Anyone who deals with online marketing, content marketing and SEO will stumble across the term “usability” sooner or later. But then you often read about user experience, UX or web usability. This quickly makes things unclear and opaque again, although it is clear to us in essence what is meant by this: user-friendliness should always come before anything else in a website, software or app.
In today’s blog post, you’ll find out how exactly these terms differ from each other, what you actually mean by them, and which tips should always be followed in this context.
What is web usability?
If you look up the English word, which now also exists in German as an anglicism, you will find the common German translation. Usability means user-friendliness. In the IT context, this refers to the usability of a product or software. There is also a series of standards with the cumbersome name DIN EN ISO 9241. Among other things, it specifies three important requirements for user-friendliness:
Usability or web usability can therefore be seen as a kind of quality criterion. It determines how good – or bad – the user experience is, for example, when visiting a website, shopping in an online store or using an app. So if usability describes ease of use or even user experience, where is the distinction from the many other terms? After all, these terms are often used synonymously by laymen. So it’s time for a few conceptual distinctions.
The first distinction is quickly made. While usability in general describes the usability of anything, web usability in particular focuses on the usability of web products. Whether this is a website, an online platform, a web store or an Internet app.
As we have just seen, usability and web usability describe the quality of the user experience. This can also be translated as “user experience”. The term “UX” is merely an abbreviation of “user experience”. Experience” is commonly abbreviated as “XP” in Internet jargon anyway, which means that “UX” is more readily associated with “user experience” than “UE”, for example. The latter is, after all, the common abbreviation for “usability engineering”, i.e. the science behind creating the highest possible usability.
The difference between web usability and user experience must be emphasized. And while it seems obvious from what has been written so far that both describe the same thing, there is an important distinguishing feature. Where web usability refers purely to the usability of a website, user experience always takes a holistic approach. The user experience thus not only evaluates whether the website is user-friendly, but also how the user experiences it overall.
This also includes the web design, the color scheme, the external appearance, the product presentation, and also generally the way the company presents itself online. So you could say that web usability is a subfield of user experience. UX therefore always has the big picture of a website in mind and also measures whether, for example, a company’s USPs are sufficiently highlighted in the online store. Whether advantages such as free shipping or delivery on the same day of order are sufficiently pointed out. Or whether accompanying images (360-degree views) or product videos are used to promote sales.
In summary: Good web usability focuses on the technical aspects of a website or store. What is measured here is how easy it is to shop, while the user experience aims to ensure that the offering stands out from the competition in a holistic way.
From an SEO perspective, the answer should be self-explanatory. Where a website makes the user experience as attractive as possible in its entirety, this will also be reflected in corresponding KPIs. High user experience can therefore generate longer dwell times on the website. More interactions. A greater willingness to click on more in-depth links within the website. And in the last instance, a particularly positive UX can also lower the bounce rate and increase the conversion rate. Thus, the user experience is exactly as described in Google’s corporate philosophy. There, the very first and most important point literally states: The user comes first, everything else follows by itself.
In other words, the better the user experience on your website / in your store, the more your KPIs and your conversion rate will improve, but also the more relevance and, in the final step, visibility in the results lists search engine giant Google will attribute to you.
Tips to increase web usability and user experience (UX)
So, in the second part of this blog post, let’s take a look at five practical tips on how you can ensure the best possible user experience. We’ll focus on a website, or more specifically, an online store.
Go for what’s proven to work!
In the same way that advertising psychology has gained important insights into how best to introduce a product, there are countless studies on how a website can optimally unfold its effect. Of course, it can make sense here and there to create something new. So there is certainly some truth in the statement that no progress is possible without innovation.
Nevertheless, certain conventions regarding the structure of an online store are important for the user experience. The moment you adhere to them, the UX finally increases, if only because the user knows 100% intuitively how he or she has to operate the website.
This includes the following points, among others:
- According to a study by Nielsen Norman Group, a user is 89% more likely to remember your “brand” if the logo is placed on the left side of the header.
- A search box to find specific products in your store should always be placed in the center or top right of the header to meet user expectations.
