Creating a compelling B2B website requires a lot more than making it look good and explaining what you do. You want to develop a buyer persona to ensure you’re writing content with the right audience in mind. You want to conduct keyword research to ensure said audience finds you. And yes, you most definitely want to make it look appealing so that people want to navigate through your webpages and eventually become a client.
The north start for this entire process is user experience (or UX, as the cool kids call it). Get this right and half the battle is won. But what, exactly, does it entail? How can you know whether your existing website has a good UX?
User experience is how visitors feel when they interact with your website. The goal is to design a site that’s intuitive, easy to navigate, and provides value to the reader. Every single component should be present to ensure that they stay on your site instead of getting frustrated and going to a competitor’s site.
In theory, it sounds pretty simple. In practice, it takes a lot of planning, testing, and modifications. So much so, that it’s not just another item to tick off your list as you design your website. There are actually user experience experts that spend their entire working days coming up with ideas to implement a better UX.
Regardless of whether you design a website from scratch or use a template, everything should be designed with user experience in mind.
User experience is one of the most important elements of your website. When done effectively, the positive ramifications are several:
Lower Bounce Rates
When a significant number of website visitors leave it soon after arriving, it’s not that they’re all in a hurry. It means that the website leaves a lot to be desired. This could be that it needs faster loading times, better calls to action, or it’s hard to navigate. You can solve all of these issues by having UX experts conduct a website audit, identify where the problems reside, and address them.
Effective Buyer’s Journey
Not every prospect is in the same place in their buyer’s journey. A first-time website visitor is looking for something completely different than a repeat customer. So what is a website designer to do? Guide them, that’s what. Good UX means that you have content that’s tailored to visitors who are in the awareness, consideration, and decision stages. You can do this by providing smart content, and by using keywords that they are likely entering into search engines when conducting their research.
Higher Conversion Rates
Conversion rates aren’t just sales. Granted, yes, those do count the most. But it’s unrealistic to expect every single website interaction to end in a sale. Effective UX takes into account every step of a user’s journey, so that they are more likely to take all of your desired actions — joining your email list, subscribing to your blog, enrolling in a webinar, requesting a demo, scheduling a call, making a purchase. This requires effective headlines, appealing copy, helpful visuals, and strong calls to action.
Shorter Sales Cycles
One of the differentiating factors between B2B and B2C websites is that B2B ones tend to have a much longer sales cycle. This is understandable, since prospects’ research process is longer and the investment is much larger. It’s very rare for leads to be ready to make a purchase during their first visit to any website. But if your site loads fast, is easy to navigate, provides them with all the information they need, and keeps them engaged, you can speed up the process. Another key element is to design a website that entices visitors to sign up for your email newsletter. This way, you can nurture those leads until they’re ready to buy.
Increased Customer Retention
Acquiring new customers is substantially more expensive than retaining existing ones. And there are many ways your website design can keep customers coming back for more. Do everything in your control to make their interactions with your site pleasant. Make sure it loads fast. Implement a responsive design. Include a native payment feature. Create a customer portal so they can check the status of their projects and/or orders. Include several ways for them to contact you. Use live chat so that they can get quick answers to their questions. All of these elements will keep your customers happy and continue to drive revenue for your business.
The user experience design process entails taking into account everything your website visitors need, and optimizing each feature and placement throughout your site. You can’t just make a list of all of the features listed above and add them randomly.
UX design places each element into context; makes everything relevant to what the web visitor is doing at a given moment. And in addition to what’s practical, this process can also include adding elements that are purely fun or entertaining. The key is in creating an environment where prospects and customers want to stay.
The UX design process may vary from one website project to the next, but common denominators include:
- Conducting extensive market research
- Developing buyer personas
- Creating wireframes
- Coming up with helpful features, such as tools, tutorials, 3D experiences, or infographics
- Ensuring to cover all areas of the UX Quadrant Model (as explained below)
- A/B testing
UX designers are experts in four distinct areas that come together to optimize the user experience.
Experience Strategy (ExS)
ExS is the main umbrella of UX. It’s where you marry a positive experience with details about your business solutions. Examples include providing easy to find and easy to understand product descriptions.
Interaction Design (IxD)
Interaction design refers to the interactive elements of your website — call to action buttons, tools, quizzes, page transitions, etc… These are crucial elements to guide website visitors and increase conversion rates.
User Research (UR)
UR involves looking into what web users want and prefer, based on their own behaviors and feedback. To find out this type of information, you can test usability, as well as deploy surveys, or even straight out ask them questions directly (via email, social media, or whenever you interact with them).
Information Architecture (IA)
Information architecture refers to the structure of a website. How everything will be organized per the navigation bar, along with child pages and their hierarchy. It involves putting it all together in a way that’s easy to navigate.
Taking all four elements into account when designing a website ensures that all bases of optimal UX are covered.
There are websites that are so outdated, its elements of a poor UX are visible to anyone who visits it: No images, no links, broken links, lots of pages with little content, images that load as slowly as if you were using a dial-up internet connection. In short, anything that looks or feels like it was created in the late ‘90s/early 2000s.
