James Matthews, Principal Consultant
9th June 2020
Last month, in a somewhat unprecedented step, Google gave advanced warning of a new algorithm update due for release in 2021. They cited the effects of Covid-19 and wanting to provide the necessary tools for developers to prepare for the update as two reasons for doing this.
The ‘Page experience’ update is yet another significant move towards rewarding websites that offer users a great experience.
User experience criteria such as page load speed and mobile ‘friendliness’ have long been factors in how well a website ranks and recently Google’s own Chrome team announced Core Web Vitals – metrics to measure the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of a site.
But this new update will raise the importance of User Experience even further, combining Core Web Vitals with Google’s existing signals for page experience to provide a single picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.
What does it mean?
Essentially, Google will be assessing how usable a website is. In Google’s own words …
“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
How to prepare
The core purpose of this update is to make sure that robust, user-friendly websites rank higher than sites that aren’t user friendly, or even worse, employ ‘dark UX’ tactics to drive clicks.
The good news is that, with Google’s early announcement, there’s plenty of time to ensure your website follows best-practice user-centred design. But in the meantime, here’s four things you can do today to assess how your own website fairs in anticipation of the update, from understanding user behaviour to site performance analysis.
Probably the most critical performance factor, website page load times can have a huge impact on abandonment rates. For example, the probability of a visitor bounce increases by 32% for webpages that take up to 3 seconds to load and pages with a load time of up to 6 seconds increase their probability of bounce by an astounding 106%.
At best a poorly displaying website will damage brand credibility. At worst it will be completely inaccessible for users.
We regularly undertake cross-device testing to ensure our clients’ websites perform optimally across popular devices and screens sizes. Browser and device emulators such as BrowserStack make it easy to identify layout or accessibility issues for development teams to address.
Clickmap and heatmap analysis
Whilst traditional website analytics help you analyse traffic data, clickmap and heatmapping tools like Crazyegg and Hotjar will show you exactly how people are engaging with key pages of your website.
Once integrated into your site, and after a couple of weeks of web traffic, these platforms can show you every user click and scroll. And this behaviour mapping will quickly show you if users are missing key content or calls-to-action or, important for page experience measurements, clicking on static elements expecting something to happen.
Avoiding ‘dark UX’ patterns
Originally coined in 2010 by UX specialist Harry Brignall, a ‘Dark UX Pattern’ is described as, “a user interface which is carefully and intentionally crafted to trick a user into doing things they might not otherwise do”. In reality, websites often employ such tactics unintentionally.
Below is a good illustration of an interface usability flaw – an install pop-up bar pushing page elements down causing the user to accidentally click on ‘Yes, place my order’ rather than ‘No, go back’.
It’s likely that Google will be penalising sites that repeatedly load in new UI elements or adverts that get in the way of users consuming content, so it’s worth reviewing your own site to make sure you’re not using tactics that could frustrate or mislead the user.
At Ethology we have always worked with our clients to optimise their digital experiences by implementing best-practice User Experience and usability principles and understanding the behaviour of end users.
The latest Google update is hugely significant. It recognises the importance of User Experience, further rewarding robust, user-centred design and potentially forcing brands that fail to put the user first to rethink their approach.
To find out more about how we combine analytics, clickmap and heatmap analysis and website performance data to inform the creation and evolvement of engaging online experiences, drop us a line.
We help brands across the globe improve their customer experience. Get in touch to speak to one of our consultants.