- If something can be clicked, this should also be recognizable by the color design and also contain a certain consistency.
Show the user what is important!
Whether it’s the home page of your website, or a landing page that a user might use to find you: The website will always contain different elements. Besides the header, these are navigation bars, menus, images, text blocks, etc.
Within texts, accents are possible through headings. In addition, headings of different sizes can provide another level of visual hierarchy. If internal links, i.e. the request to explore a certain product category in a store, are to be kept as a call-to-action, then eye-catching buttons should be used for this, which are consistent throughout the entire website.
In short, by visually labeling all elements on the site according to their relevance, you can show the user what’s important. And that also increases the user experience quite significantly. However, when viewed through SEO glasses, you will also benefit from this with the various search engines.
Take the user by the hand!
It is true that the creation of a visual hierarchy mentioned above is also a form of taking the user by the hand. But for an optimal user experience you have to go a few steps further.
For example, you should always keep in mind the questions with which a user has come to your website or your store. If a possible question is not answered immediately and quickly, you should ensure with an intuitive guidance and logical navigation that the user gets the answer within a few clicks. And this on your website and not via the back button and another hit from his result list. Otherwise your bounce rate will increase and your ranking may suffer.
Therefore, menu and navigation on the website should be kept as clear as possible. Limit yourself to the categories that are absolutely necessary, and ideally create new supercategories to bring the user without detours to the goal. But never forget that there are countless ways a user could come to your website. Under no circumstances should you assume at a certain point of your website that your visitor already knows what it’s all about. Taking the user by the hand also means that it should always be made clear very quickly and unambiguously what exactly the topic of the website is via the store name, logo, short slogan in the header or even certain images.
Put what is important to the left! If the previous tips were probably nothing new for you, we have a very important tip here. This comes from a wide-ranging study by the Nielsen Norman Group on the subject of eye tracking. This usability test, which measured the eye movement of users on desktop PCs, but also on mobile devices (smartphone, tablet, etc.), brought to light an important finding:
Users scan the World Wide Web with a very specific pattern. And this pattern is predictable. The content of a website is analyzed like an “F” within a few milliseconds. In other words, a user scans relevant content from left to right (the top stroke of the F), then moves back to the left and scans downward (the vertical stroke of the F), and finally performs a final scan at the horizontal level (the last missing stroke of the F).
So this means that information that is on the right is perceived much less. Unless, of course, the content on the left manages to capture the user’s interest within this scan process, which often lasts only one or two seconds. It is therefore all the more important that you always place convincing elements such as the immediate naming of your USP or a strong call-to-action on the left.
Finally, the best user experience won’t help you if the user is too skeptical about your offer at the end of the visit and therefore refrains from using it. It is therefore all the more important that you do everything you can to create trust in the final step. We have already mentioned the very first step: Place the most important unique selling points of your offer, which clearly distinguish you from the competition, as visibly as possible on the website.
Whether this is directly in the header in the form of a short slogan or following the F-pattern as present as possible in the upper left corner is irrelevant. The main thing is that the trust-building measures catch the user’s eye in the first few seconds.
In this context, seals of approval are of course also eye-catching and effective. For example, the “Trusted Shops” button. Or a TÜV seal. Or a button with a faded in (but then please as perfect as possible) rating score of a corresponding provider. In any case, you create a high degree of trust through visualizations of familiar things. This can also include, for example, displaying the logos of companies whose payments you accept in the footer. Or the companies you use for shipping.
You can also offer deeper insights into your company to build trust. For example, with an “About Us” page or a virtual company tour or through a sub-page on the company philosophy. A blog in which you also position yourself as an expert on your topic and deal with and prepare central topics in the form of guides also works on several levels. On the one hand, each blog post is positioned to certain keywords – and thus also another chance that you will be found. And on the other hand, the expert status creates even more trust in you.
In this blog post we showed you what the online marketing terms usability, user experience, UX and web usability are all about. Not only did we clearly distinguish the terms from each other, but we also explained why it is so important to create the perfect user experience in the digital competition for attention. We also presented five practical tips for you.