Slow Loading Times
Most people have the attention span of a gnat. Couple that with our existing culture of instant gratification, and if your website doesn’t load in less than two seconds, people are gonna leave.
No Mobile Optimization
When not sitting at their desk for work, most people go online from their phones. And while a website may load fast and look good from a desktop, if it’s hard to read or navigate from smaller screens, prospects are gonna leave.
Websites should be intuitive. Having too many menu options, inconsistent designs across each webpage, clickable links that are the same color as the rest of the text, and/or vague calls to action will leave your visitors frustrated.
Vague Calls to Action
Speaking of CTAs, these should be short and action oriented. In addition, readers should know exactly what will happen when they click on it. Click Here is not as effective as Download eBook or Schedule a Call.
High Bounce Rates
When you look at your website metrics, what are the pages with the highest bounce rate? And what’s the reason? If it’s because it’s a landing page and they leave after filling it out, you’re golden. But if your homepage, products/services page, or blogs cause people to leave the website a few seconds in, they’re either confused, overwhelmed, or bored.
Low Conversion Rates
You’ll also want to pay attention to how often people take your desired actions. Any CTA buttons that go mostly ignored are indications that you should change something about them. This could be the text, size, or color.
By this point, you should have a good idea of what constitutes good user experience best practices. But for the sake of clarity, here are seven best practices you definitely want to implement:
1. Fast Loading Times
As previously mentioned, fast loading times are crucial. Your readers won’t get to see anything else on your site unless it loads fast. To check yours, use a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom.
2. Simple Navigation Bar
Nothing on your website should be overwhelming. Your navigation bar should make it easy to go from page to page and should be straightforward. Adding too many options (or too many dropdowns with too many options within them) is confusing and a quintessential example of poor UX.
Breadcrumbs make it easy for website visitors to return to a specific page easily. The term refers to a secondary navigation, where users can see where on the site they’re currently located. This is good practice for websites that have dropdown menus on their navigation bar. It appears as a series of horizontal links.
In the example below, you can see that even though the Bed, Bath & Beyond website has many pages, the images of coffees can be found under the menu option Coffee & Tea, which can be found under the Kitchen tab. And we can see this from a simple glance thanks to breadcrumbs.
Source: Bed, Bad & Beyond
4. Helpful Content
Once upon a time, stuffing keywords into a website would be enough to help it rank on Google. Not anymore. That tactic won’t improve your placement on SERPs. Also, be customer-centric. This isn’t just about making you look good. This is about resolving your users' pain points and helping them overcome challenges. So do that. Provide educational content — such as blogs, eBooks, and white papers. Explain processes in simple to follow steps, such as with infographics and video tutorials. Answer their questions. Provide value. This will keep them coming back, sharing your content, and referring you more business.
5. White Spaces
White spaces are exactly what they sound like — the empty areas between paragraphs and page sections. Including plenty of white spaces keeps your site clean and easy to read. Think of Apple and Amazon. You don’t have a lot of noise vying for your attention; and this makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for.
6. Consistency across web pages
People are coming to your site to find solutions. Therefore, they should be able to figure out quickly how to find things on your site. And once they do, they want to continue doing so intuitively regardless of the page they’re on. So keep the layout consistent to make things as easy as possible for readers.
7. Multiple Ways to Contact You
Part of your market research includes finding out the ways your target audience would prefer to communicate with you. Depending on their generation, job role, or even their preferences, this could include email, a phone call, or live chat. Pick their top two and implement them. Live chat is great to get quick answers in real time.
Now, to see some of these elements in action, let’s look at businesses that are doing UX right.
Of course we’re starting with HubSpot. It’s clean, has plenty of white spaces, call to action buttons that grab your attention and tell you exactly what will happen when you click on them, and they make it easy to get quick answers with their live chat tool.
Further down the page, they make it easy to find the hub you’re looking for with a simple cards design. Listing their most popular features right under each short description makes the content scannable and easy to understand.
As usual, Apple leads the pack in pretty much everything — and they set the stage with their website’s UX. White space is everywhere. No distractions. Click on any of the icons at the top to find the type of products you’re looking for. Or click on Buy if you’re already part of their cult following and are ready to hand over your money.
But if you’re not yet ready to open your wallet, they make the research process easy by providing you with a helpful comparison chart. No need to open 50 tabs or jump from page to page to get the information you need. Everything is as easy and simplified as possible.
Airbnb makes it so simple to find a place to stay — no matter where you’re going. In fact, even if you don’t know where you’re going, they’ll help you find a place you’ll love. Their homepage has sparse text, yet you know exactly where to go to either look for a place or become a host.
They also provide helpful content to website visitors, such as things to do during their trips, or experiences they can have by staying in their home city.
And if a user has been considering renting out their own property, but still have questions, the site makes it really easy to find those answers:
Providing user experience is all about being customer centric: What would make things easier for them? More enjoyable? More appealing? Then expanding on each element to make them feel thrilled to have found your website. And once they do, they’ll tell everyone they know about it.