easy to set-up and use, and provide you with invaluable insights into how your website performance is impacting your customers’ experiences. Our free plan includes a range of free tools, including page speed monitoring, while our paid plans include SSL Monitoring, Server Monitoring, Domain Monitoring and Virus Scanning.

Click here, to start your free trial today.

What Causes Website Downtime?

What Causes Website Downtime?

We’ve all experienced websites which are unreliable, and appear to be offline when we need to access them. Perhaps you have had a similar experience with your own website, and know how damaging downtime can be to your bottom line and to your brand image.

Whether a website is ‘down’ for an extended period of time, or for a matter of minutes, it can be extremely frustrating for anyone who is trying to access the site in that period. With improvements in cybersecurity, computer hardware and hosting coverage, website downtime is arguably less common than it was 5-10 years ago. However, this means that users are accustomed to having the information they require at their fingertips at all times. An experience with a website that is unable to meet these high standards is likely to result in a lasting negative impression than may be hard to shift.

In this article, we take a closer look at some of the causes of website downtime.

What is Website Downtime?

In its simplest form, website downtime occurs when a website is completely inaccessible to end-users. However, it is more often the case that only certain sections or elements of a website are inaccessible at any given time. For example, an e-commerce website where users are unable to complete a checkout would also be considered to be experiencing some form of downtime. In fact, it is often the case that the latter example can be even more frustrating to the end-user than a website which is completely inaccessible.

What Causes Website Downtime?

IT System Malfunctions

Each year the IT systems we use in the business world become faster, more adaptable, and more reliable. Despite this, the infallible IT system has yet to be created, and any single piece of IT hardware or software is subject to malfunction. When one of the components in an IT system fails, it can result in any number of issues for the IT infrastructure of an organisation, one of which is the status of the company website. Many such errors are relatively commonplace and will have no impact on website uptime at all. However, for companies who host their own website, any malfunction in the server hardware is likely to result in a period of downtime for the website.

Hosting Provider Errors

Downtime can be caused by a company’s internal servers malfunctioning, but most companies choose to host their website with a third-party provider, rather than internally. Generally speaking, this should minimise the risk of your website going offline, but only if you entrust your website into the hands of a reliable web hosting provider.

Cheaper web hosting providers are likely to offer an affordable hosting plan, but this will often come at the cost of reliability. Companies who offer cheaper web hosting may be using outdated server software, obsolete IT infrastructure, or non-virtualised servers.

Alternatively, your website could go offline because you have chosen a cheaper hosting plan, and you’ve experienced an unexpected spike in traffic. Even worse, perhaps you’ve forgotten to renew your web hosting plan altogether!

As you can see, web hosting is crucial to ensuring the constant uptime of your website. For more info, check out our article on How to Choose a Web Hosting Provider.

DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service)

While such instances are relatively rare, a DDoS attack (distributed denial-of-service) can take your website offline very quickly.

The purpose of a DDoS attack is to ‘deny service’ by overloading a server with abnormally high levels of traffic. This occurs by ‘jamming’ traffic to a server, resulting in a disruption of service for anyone else trying to access the website hosted on the server under attack.

A DDoS attack can pose a significant disruption to the normal functionality of a website, and can result in an extended period of website slowdown and/or complete outage in the most severe cases.

Planned Downtime

Finally, one of the most common causes of websites being made inaccessible to the end-user is actually ‘planned downtime‘. Planned downtime occurs when an IT team undertakes an internal system update, such as upgrading hardware or software, integrating new equipment, or uninstalling redundant IT assets with the aim of improving the overall functionality of the company’s IT infrastructure. As planned downtime is accounted for in advance, potential website visitors should be forewarned if at all possible that they can expect to find the website offline in a certain time-period. This will help to set expectations, and to minimise any potential customer or client dissatisfaction in the event that they attempt to access the website during the period of planned downtime.

