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The Role of Content in User Experience

May 14, 2018

There are many aspects to a Web site’s user experience, but one of the least discussed and perhaps most important is content. The content of any Web site drives the user experience. You can have the best design themes, the best graphics, and even a great personalization strategy, but without great content to back it up, the user’s experience may still be very poor.

What exactly can you do about this? How can you structure great content to enhance the user’s experience?

First Impressions

Personalization is one of the primary drivers of modern Web-site design. Subdomains and even unique domains for specific metropolitan or local areas are common. There is some debate about which is better for both SEO (Search-Engine Optimization) and the user experience.

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However, personalization is about more than creating unique product offerings or different pages for specific users. The tone and language you use on pages are also important factors of personalization. For example, what might be familiar and casual in the Northwest could be offensive in New York.

Even the simplest of home-page greetings or the content on a particular landing page can either turn visitors away or welcome them and create life-long customers. For instance, there are many trigger words that are potentially offensive to certain groups of people, but there are also trigger words that might cause a visitor to leave your site right away. In fact, there are extensive lists of spam words that you should avoid using on landing pages, in email messages, and elsewhere.

At the same time, there are positive trigger words that will keep visitors on your site. These are often trigger words that appeal to visitors who are ready to buy. They include words such as alleviate, bargain, best, budget, cheapest, comparison, discount, fast, order, renew, and so on. Common trigger phrases with appeal often include the word for, followed by the name of whatever group of people the visitor belongs to—whether that is women, kids, children, or seniors.

Using such trigger words increases the chances that the first impressions your Web site makes will turn visitors into customers. Plus, not using spam words will help you avoid high bounce rates.

You’ll never get a second chance at a first impression. Wherever a visitor lands on your Web site—whether on a landing page or on a blog post—both the excellence of the content on that page and its effective presentation are vital to making a great first impression.

Staying Power

While first impressions do matter, be sure not to neglect any other aspect of your Web content. Great content inspires loyalty and gives your site staying power. The longer visitors stay on your Web site, the more likely they are to become paying customers—either during their current visit or at some point in the future.

So how do you get visitors to stay? Great content is the key. Creating great content is about much more than ensuring correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation—although this does play a role. Great content is also about clear communication and engendering enthusiasm and engagement.

Your content needs to tell a story—with a beginning, middle, and end—and convey meaning. A story’s meaning is the point you want to get across to the visitor on a particular page. Meaning can derive from anything—from general information about your industry to specific information about your product—or even just a simple call to action. Calls to action can have many purposes—from encouraging a customer to purchase a product to getting a visitor to subscribe to your newsletter. Good, meaningful content compels readers to remain on your site and, ultimately, to become customers.

Because good content tells a story, it needs to have the elements writers use in creating other types of stories, including a hook, some conflict—the customer’s need or want—at least one try-fail cycle—you’ve tried X before, but it did not work—and a resolution or conclusion.

The story you tell is what moves the reader to action. Words that fail to tell a story are just fluff and result in Web-site performance that’s just average or worse rather than spectacular.

Conversions: Landing Pages Versus Product Pages

For Web-site visitors to become customers, they must go beyond being a searcher to becoming a convert. There are many ways to acquire customers, and a conversion can refer to a number of different things—from subscribing to a newsletter to downloading a free ebook to buying a product. The ultimate goal is for a visitor to make a purchase or use your service—whether that’s a one-time purchase or single use or that visitor becomes a regular shopper or subscriber.

Therefore, the content on conversion pages—whether landing pages or product-description pages—must be both stellar and compelling to visitors. While landing pages and product descriptions are similar and both ask for an immediate response, they have slightly different goals. Landing pages are standalone Web pages that deliver a specific call to action relating to a marketing or advertising campaign. Product pages describe a specific product—usually providing more detailed information than landing pages do—include all of your Web site’s navigation options, and may contain multiple calls to action. For example, the call to action on a landing page might simply be: Subscribe to Our Newsletter. A product page might include calls to action that include Add to Cart, Add to Wish List, or Buy Now—among other things.

Landing pages and product pages share these essential elements:

  • strong headline—For a landing page, the headline should be the same as the link text that led to it. For a product page, it is simply the name of the product.
  • subheading—This contains information that supplements the headline. For a landing page, it is a brief summary of what the person who clicked the link will receive. For a product page, it is a single-sentence product description.
  • benefits summary—On a landing page, this explains the benefits of the user’s taking an action. On a product page, it describes the product’s benefits.
  • feature summary—This element usually occurs only on product pages and includes more details regarding the product or service for people who need specifications, ingredients, or more in-depth information.
  • call(s) to action—On a landing page, this is the primary call to action—what you want the reader to do. On a product page, these are various actions a customer can take, as I mentioned earlier.

The content of all these elements is key to the user experience and, therefore, impacts conversion rates. The order in which these elements appear is intentional—based on how the human mind works and the things you need to do to influence people.

Getting People to Return

When visitors leave your Web site, you want them to come back. Whenever possible, offer a thank you with an offer that will encourage them to return. Achieving this is challenging, and companies rarely do this well except during the checkout process.

Many Web sites have popups that appear when visitors move their pointer toward a corner or border of a window as they are about to exit the site. These disrupt the user experience and rarely contain the content the visitor needs. Most of the time, they are just another call to action—“Before you go, subscribe here” or something similar. If you include popups in your Web design at all, they should make a simple statement such as: “Thanks for visiting. We hope to see you again soon.” Don’t make a plea for a customer to remain on your site—instead offer an invitation for the customer to return later on.

User-experience goals such as delivering great content often get buried in the details of design, responsiveness, AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) compliance, and more. While all of these things are important, without great content, the user experience will be less than ideal.

Remember, the things that irritate you and cause you to leave a Web site will also irritate your site’s visitors—just as the things that inspire you to stay on a Web site will inspire your visitors to remain as well. Full-screen popups, insistent calls to action, and content that’s little more than spam turn you off, and they’ll turn off your visitors, too.

Your content is a vital part of your Web site, primarily because of its ability to convert visitors to customers. The way in which you tell your stories and the words you use can make or break the user experience. 

Freelance Business Coach and Writer

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA

Sarah SakerAs a business coach, Sarah specializes in helping SMBs (Small and Midsized Businesses) set up processes for customer support that result in predictable growth. When she’s not coaching or writing, you can find Sarah on her small, but growing family farm.  Read More

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