In today’s digital era, it’s not a stretch to expect that every business understand the importance of user experience (UX)–especially as it relates to your company website. A well-designed and mobile friendly website is, quite simply, table stakes in today’s Internet-fueled world.
When talking about your website, consider this: 96 percent of the time a prospect visits your website they are not ready to buy. What’s more, you’ve got eight seconds or less to get their attention. What are you doing to give them the experience (and the information) they seek when they find their way to your website? The experience you create for them for in that exceptionally short period of time has a big impact on what happens next.
So now my secret is out. I’m a UX freak. I think about user experience all the time. I’m even the person who visits your website and has a less than pleasant experrience, who makes time to write an email or fill out a contact form and tell you about that. That’s why I was interested in Limelight’s recently published 2015 State of the User Experience report. The study, now in its second year, collected data from more than 1,300 adult consumers, all of whom spent—on average—at least five hours per week on line (as if that’s hard to do). The results revealed some interesting and sometimes surprising trends in the habits and preferences of the online user. Let’s take a look–
More Time Spent Online
In something that’s no news to anyone, people are spending more time online than ever before. Go outside, go into any restaurant, airport, mall, or public space, try to count how many people have their noses buried in devices. Then give up, because the number will be too large to keep track of. The increase in the last 12 months has been dramatic, as this graphic from the report illustrates.
Over this past year, the number of people who admitted to spending 15+ hours a week online (not including work-related online usage), rose from 23 percent to almost 45 percent. Cumulatively, those spending more than 10 hours a week online has risen from 36.6 percent in 2014 to 64 percent in 2015. That’s a lot.
Not surprised, you say? What if I told you that, stereotypes aside, it’s not the young’uns leading the charge on increased time spent online—it’s the boomers! Limelight’s data showed Millennials trailed behind the Boomers, in time spent online, 41 percent to 51 percent. A statistical blip or the first signs of a new trend? Does this surprise you? Then I challenge you to pop into your local Apple store and take a quick count as to how many older folks you see there compared to those in the 18-24 age group. Frequent traveler? Look around at your fellow airport patrons—you’ll see massive device adoption by both Boomers and GenXers. Sure, plenty of young people are tethered to their devices, but they aren’t alone in that regard. We are ALL online more, and by and large ALL using our omnipresent devices for that access.
Social and Video Favored, Especially by Millennials
So, what is everyone doing during all that online time every week? In 2014, the split between different activities was minimal with news content coming out ahead by a narrow margin. This year though, as this graphic illustrates, social media sites account for the most activity.
It’s no surprise that video consumption also features strongly, with Millennials naming video and social jointly as their number one online activities.
The influence of video among the Millennial cohort is a factor that I wrote about earlier this year when I highlighted research from a Google/Ipsos study. The study suggested that 98 percent of smartphone-owning Millennials view video content daily on their device. Not only that, they are also likely to be more focused on the video content they’re viewing on their mobile devices than they are when watching TV. Take note marketers—ignoring video is bad. Ignoring mobile optimized video, even worse.
Consistency and Content
Performance and continuity across different devices continued to be priorities for most website users. What was most striking about the survey results however was the increased weight given to the availability of “fresh and updated content.”
This should be something that encourages content marketers everywhere but it should also come with a warning. More content doesn’t equal success, and cramming your blog or website with spammy business jargon and sales’y marketing messages is a sure fire way to drive people away. Content that informs, educates, entertains, and provides value to your reader will help you not only attract website visitors, but ultimately also entice them to do business with you.
Are we Becoming Less Impatient?
How long do you wait these days for a page to load before moving on? Two seconds? Five seconds? Nothing makes me crazier than a slow loading anything, and it’s a killer for any website. Surprisingly, the survey results suggest that user patience may be increasing, with the percentage of those willing to wait more than five seconds increasing from 40.79 percent in 2014 to 51.58 percent this year. This in turn appears to be having a positive impact on brand reputation, with more respondents indicating that they would be less likely to turn to a competitor due to a slow load speed.
A word of caution though for anyone thinking that they can compromise on the performance of their website. The survey also highlights that over this past year mobile users are moving in the opposite direction, with a dramatic drop in those willing to wait for a page to load.
Smartphone usage is exploding, particularly among Millennials and Generation Z, and more of us are researching and shopping while on the move than ever before. Online holiday sales were predicted this season to hit 83 billion, with mobile predicted to drive the majority of visits for the first time ever. Kind of a big deal, no? I don’t know about you, but I’ve not yet set foot in a store for any of my holiday purchases, and at least 50 percent of my purchases have been made from a device. What about you?
The Personal Touch
Users seem to be getting slightly more forgiving when it comes to brands gathering their personal data, and data shows they would rather a website remember their details and serve up a more personalized experience on their next visit.
The increase from 26.7 percent to almost 43 percent in just 12 months is a significant move. The study doesn’t touch on security concerns but, while these are sure to remain, it seems that web users are at least willing to trade some of their personal details for a more personalized experience.
Speaking about the study, Jason Thibeault, senior director of marketing strategy at Limelight had this to say recently, “We have more options than ever—more content, more video, and more shopping. And while patience has increased slightly, people—whether they are Millennials, Gen X or Baby Boomers—all expect a personalized, highly-functioning web experience. If not they will look elsewhere. With the explosion in content, branded entertainment, video, and e-commerce, the stakes are higher than ever.”
With this study still only in its second iteration it’s probably too soon to draw too many firm conclusions from the results. What it does prove though, is how important the website user experience is for users and how fluid the trends surrounding web use can be. It’s vital for brands and marketers who want to attract customers online turn their focus to creating the absolute best user experience possible. We also need to be constantly evaluating the data that’s available to us, as well as feedback from customers, about what makes an online experience a great experience, and using that feedback to drive strategies moving forward. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to be a huge business to leverage big data to help create stellar user experiences. You just have to commit to making it happen, and there are many solutions out there to help you along the way—many of which are incredibly affordable.
All graphics are from The State of the User Experience Report.
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