A dedicated website uptime monitoring service can help you to proactively address any period of downtime by alerting you the moment your website goes offline. StatusCake provides a suite of performance monitoring tools which are easy to set-up and use, and provide you with invaluable insights into how your website performance is impacting your customers’ experiences. Our free plan includes a range of free tools, including page speed monitoring, while our paid plans include SSL Monitoring, Server Monitoring, Domain Monitoring and Virus Scanning.

 

Click here, to start your free trial today.

 

 

How to Reduce Website Downtime

How to Reduce Website Downtime

You are probably well aware of the negative impact downtime can have on your website and your company as a whole. Any period of downtime can quickly result in lost sales and leads, a factor which multiplies depending on the average traffic your website usually receives. What’s worse is that those lost sales and leads are likely to go to your competitors, as frustrated potential customers shop elsewhere for the product or service they were looking for on your website. Not to mention the fact that downtime can negatively impact SEO, with search engines such as Google factoring website uptime into their ranking algorithms.

Clearly, any period of unscheduled downtime is to be avoided at all costs. So, what can you do to help to reduce website downtime? We take a look in our latest article.

Choose a Reliable Web Hosting Service

Perhaps the most common cause of website downtime is poor or unreliable website hosting. Unless you are hosting your website on private servers, it is likely that you will have to choose a web hosting company to keep your website online. The provider and plan that you choose to host your website is key to ensuring you maintain as close to 100% uptime as possible.

When it comes to choosing your provider it is important to shop around and read reviews on reliability from existing customers. When you’ve narrowed the list down, you should check to see if any of the providers have experienced outages themselves in the recent past.

Next, you need to choose the best hosting plan for your website. If avoiding downtime is your priority, this is one area of your business you should not skimp on. You will want to avoid cheaper offerings such as Shared Hosting where your website will be hosted on the same server as many others and could leave you exposed in the event of server downtime. Shared Hosting is a cost effective option, but can be unreliable, with sub-optimal speeds and outages common in the event of traffic spikes.

Different providers offer different hosting plans, but Managed Hosting, Cloud Hosting and Dedicated Hosting are all a significant step up in terms of reliability and functionality from Shared Hosting. To learn more, check out our in-depth article on How to Choose a Web Hosting Provider.

Backup your Website Regularly

Making regular backups of your website is a simple but extremely effective way to minimise any unscheduled period of downtime. A backup is a carbon copy of your website that you can use in the event of any unforeseen issues, such as code errors or a DDOS attack. Maintaining an up to date backup of your website will enable you to quickly get your website back online again should the worst happen.

Many web hosting providers offer website backups as part of their higher tier hosting plans, so this is something to consider when choosing your plan. Alternatively, you may be able to backup your website regularly using plugins for your CMS (if you are using WordPress, for example).

Use a Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is the next step up in terms of website hosting functionality, helping to improve both the average uptime of your website, and the speed at which it loads. A CDN is a network of servers spread throughout the world. This geographical spread helps to optimise site speed, but also, in distributing traffic between different servers, helps to drastically reduce the risk of your website crashing in the event of a traffic spike. Your website is also protected in the event of a server failure, as a CDN can redirect traffic through the remaining servers in the network should one of the servers go offline.

CDNs, such as the service provided by Cloudfare, are not a guarantee of website uptime, but they help to further shore up your website against the threat of downtime, and reduce the likelihood of your website going offline due to a server malfunction.

Use a Website Monitoring Service

Once you have chosen a reliable web hosting plan, made regular backups of your website, and have implemented a CDN as an extra layer of insurance, your website is well protected against the threat of unscheduled downtime. Now, the most important thing for you to do as a business is to ensure the status of your website is being monitored actively. You could have the most expensive and robust web hosting plan available, but if you are caught unaware when your website goes offline it will all have been for nothing.

By signing up for a dedicated website monitoring service you can rest assured that your uptime status is being actively monitored, and that you be alerted virtually instantaneously should your website go offline. This is a crucial step to reducing downtime, as it allows you and your business to be proactive in addressing any issues that arise before they begin to impact your website visitors and, eventually, your bottom-line.

