People's opinions about user experience (UX) are often inconsistent with their actions when browsing online.
Clutch surveyed 612 people to learn about their website browsing habits and opinions about the UX of top websites.
We found that when people browse online, they often make a compromise between a good user experience – intuitive interface and appealing design – and the content on the page. They value a website with interesting content more than one with a positive UX.
Businesses can use this report to identify best practices to create an excellent user experience on their websites.
- Nearly one-third of people (30%) used Facebook the most in the past month. Others used YouTube (18%), Amazon (10%), and Gmail (7%) the most.
- More people visit websites to browse images (14%) than to read an article thoroughly (6%).
- People believe Amazon has the best UX (21%) compared to other websites visited the most, such as Facebook (16%), YouTube (15%), and Gmail (9%).
- Nearly half of website users (48%) say they would return to a website if they found its content useful.
- Unreliability (24%) and slow load time (20%) are people's top website frustrations.
- Most people (54%) would stop using a website for a particular session because of slow load time.
- About half of website users (51%) say pop-ups would make them stop using a website permanently.
People Browse Online Using Mobile Devices
People prefer to use their mobile devices to browse online, primarily to communicate with others.
Almost half of respondents (47%) use a mobile device the most when browsing websites.
Just over one-third of people (35%) browse websites on their laptop or desktop.
Mobile web browsing may be popular because people need to look up information on the go.
For example, an employee who wants to grab a cup of coffee before work may use his or her mobile device to search the location and hours of the nearest Dunkin' Donuts.
Mobile devices make online content immediately accessible to website users.
People Browse Online to Communicate
The main why reason people go online is to communicate with others (29%).
People also go online to look up specific information (21%), browse images (14%), make a purchase (12%), skim articles or headlines (12%), and read articles thoroughly (6%).
People mostly browse websites to communicate with others; however, they communicate using different platforms.
Social Media Sites Are More Popular Than Email Platforms
People are more likely to visit social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn than email platforms such as Gmail or Yahoo.
Facebook (30%) and Youtube (18%) are the websites people visit the most.
By contrast, people use email less frequently. Less than 10% of website users visit Gmail (7%) and Yahoo (6%) the most.
Rahul Kondi, a senior UX designer at Lollypop Design Studio in Bangalore, India, believes that mobile apps explain the usage disparity between social media and email communications.
“People are always on the move and checking their email on their phones,” Kondi said. “The only time they check email on the web is if they’re looking for a really old email.”
People’s website browsing habits also vary according to their intent and a website's function. For example, people behave differently on an email site versus an e-commerce site.
“Gmail is a productivity tool, task-based, and functional with communication. Facebook is more pervasive: It interrupts our lives through its clever system of triggers and notifications,” said Stu Collett, founding partner at Super User Studio, an experience and digital product design consultancy in the United Kingdom.
For example, people visit Amazon when they want to make a purchase, making it the most popular e-commerce site (10%).
Although only 12% of people say making a purchase is the main reason for visiting a website, many of those website users (43%) visit Amazon to do so.
Social media sites outrank email and e-commerce sites, but people visit sites based on their intent.
Amazon Has the Best User Experience Among Most Popular Websites
People prefer Amazon to Facebook when it comes to user experience.
Overall, though, most people (83%) said Facebook and YouTube offer a particularly good user experience, meaning they are easy to use, have a clear interface, and have an appealing design.
Website users also indicate that Amazon (78%), Gmail (73%), Netflix (60%), and Instagram (47%) have good UX.
Amazon, however, has the best UX among top websites.
Others think Facebook (16%), YouTube (15%), and Netflix (9%) have the best UX.
Amazon benefits from its e-commerce functionality. E-commerce sites such as Amazon are more intuitive to use than a social platform such as Facebook.
“Generally, the e-commerce experience is more straightforward. It’s built out of small design patterns that you’d find across all the websites,” said Dennis Lenard, managing partner at Creative Navy, a design agency based in London that focuses on UX and UI. “It’s very difficult to be put in a position where you’d surprise and confuse the user.”
People think multiple websites have good UX but prefer the usability of e-commerce platforms, which gives Amazon an edge over social media platforms.
Website Users Overlook Complexity of Facebook’s UX
Some people (13%) ranked Facebook's UX as the worst among the most visited websites such as Amazon, YouTube, and Gmail. This is at odds with Facebook's popularity: 83% of people visit Facebook at least once a month.
By contrast, 8% of people think YouTube’s UX is the worst, and 6% of people rank Amazon's UX the worst.
One reason website users struggle with Facebook is the platform’s complexity.
