5 User Experience Basics that Help Build Brand Loyalty
A company’s website is the global portal to its brand. Not only is it the channel where brand loyalty strategies live, but the content, functionality, features, and design of a website can reinforce these strategies and encourage a brand following.
1. The need for speed
This is the first test.
If you go to a website and it doesn’t load instantly, what do you do?
Most people leave. Some blame the connection and will try again later (if they remember). Others will try to find the information they’re looking for elsewhere. And some will wait it out and hope that the wait is worth it.
Let’s face it, time and patience is a commodity we all seem to be short of these days. In the world of the Internet, making someone wait can mean lost conversion, fewer page views, decrease customer satisfaction, and, inevitably, a loss in revenue. Don’t believe me? Amazon calculated a potential loss of $1.6 billion in sales a year for a page load slowdown of just one second (FastCompany).
From a business perspective this is obviously not good. In terms of customer loyalty… it’s like having a friend who never shows up on time, always makes you late and when you try to contact him, there is no answer. He might show up. He might not. He’s deemed unreliable. After a while, no matter how loyal of a friend you are, you’ll stop inviting him out, or in this case, stop going to the horribly slow website.
2. First impressions count
The website is loaded. Now what?
If the load time wasn’t an issue, this is where judgment of the brand will start. The design and layout of a company’s website can make or break a brand’s credibility within 50 milliseconds (See the study)(Here’s another by Google). That’s a blink of an eye.
The colors, amount of text, use of photos, amount of white space, and general content layout (how it looks) speaks to the professionalism and trustworthiness of the brand. The design has so much pull that even if the website’s functionality and content isn’t the greatest, a viewer is more likely to cut the brand slack and leave with a favorable impression. I call this the ‘pretty-person phenomenon’. No matter how stupid someone is, if they are pretty, people will cut them some slack. It’s how people get out of speeding tickets, get free drinks at bars, and get large tips even when they messed up an order 5 times. Beauty > Incompetence
The best thing a brand can do for itself is invest in an original and beautifully designed website.
3. It’s easy to use
There shouldn’t be a secret handshake or necessary insider information to figure out how a website works. Yes, being innovative and different is great,
but if the audience can’t figure it out, they will leave. If we can’t wait 3 seconds for a page to load, we are not going to spend 3 minutes trying to figure out how it functions.
Remember, intuitiveness is subjective.
What is intuitive to that 12-year-old (who doesn’t know a day without cellphones and built his first computer at 7) is not as intuitive to that 53 year old (who took a typewriting classes in college and still prints out directions to the store even though they have a smartphone).
When it comes to ease of use, it’s best to incorporate the interactions that are accepted as common by the majority of the website’s audience. If you really want to try something new, please invest in prototyping and user testing before going live to verify its ‘intuitiveness’. It also doesn’t hurt to have multiple ways to do the same thing. This way, the tech savvies can discover the new interactions without excluding the tech-challenged. Eventually, the world will find balance and the new interaction will be accepted by the masses as a common interaction.
4. Stuff works
The phrase “it’s the thought that counts” does not apply to website functionality. People visiting a website do not know how it’s suppose to function, just that it does, or it doesn’t. When it doesn’t work, or doesn’t work as expected, people get frustrated. A study by Effective UI revealed “87% of people leave with a negative perception of the brand after a frustrating digital experience” (Read about the study).
Functionality refers to a lot of things, not just navigating from section to section.
Things like, can I make an appointment / buy tickets / check my order status / sign up for a newsletter? Is the information in my order status correct? Am I able to recover my login and password or update my profile? If I hit the back button, does it send me all the way to the top of the last page I was on, or does it remember where I was in the scroll? Does it freeze up every time I click something with no indication of it loading? And then when it does unfreeze, does it spaz out and process everything I tried to do while it was frozen? Again, people using a website don’t know anything but what they are told. If they are given the option to do something, make sure it works. If it’s an action that doesn’t have immediate feedback, let them know that it is working, via progress bar, model or email confirmation.
During my research I found a blog by Tech Republic: 10 ways developers can meet user expectations and ease frustrations. While older (published in 2009) I find it’s true to this day.
Design fads go in and out, but good functionality is timeless.
5. Quality (relevant and valuable) content
Content is a beast that a lot of companies don’t take the time to tame, but if it’s done well, quality content will do a lot for brand loyalty. I cannot emphasize it enough — the content on a brand’s website is THE MOST IMPORTANT element of the website. It is the only reason the website exists, the reason people visit, and it is the reason they will (or won’t) continue to come back.
Companies have this bad habit of grandfathering in old content from their past website that does not take the new design (and the devices it will display on) or people who will be interacting with it into account. We get it. Writing new content for each page can be daunting, especially if there isn’t a dedicated resource — which is why we recommend a designated copywriter. If a company decides to keep copywriting in-house, here are a few things to remember:
The general gist of content:
- All content should serve a purpose
- Content should fulfill viewers’ expectations (what they expect to find)
- Content should be consistent with the brand’s tone and voice
- Content should be written in a language the target audience can understand and digest
Tips of the trade:
- Tell the brand’s story through text and imagery
- Be personable and engaging
- Avoid the hard sell, just be authentic
Whether using an external or internal source for content, know it is the content that will make the connection with the viewer. It gives the brand a face, answers questions, shows what the brand stands for, helps form a community, and personalizes the viewer’s experience. Please, please, please give it the attention it deserves.
In the End:
These five things are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg in building brand loyalty. A company could have a horrible website, but they can still have a devoted following. Businesses and their loyal customers have been around much longer than the internet. These UX practices will just help things along.
Keep in mind, as younger generations mature and become the lead consumers, horrible websites and UX practices will be tolerated less and less. These generations grew up with technology and instant information as the norm. Their standards might not need to be met now, but in the next 5 years, believe me when I tell you, those who have these 5 basic things locked down, will be wildly successful.