User experience has become a marketing industry buzzword but it is so much more than that. Publishers that pay careful attention to user experience will thrive where others fail, increase their ad revenues where others see a decrease.
How user experience affects revenue
Before we explore why user experience is so important in the context of site monetization, we should be clear on what “user experience” is? According to the Nielsen Norman Group –
“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.
I really like the expanded explanation of what an “exemplary user experience” is because I think it helps shift our focus in a subtle, although important direction:
The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company’s offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.
A good user experience is important because it removes obstacles to, or even facilitates, more effective site monetization and higher revenue. User experience can mean the difference between a ghost town and a thriving and engaged community of users. It is critical but don’t just take my word for it. Jakob Nielsen explained why usability is to essential on the Web in his article “Usability 101: Introduction to Usability”:
On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a website is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website’s information is hard to read or doesn’t answer users’ key questions, they leave. Note a pattern here? There’s no such thing as a user reading a website manual or otherwise spending much time trying to figure out an interface. There are plenty of other websites available; leaving is the first line of defense when users encounter a difficulty.
The first law of e-commerce is that if users cannot find the product, they cannot buy it either.
Causes of poor user experiences
The user’s experience is plagued by challenges. Accumulated banner blindness and poor ad placements mean that consumers don’t even see a substantial number of ads. Viewability, in particular, has become a new focus for ad performance metrics. Banner blindness means that consumers simply don’t notice even objectively prominent ads. Viewability tackles the flip-side of that coin: factors that include ads that are placed in less prominent or traffic parts of a website or may load too slowly to catch consumers’ attention.
Other factors which contribute to a bad user experience include slow website load times and disruptive ad products which interrupt the consumer’s journey through your site. Slow site load times also contributes to poor viewability and the IAB recommends that publishers include this as part of their audits of their websites in order to optimize both viewability, specifically, and the user experience, generally.
All of this begs the question why a poor user experience is a problem? According to “8 Tips for Better Online Advertising UX” published by the Interaction Design Foundation –
Advertising is a commercial necessity for any number of application providers and website owners. Yet, the User Experience of such advertising is often terrible. Done badly, online advertising can drive your users away in droves.
We have also seen that a poor user experience, especially caused by badly executed online advertising, is a significant incentive for consumers to start using ad blockers. The dramatic rise of ad blocker usage, in turn, has precipitated the current revenue crisis facing most publishers.
How you can improve the user experience
Don’t interrupt users
Your ads should be carefully designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding content so they don’t disrupt the users’ experience of your site. Instead of bombarding consumers with ads that try to distract them from the site’s content, choose ad products that enhance their experience and help them find what they are looking for.
Make relevant offers
Consumers usually visit websites because they are looking for something. Ads on your site should contain offers that are relevant to what those consumers are looking for. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, choose an advertising technology that can deliver ads based on consumers’ needs. In-image advertising, for example, draws on user behavior data and Big Data to select more relevant ads from connected ad servers and present more relevant and engaging ads to consumers.
Design for different form factors
Not everyone visits your site using a desktop browser with the same screen resolution. In fact, a substantial number of consumers will probably visit your website using their smartphones which come in different shapes and sizes. Your site content and ads must adapt to these different form factors without harming the user experience in the process. Consider how your content and the ads on your site can be better formatted to best suit these various form factors.
At the recent Facebook F8 conference, Facebook revealed that its users click on content formatted using its Instant Article format 20% more often that mobile Web pages. These users are then 70% less likely to abandon the article because the experience is much faster. To add to this, there is also deeper engagement within these articles and users share Instant Articles 30% more often than mobile Web articles. The reason for these remarkable results is that Facebook’s Instant Articles format creates a better reading experience for user.
Use clear and simpler calls to action
It sounds obvious but so many publishers make this simple mistake: create clear and simpler calls to action on your site. If your user is confused by which option to choose to engage with you, the odds are that s/he won’t.
As we pointed out in our article titled “Why A Call To Action Is Like Dating” –
The purpose of a CTA is to entice a prospective customer to click on your ad and learn more about what you do or even experience your product or service. Why? Well of course you want to sell something but, more importantly, you want to form a new relationship and earn a new customer. CTAs aren’t limited to prospective customers. They can also be a way to cultivate a stronger relationship with existing customers, especially if you two haven’t been talking much lately.
Design your calls to action with your user very much in mind. How will your site look to your user? Is your call to action prominent enough to stand out and your offer obviously compelling enough to persuade your user to act on it? Unless your answer to both questions is an emphatic “yes”, you have work to do.
Great user experiences boost engagement and revenue
Consumers increasingly want better designed and more engaging experiences. They are increasingly mobile and expect beautiful experiences on their varied mobile devices. If you can deliver a great user experience to them, they will be more receptive to viewing ads (especially if those ads offer real value too). This, in turn, leads to higher ad revenue simply because more of your users are noticing and engaging with ads on your site.
Ultimately, when you deliver a great user experience, your users will return to your site for more great content; see more ads and engage more often with them. That, of course, means more ad revenue and happier customers which is a win-win.