“Higher-ranking websites are also some of the most complex ones,” Lenard said. “The things you can do on Facebook and YouTube are much more complex than what you can do on Netflix.”
Some UX challenges, however, are not enough to deter people from visiting the site.
People Value Content Over UX
People are willing to compromise user experience for content, exchanging a sub-optimal user experience on a website for the reward of its content.
Almost half of website users (48%) say that useful content is the main reason they return to a website.
About a quarter of people (24%) return to a website that is easy to navigate, while 12% come back to a site used by their friends and peers.
“Oftentimes, website users accept a compromise on user experience for the benefit of better or more content," Lenard said. "That’s really the main driver behind things like YouTube.”
If a site’s content meets people's needs, only certain UX barriers will stop them from visiting.
Unreliable Pages and Slow Load Times Are the Top Frustrations People Experience On Websites
People have 2 primary frustrations when browsing online:
- Page unreliability (24%)
- Slow load time (20%)
Pop-up forms (15%), advertisements (13%), and paywalls or forms (10%) also frustrate people when they browse online.
Unreliable pages disrupt people through frequent error messages, broken links, or glitchy tech. A common example is a 404 Error.
Page speed is another frustration, particularly for people who are browsing the web on smartphones and want access to information immediately.
“You can never control how someone is going to be able to connect; if they’re on 3G or on the metro,” said Brian Lacey, CEO at Mobomo, the design firm responsible for NASA’s Solar Eclipse Tracker in 2017. “With so many distractions out there, if someone has to wait more than 3 seconds, they’re going to exit out and do something else.”
The abundance of high-quality content online means that businesses need to meet their user's needs – and fast.
Top Website Frustrations Lead People to Stop Using a Website
People’s top frustrations with websites can cause them to stop using a website permanently.
Most people would stop using a website for a particular session if it was unreliable (54%) or if it loaded slowly (53%).
If these problems persist, it’s enough to deter people from returning to a site: Nearly two-thirds (63%) will permanently abandon a site if it's consistently unreliable.
Reducing load times and regular quality assurance checks can ensure that websites don’t lose traffic from preventable, but costly, UX mistakes.
Pop-Ups Are An Example of User Compromise
People don’t like pop-ups, but continue to visit websites with pop-ups.
Only 15% of people ranked pop-ups as their biggest website frustration, and conversion rates indicate that pop-ups remain an effective tool for online marketers.
The best pop-ups average just over a 9% conversion rate, which could lead to potentially thousands of subscribers for highly trafficked websites, according to research from Sumo.
“I’ve never heard someone say they like pop-ups,” Lenard said. “Sometimes they’re really effective from a marketing perspective, but they’re always annoying.”
The temporary inconvenience of a pop-up, however, doesn’t drive people away from a site in the same way that unreliability and slow load time do.
This indicates a user compromise: Tolerating an annoying pop-up in exchange for the content on the page. Some people like pop-ups and use them to subscribe to newsletters or to access the content they’re looking for.
For example, OptinMonster studies people’s online behavior to optimize pop-ups and other web forms to increase conversions for e-commerce and publishing platforms.
This modal from their website darkens the background of the page to draw attention to its call-to-action. To close the pop-up, people must click outside the lightbox.
Businesses can time pop-ups like these to trigger when their users display “exit intent,” moving the mouse to the corner of a page or beginning to navigate to another tab. They also can target people who have visited a page more than once.
These customized functions help make pop-ups less disruptive to a user’s browsing experience.
But this strategy is only effective for about half of website users: 51% claim pop-ups would make them stop using a website permanently.
“I don’t like to design any kind of that pop-up greets the user as soon as they open the website. It’s intrusive and may prompt them to just leave the site altogether,” said Brandon Jones, graphic designer for Blue Laser Digital, a web design and digital marketing agency in Columbus, Ohio. “The exit pop-up when you go to leave a site adds time for the user to get away from what they don’t want to see.”
Some pop-up forms have become necessary to address concerns about online privacy. The recent implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union led to sites employing pop-ups to demonstrate compliance with the law.
“Pop-ups are now looking at accepting cookie laws – accepting the types of data that you’re going to be entering and verifying that cookie,” said Collett, who is based in the United Kingdom. “Before, you’d go to a website and you’d see the content right away. It can often be frustrating for people.”
However, Collett remarked that generally, people don’t care about pop-ups; they just want to get rid of pop-ups to access content.
Well-designed pop-ups can convert at best and annoy at worst. Some are even necessary to comply with new regulations and inform people of their privacy rights. Businesses need to balance the potential conversions from pop-ups with some website users’ disdain for them.
