A website should be treated as if it’s an employee of your business. It should be working hard for you and giving you a return on your investment.

I’ve put together some UX tips which will help increase sales and leads through your website.

1. Label your icons

User interfaces which have a navigation comprising of icons with no labels are – in my opinion – terrible. These types of design decisions can be frustrating for users, as they won’t know what page they are navigating to until they press the button and see the page.

Your choice of icons might initially make sense to you and other stakeholders, but not necessarily to your users. You should always try to support an icon with a label. Constrained by mobile? Prioritise your navigation and content to give you enough space to provide clarity. Only in worst-case scenarios should you use icons without labels, ones which are ubiquitous (e.g. Home to go to the homepage, the floppy disk icon to indicate save functionality).

A known controversial icon is the ‘Hamburger’. This is found on many tablet and mobile apps today – but do people know what those three little lines actually mean? Back in 2016, Spotify ditched it and found that it increased user engagement on their navigation by 30%. That’s massive. I recommend you follow suit and experiment with different types of navigation. This, coupled with labelling, will take the mystery out of your navigation, lower page bounces and increase engagement.

2. Drop the drop-down

Drop-down lists were a user interface staple for many years back when the desktop was king. Now, mobile rules – and your UI must adapt. You should review your forms and look to remove, wherever possible, the drop-down. Why? To this day there are lots of forms still using drop-down lists to hold title field values like – Mrs, Mr, Miss, Ms, Dr, etc. On mobile, you need to tap the drop-down once to open it to make a selection, then tap, hold and scroll a little (or a lot depending on the size of the list) – and, finally, tap again to select an item. Why not change the drop-down for a collection of buttons? To do this, the user has to make just the one tap. Done. These small changes across a form can shave valuable seconds off a user’s journey. Remember – the quicker and easier the journey, the better the user experience and conversion.

However, you can’t do this for every drop-down. For example, if you ship products internationally – don’t convert your 50+ item country list into buttons. By doing this you will create too many buttons, which could trigger choice paralysis for the user. Strike a balance and choose carefully where you implement this.

3. Get personal

When someone visits your website – identify their user group to tailor their digital experience.

Imagine running a vinyl record site. When a user signs up to your website, you could ask what their favourite music genre is. If they answer ‘rock’, then use this information to personalise their experience on your site. Maybe do something like Amazon and start suggesting Led Zeppelin/other rock classics. Alternatively – be subtle. Tweak the microcopy, images and web styles to target rock fans directly.

Use cookies to handle people who don’t register. With the example above, you could store the last 5 records the user has viewed within a cookie on their device. When they next visit the website, alter the homepage to show a promotion on one or more of those particular records.

With personalisation, the customer gets a better user experience as they see content/promotions which are relevant to them. The organisation/business objectives benefit too, because with better UX – you get better engagement and conversion.

There are a couple of points to note. Firstly – don’t overdo it. Showing you know too much about a user can turn people away. Secondly, remember GDPR. Be upfront about how you use people’s data to give them a better experience.

4. Carousels are pointless (most of the time)

Have you ever visited a website and seen a carousel of services, and fanatically clicked through each one to learn more? No? Me either. In fact – most users don’t bother with them and only ever see the first slide.

Automatically scrolling carousels don’t offer a solution here. Your average user won’t have the patience to wait and watch a carousel to scroll all of the way around. Speed and accessibility is everything. It’s impossible to get the this right for all users without it being too slow or fast, as everyone reads at different rates.

Carousels are often used to appease business stakeholders who want their product/service front and centre on the homepage. Gently remind them that the homepage isn’t as important as it once was. Each product and service should have its own landing page. This frees up the homepage to be more brand-focused or personalised to individual user groups.

All this said, carousels still have a place – but I would recommend that you only use them when you know the user really wants to see the content. For example, they work well on services like Netflix as their users are very engaged looking for something to watch on TV.

5. Carry out user testing

Listening to your users has the ability to unlock hidden insights. What you could consider minor and insignificant has the ability to make the experience of using your website better for users – and the capability to increase conversion on a business objective. These amendments could be as subtle as changing a piece of microcopy, an image or maybe the colour of a primary call to action button. Whatever changes you make I recommend you A/B or multi-variant test them. This is where a portion of your traffic is sent to one version, while another sees the new version. Run the test over a given amount of time and then promote the winner.

User testing doesn’t always have to take place on your live website with live users. Some companies prefer to use or set up user testing labs – and ask people, usually of their user base demographic, to complete a goal with no guidance. Each session is recorded and replayed and then those insights are then transposed onto the live journey. This method of testing can prove quite costly, so I would recommend looking at a user-testing website like usertesting.com or www.userzoom.com.