September 24, 2020 Content | Websites

Corporate reputation is too important to risk poor UX


By Chris Henson

The user experience (UX) of a corporate website can significantly influence audiences' perception of a company, yet many companies overlook this aspect of their website. Our latest research reveals that while 97% of the capital market consider the ease of a corporate site’s navigation important, only 7% of websites meet this expectation.

The purpose of a corporate website is to engage audiences in a conversation about why your company matters. Done well, a website can drive the business and brand and help build long-term relationships and trust with stakeholders. An intuitive user experience, including a logical site structure and navigation, responsive design and accessible content, plays a vital role in delivering an effective website. However, our latest annual Webranking research highlights that the corporate sites of Europe's largest publicly-listed companies are falling far short of audiences' UX expectations. Of the 900 websites ranked in our research this year:

  • 63% are at least somewhat difficult to navigate
  • 64% have too many items in the navigation
  • 48% have an inconsistent navigation that makes it unclear where you are on the site

There's no value to your content if it can't be found, and poorly organised content can erode confidence in the organisation behind the website. Good UX needs to be the vehicle driving user journeys, and major website improvements are required for companies to offer a seamless digital experience.

Help your website audiences with these five tips

1. Don't just rely on search

Internal search engines can be fantastic tools for presenting visitors with relevant content. A good search engine will return relevant results and sift through different content types such as pages, documents and press releases. However, your website should not be overly reliant on internal search as an intuitive navigation is a far quicker way for visitors to orientate themselves and access information. 

A clear site structure and page layout will help guide users to content and can be an effective way to communicate company priorities. Swedish pulp and paper manufacturer Holmen tackle this well. Their navigation items are recognisable and well-ordered under subheadings, the content is structured into robust blocks so it's easy to follow, and the breadcrumb trail and highlighted top navigation shows a visitor exactly where they are on the site. There's room for improvement as the site can feel quite simplistic and headings are sometimes overlaid on images which impacts accessibility, but it's a solid example of a consistent design.

Visual feedback is also important in aiding the navigation experience and making your website as usable as possible. UK transport operator The Go-Ahead Group manage the visual complexity of their website by adding motion, with subtle cues such as a small + sign on the menu which opens to reveal a third level navigation. These touches make the site, and company behind it, feel more reliable as motion helps to gently guide visitors in the right direction. 

2. Make your website accessible for all visitors 

Accessibility is a crucial part of UX and inclusive web design, and existing regulation such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) is a good place to start. At a minimum, we recommend ensuring visitors can navigate through a website with their keyboards, videos with audio content need to contain subtitles or captions, and colour schemes must be implemented with visually-impaired users in mind. Additionally, text embedded in images should be available in HTML or with a text alternative for screen readers to be able to do their work.

Speed is another important element of accessibility. 96% of the investors, analysts and business journalists who responded to our recent Capital Market survey ranked page-loading speeds as important when using corporate sites. If your site is let down by its responsiveness, your accessibility efforts will be undermined as the longer the page-loading time, the higher the probable bounce rate, particularly on mobile. Despite this, barely half of the websites we tested for page speed registered an adequate loading score. A slow website risks building a negative impression of your company's service and technical capabilities.

3. Keep it simple

The user experience is not where you should unleash your creativity on the corporate website. While we have long been banging the drum on the areas where it's appropriate to dial up creativity, your website should always feel seamless and easy to navigate. For instance, don't break with convention for your nomenclature - aim instead for recognisable labelling. In recent years, Tesco's Sustainability report has been called the 'Little Helps Plan'; this is in line with their branding but adds a layer of complexity for corporate audiences who place greater value on the rapid access of information.

Companies such as Equinor and BP have sought to stand out from the crowd by deploying a left-hand navigation. This solution, while innovative, often causes unnecessary clutter by drawing a user's attention away from the content on the page.

"Part of the problem with left-hand navigation is that it's always in your eyeline, disrupting the page. The visual noise this creates becomes a distraction. A corporate website can begin to feel more like a tool or an intranet and detract from the story the company is trying to tell."

- John Anderson, Executive Creative Director, Comprend


4. 'Don't make me think'

Steve Krug's famous UX mantra is as true today as it was twenty years ago. When visiting your corporate website, users should be able to ‘get it’ - what it is and how to use it - without expending any mental effort. Consistent and conventional design principles are important so that a user can instinctively understand how your website works, which enables them to consider where to go next without delay. Examples of inconsistent design we observed in our review include menu items opening as PDFs or bringing visitors unexpectedly to another website. This will only cause confusion and frustration for your visitors who are coming to your site to vet you for decisions on employment, investing, partnering and purchasing etc. 

5. Be mobile-first

It's important to structure and design your website with responsiveness in mind. Designing with a mobile-first approach is key to ensuring your content is findable on your website and external search engines, as Google's bots crawl and index websites based primarily on mobile performance. To learn more, take a look at our article on implementing a mobile-first approach.

How we can help

We believe that a corporate website is never done. Good UX plays a critical role in informing and inspiring the audiences that matter and it's something that needs to be reviewed regularly as sites adapt and change. We offer companies a wide range of UX services, including accessibility and UX audits, audience mapping, website designs, user testing, and content reviews. Please get in touch if you would like to hear more about how we can help improve the UX of your website and support your corporate reputation. 

John Anderson

Executive Creative Director (UK)

john.anderson@comprend.com

+44 (0)20 8609 4901

Helena Wennergren

Head of Research

helena.wennergren@comprend.com

+46 70 971 12 10

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