Do your websites send visitors running for the hills? We might know why…
These days, setting up websites is easier than ever. Where it was once obligatory to hire a developer or possess advanced coding skills yourself, now you can use template website-building platforms like our very own website builder to create a website within minutes.
It’s truly amazing how fast and far website building has come in the past five years. However, just because you have a website live online doesn’t mean it’s serving all of your needs. Many people don’t realise the extent to which websites can work against your goals if it’s not designed correctly and with the user in mind. If you’re looking at your analytics and wondering just why you’re getting such a high bounce rate or so many users are leaving your site within a minute of arriving, you could be making any number of serious errors, from your design and layout to your copy and user interface.
It can be difficult to know just what it is about your website that’s not working for your users, and normally takes a bit of detective work and strategies like AB split testing to figure out what works best. However, if you’re just at the beginning stages optimising your website, here’s a list of the most common reasons why users leave your site.
Nice website, but what do you do?
If your company mission is not clear immediately upon arrival on your homepage, then a website visitor is very unlikely to spend their time figuring it out for themselves. Don’t assume that every visitor to your homepage already knows what you do; make it clear without any clicks or scrolling.
Don’t make your content difficult to read with small fonts and background colours. Likewise, dynamic design is great, but not if it prevents someone from easily reading what you have to say. When in doubt, keep it simple.
It’s too ad-heavy
A page laden with ads, pop-ups and banners could look spammy to a visitor. Don’t sell your site space in the hope of raising funds at the risk of alienating your customer.
Auto-play video or audio
If music or a video plays automatically when a visitor lands on your page, they will almost certainly leave. It’s disrespectful and interruptive—what if they’re in a quiet place and don’t want others to know what website they’re visiting?—as well as a very outdated way to get attention.
No one is going to go to the trouble of downloading a plugin like Flash to watch a video on your website. Use simple embedding platforms like YouTube or Vimeo which everyone is familiar with using.
Your navigation is unintuitive
If someone is looking for your services, contact page or prices, it shouldn’t take them longer than a few seconds to find what they’re looking for. Labyrinthine navigation on websites is not only frustrating, it greatly increases bounce rate.
People don’t necessarily want to give you their email or enter their age to view a piece of their content. If they don’t already like you as a brand or company they’re unlikely to hand this over, so don’t ask for it when they first visit your site. Exceptions to this, of course, are websites for alcohol brands that are legally required to request age confirmation.
Colour palettes are a major way that visitors judge your website upon first visiting. Don’t pick a colour scheme that won’t resonate immediately with your intended audience, but also don’t pick one that’s too loud and distracting.
If your contact page or blog leads to a broken link, a visitor is unlikely to go any further as they will assume your website is out of date or a scam. Make sure all your links are active and not serving as a dead-end to visitors.
Slow to load
It’s unacceptable at this stage for websites to have pages that are slow to load. Don’t heap dynamic features onto your pages if it means that visitors will get bored and leave while those elements are loading.
Ten Easy Ways to Increase Your Website’s Page Speed
Page loading times are crucial to a website’s success. Search engines factor it into their ranking results, and 40% of site visitors typically abandon a site that hasn’t loaded within three seconds.
Here are ten simple yet effective ways to increase page speeds:
Compress graphics. Photos can be reduced to a fraction of their original file size, without looking pixellated. Specify image dimensions too, to save processing time.
HTTP requests are needed for each stylesheet, script, and image. Less is more, so reduce scripts and streamline elements wherever possible.
Building on the last point, 301 redirects involve extra HTTP requests that extend loading times. Choose responsive site frameworks instead.
Enable browser caching
Regular visitors to your site won’t always need to load every page in full. Browser caching will store key attributes for quicker access in the future.
Learn how to minify
These are typically the first port of call for search engines and customers/visitors alike. Eliminate auto-playing media, and keep text/images concise.
It’s easy to get carried away with WordPress plugins, for example. Place substance over style by removing anything that’s not essential to increase page speed.
Choose an efficient theme
Another WordPress tip is to choose a minimalist template. Don’t let form dictate function. Many responsive frameworks are designed for download speed.
Sites needing to interrogate databases will slow down with every revision, macro, and extra sheet. Clean up databases to accelerate interrogations.
Use powerful servers
Tips For Streamlining Websites
The precise composition of the algorithms used by Google and Bing to calculate their search results is a closely guarded secret. However, we do know page loading times are a key factor in determining where websites rank compared to rivals. Fast-loading websites are viewed by the search engine giants as being efficient and mobile-optimised, and therefore less likely to be abandoned before the homepage has loaded up.
Fighting the bloat
Unfortunately, it’s easy for website code to become bloated and inefficient. This can happen as a new site is being developed, or over time as additions and plugins are bolted on. It may occur by accident, through a lack of care because the developer doesn’t understand streamlined coding processes, or for a variety of other reasons. Irrespective of its cause, the end result is a slow website without any additional style or functionality.
Streamlining website code is important if individual web pages are breaching the psychological three-second display times, identified by analysts as the point at which audiences begin abandoning a download. Below are UK2’s tips for ensuring that your website code is optimised and minimised:
1. Avoid intensive multimedia content.
Parallax scrolling looks stunning, but it takes a while to download and render. Autoplaying video files are one of the biggest drains on bandwidth, as well as being a leading cause of site abandonment. Even photographs will bog down a web page if they haven’t been compressed and minified. Remember that every KB of data has to be downloaded by first-time audiences.
2. Reduce plugins.
Websites constructed using WordPress are customisable with over 55,000 plugins, handling specific tasks and functions. It’s tempting to run amok in the WordPress plugin store, but these code elements quickly consume available resources. Ask yourself whether proposed (or pre-installed) plugins are absolutely necessary. If they are vital, can you find a more streamlined alternative to the existing choices?
3. Optimise CSS.
Cascading Style Sheets create structured website layouts, rather like HTML. Also, like HTML, CSS can quickly become bloated if a lot of code needs to be downloaded. Useful tips include using single-line notation rather than block notation to save parsing time and adding a table of contents to simplify future editing work. Some people also like to highlight specific sections with keys such as =!font.
4. Get a second opinion.
If you’ve been involved with a website’s development from the flowchart and sketch stages, it’s often difficult to view it from a fresh perspective. Asking a trusted associate to look through the code might quickly identify areas of duplicated, superfluous or even badly-assembled programming. Act on suggestions, and don’t rule out a total website redesign if the code is too messy to resolve easily.
5. Clean up website HTML.
There are free online tools which will scan a section of HTML and clean it up. As above, this can be useful if you’re struggling to see it with fresh eyes. Websites like HTML Washer will fix or remove bad tags and attributes, convert the markup to HTML5, and reformat the text with line breaks and indents. They’ll also reduce the number of tags to essential attributes like <a href>, <h1> and <ul>.
6. Experiment and rollback.
Version Control Systems are great for beta testing site improvements, without committing you to any adjustments. If your first attempt at simplifying website code has only made loading times or functionality worse, undo the changes. For existing platforms, it’s crucial to test a shadow site rather than experimenting with a live website which your customers might be trying to access.