StatusCake provides a suite of uptime monitoring tools which are easy to set-up and use, and provide you with insights you need to the downtime of your website. Our free plan includes a range of free tools, including page speed monitoring, while our paid plans include SSL Monitoring, Server Monitoring, Domain Monitoring and Virus Scanning.

Click here, to start your free trial today.

 

How to Deal with Unscheduled Website Downtime

unscheduled downtime

If you’re a business owner, or are responsible for the maintenance of a company’s web presence, you will know that website downtime can happen at the most inconvenient of times.

Unplanned downtime is never welcome. Your website is the online face of your business, and any period in which it is inaccessible to your clients and customers can damage the reputation of your brand.

However, it is also true that downtime is part and parcel of running a website, particularly one which experiences high volumes of traffic throughout the year. With that in mind, it’s crucial that you prepare as best as possible to deal with unscheduled downtime, and respond in a way which minimises any damage to your brand.

In this article, we will take a closer look at what you can do as a business to deal with unscheduled website downtime.

Set up a Downtime Page

While in some cases it might not be possible to set up a maintenance page in the event of unplanned downtime, you may be able to move quickly and set one up if a major period of unplanned downtime occurs on your website.

Maintenance pages are typically used as a temporary placeholder when a site has been taken offline for maintenance or updating. This can inform the user that what they are seeing is not an error but a temporary intermission, with normal service to be resumed shortly.

When a period of unplanned downtime occurs, a visitor to your website will typically be served an unhelpful error page. However, by acting quickly and setting up a downtime page, you can communicate with your visitors that you are aware of the issue, and reassure them that you are working to resume normal service as quickly as possible.

This is much more informative and user friendly than a cold 404 page, which doesn’t provide the end-user with either information or reassurance.

Be Proactive on Social Media

Place yourself in the shoes of a user who visits a website which is offline. Perhaps the first thing you will do is to visit downforeveryoneorjustme.com, but eventually, most users will make their way to social media, either to vent about a negative experience, or to contact a company directly.

By being proactive in your response on social media, you can communicate directly with your customer base, both in terms of public posts updating your audience on the issues the website is experiencing, and in one to one support for individuals who reach out to you directly on social.

Again, this type of proactive response to unplanned downtime helps to keep your customers and clients informed, and gives your company the chance to control the narrative until your website is back up and running again.

Make Regular Website Backups

One of the most effective ways of dealing with unscheduled website downtime is to prepare in advance for the unexpected. By making regular backups of your website you minimise the impact of any period of unscheduled downtime.

A backup is a carbon copy of your website that you can use to restore your website should it be taken offline. By frequently maintaining up to date backups of your website, you will be able to act quickly to restore it in the event of a code error or cyber attack.

You should check with your hosting provider if website backups are included in your current plan. If they aren’t, consider upgrading or moving to a provider who offers this service.

Set up Website Uptime Monitoring

When it comes to dealing with unplanned website downtime, time is very much of the essence. The quicker you can identify the cause of the downtime, the more effective your response will be in dealing with customers and clients who are unable to access your website.

The most important step you can take to ensuring you act quickly when your website goes offline is to actively monitor uptime status using a website uptime monitoring service.

By signing up for an uptime monitoring service, you can take assurance in the knowledge that you will be alerted virtually instantaneously should your website go offline. This knowledge will be invaluable in allowing you to be proactive in dealing with the issue, whether that be in restoring trust on social media, by setting up a downtime page, or in quickly restoring a website backup.

StatusCake provides a suite of uptime monitoring tools which are easy to set-up and use, and provide you with insights you need to prepare for unscheduled downtime. Our free plan includes a range of free tools, including page speed monitoring, while our paid plans include SSL Monitoring, Server Monitoring, Domain Monitoring and Virus Scanning.

Click here, to start your free trial today.