Don’t Make People Compromise: UX Best Practices
To match people’s online behavior and UX preferences, businesses should apply techniques from the most popular websites and keep their sites accessible to people everywhere.
Use these 4 best practices to ensure people have a good user experience on your site.
1. Learn From the Best
The most popular websites establish an industry standard of usability that businesses can apply to their sites' UX.
Once these patterns are established, it becomes challenging for people to learn new ones.
“If I’m looking for a water filter, it doesn’t matter how crazy Amazon’s UI gets, as long as it still shows these photos of water filters and names the products,” said Jordan DeVries, director of user experience at Brave UX, a user experience firm in Washington D.C. “Similarly, with Facebook, it doesn’t matter how crazy the UI gets, as long as I understand where the people are, and maybe where the places are, I can navigate my way around,”
Your business can learn from established patterns to inform your site’s usability, which gives people a familiar and intuitive experience.
2. Use UX to Enhance Your Content, Not Hinder It
People are willing to compromise UX for content. They want content that matches their intent when they visit a webpage.
“It’s important to be mindful of the fact that design is an enabler of the content or of whatever website users are trying to do in a platform,” Lenard said. “It’s very rare that you get people navigating on a website for the experience of using it. At the end of the day, they care about the content more than they care about the design.”
This holds true for both task-based sites such as email and published content such as blogs and publications.
“Usability should be so simple and inherent that [people] are focused on the content itself, as opposed to trying to figure out tasks within the site. With published content, it should be the content speaking for itself. If the content is more task-based, the usability needs to be as frictionless as possible to get them to complete their goal or task," Collett said.
Businesses should enhance their content so that their UX is so intuitive, users won't actually think about their experience – rather the content on the page.
3. Optimize for the Mobile Web
People browse on mobile, so creating a good UX for the mobile web is incredibly important.
This is particularly important since people now prefer browsing using mobile web browsers rather than downloading apps.
“If you look at general trends in the app store, people used to download 10 mobile apps a month. Now it’s down to two a year,” Brian Lacey said. “Rarely does a user go explore for a mobile app unless there’s a specific reason such as a marketing campaign driving downloads.”
Designing for the mobile web is also important for people in emerging markets such as India.
“The next billion users we often talk about don’t necessarily have the same kind of devices that people in urban areas have, especially in the context of India,” Rahul Kondi said. “For them, mobile web is probably the only way to access a lot of services. It does make a lot of sense for companies to invest in improving the mobile web experience.”
Mobile search overtook desktop search in 2015. Creating an excellent user experience for the mobile web ensures a positive experience for a wider audience on your site.
4. Use Pop-Ups Wisely
Context is key when considering a pop-up or lightbox for your website. If you choose to include one, make sure it’s optimized to meet your user’s expectations.
“From a user experience perspective, a pop-up is disruptive if used in a flow that doesn’t match the user’s expectation,” said Sid Chhatani, software designer and product lead at ClutchPrep, an education software company based in Miami. “If you provide a pop-up to a user too early or too late it might have varying impacts.”
Chhatani uses the example of people visiting a site to buy a new sweater on an e-commerce website, that user might be in the discovery phase of their journey. If a pop-up appears offering a 10% discount, it doesn’t match the context and the user's expectation. This will lead to a user closing the pop-up and continuing on their own exploration.
Most pop-ups are “white-noise” to people, according to Brandon Jones of Blue Laser Digital. However, new privacy laws and adblockers make some pop-ups necessary for sites to be legally compliant and drive revenue.
“The companies that really get it right and really look at that digital product design down to a granular level are the ones that have the competitive advantage,” Collett said. “If one retailer that found a way to get rid of all those popups and that friction, they’d have a competitive advantage over the other one.”
UX designers who develop less intrusive pop-ups have a competitive edge and can use the minor UX disruption to meet their business goals.
People Will Compromise UX for Content
People compromise user experience when they browse online: Most people are willing to tolerate minor inconveniences to access resources or products they are interested in.
Most people use mobile devices to browse online to communicate with others. They use social media more than email to connect with friends and peers.
Though the top-ranking websites such as Facebook and Amazon serve different functions, people think Amazon has the best user experience and Facebook has the worst.
People don’t like pages that are unreliable or slow to load: These 2 UX challenges are the most likely to deter people from visiting a webpage in the future.
Pop-ups are an example of people compromising UX for content. Pop-up conversion rates indicate that while website users may find them annoying, they do not deter people from accessing the content that interests them.
By having the best content and minimizing barriers to it, businesses ensure people won’t have to compromise on their site.