User experience in the customer journey is critical, especially now that consumers are moving to mobile to complete their purchases. While the majority of purchase completion still occurs on desktop computers, more and more users are employing their mobile devices – whether it’s a cell phone or a tablet – to conduct product research. What this means for businesses is that they must optimize their website not only for mobile responsiveness but also for website flow. Mobile responsiveness refers to a website’s ability to adapt to the different sizes of different devices, browsers, software operating systems, and the like. Google also uses a site’s responsiveness as a ranking factor in their search engine algorithm (the secret, proprietary, complex, and sophisticated formula that employs AI and machine learning to rank websites based on their relevance to the initial search query).

When we talk about website flow, we refer to how easily users are able to complete any number of tasks that the website is intending them to perform. To be more specific, it refers to the quality of navigation. It is encouraged that websites conduct user experience surveys to determine how well their website flows. 

One example of this is Peter Morville’s User Experience “Honeycomb” model. This model states that a website should be all of the following:

  1. Useful
  2. Usable
  3. Desirable
  4. Valuable
  5. Findable
  6. Credible 
  7. Accessible

To test whether a website completes these requirements, volunteers are needed, anywhere between four and six volunteers. They are given a certain number of tasks to complete, and they must record how long it took them to complete said task. An example of a task could be, “Find the company’s phone number on the website.” Users would then visit the website and try to find this information, recording how long it takes them to do this. 

Below is an example of a matrix to record time completion.

Then, the volunteers must evaluate their experience. Below is an example of this Satisfaction matrix.

Three key factors to keep in mind are a website’s consistency, simplicity, and context. 

As an example, a website’s look and feel are considered “consistent” if its navigation links remain consistent no matter what page you find yourself in:

Pictured above is the homepage for Note where the navigation bar is located.

Pictured above is the “Brands” section. Note how the navigation bar remains the same, no matter where you are on the website.

A website’s simplicity refers to not giving users too many options – menu options for example – when they’re navigating the site. This is directly tied in with a site’s consistency. 

Finally, a website’s context refers to the usage of indicators letting the navigator know where they are located on the website. The above example of shows you a website not doing this. In the second image, the “BRANDS” tab should be highlighted, showing the user that they are currently on the Brands page.

These are factors to keep in mind prior to publishing a website. A company’s website represents its competencies or lack thereof. If the site leads to a poor user experience, the potential customer is unlikely to return. I recently wrote an article about this very subject last week:

The World Wants, Needs, Begs for Squishmallows, so why is it so hard to find them?

In the article, I talk about the disillusionment that Squishmallows fans experienced when the official Squishmallows site crashed. Website flow is crucial, and it’s important that companies conduct thorough user testing before having their sites go live.