Web Designers Guide to Increasing User Engagement

Illustrator: Jana Pérez
increase user engagement

Web design is alive. Its rules, requirements, and opportunities are always evolving, changing... whether it’s because of advancements in tech or shifts in user preferences. So, nailing the perfect balance between efficiency and capacity to engage visitors is not the easiest thing to do. However, despite the slightly elusive nature of design, there are a few strategic actions you can do to increase user engagement in a controlled manner.

The fast-changing trends make web design challenging, but also wonderful. Any challenge you are facing can be resolved with creative adaptability. So, let’s take a look at what you can do to make your website more engaging!

What is Website User Engagement?

Website engagement encompasses the users’ interactions with a webpage, such as navigating between pages, reacting to a call to action (CTA), subscribing to a blog newsletter, paying for a product or service, using a chatbot, etc.

Measuring website user engagement helps you understand how well your website is capable of capturing visitor attention. The data used to measure website engagement include time spent off-page, bounce rate, session duration, clicks, downloads, etc. 

user engagement metrics

Optimizing and improving website engagement requires your constant attention, measuring and analyzing your results.

Website Engagement: The Beginnings

Website engagement, despite its short still existence, has quite a fun history. When the internet first entered our lives a few decades back, we were so glad it was working nobody really cared about design. 

Surely you remember the terrible pop-ups, ads, and other atrocities: 

website design history
website design history
website design history

Not the mention the old Google Analytics, page visits counters:

web design beginnings

The more and more people and businesses flocked to the internet, the more fierce competition became. Suddenly, companies eager to succeed online couldn’t rely on simply having a website but had to invest in having one that was easy to understand and navigate. 

And so, the art of web design came into play, becoming one of the most essential ingredients in online success. 

Why Designing for Better User Engagement Matters: 4 Pillars

You would be surprised how many businesses don’t put much value on engagement-driven design. To be honest, underestimation is common with tasks that have “design” in them since people associate it with creativity, creativity with art, and art with “not being crucial”. 

This kind of thinking can be hurtful because whether you wish to acknowledge it or not,  web design impacts on your bottom line.

The four pillars… the four WHYs of designing to boost user engagement are: 

1. Users Are Quick to Judge

If you think first impressions are important in real life, online it’s true twice over. 

According to three studies researching the speed with which people form an opinion about web pages, it takes visitors about 50 milliseconds to do it. Hence, that first load, the first look, is not to be underestimated. 

If that wasn’t motivational enough, stats published by Kinesis point out that 94% of first impressions are, in fact, design-related an impressive 74% of users admit having made a decision about company credibility based on their web design! 

Of course, quality content matters! But even the best of content will be overlooked if shared as part of a confusing design.

2. Slow Site Loses Future Customers

Yes, the good old speed. 

Consumers are getting more and more demanding, and machines are following the trend.

A study by Pingdom shows that website pages that load in two seconds keep their average bounce rate low at 9%. On the other hand, pages take five seconds to lead, see their bounce rates skyrocket to 38%. So three seconds can have a devastating impact.

And, as if that wasn’t quite enough, Google’s 2021 website core vitals update takes speed very, very seriously, virtually forcing all businesses to deliver their online experiences without hardly any delay if they want to maintain favorable ranking and visibility.

Designing not just for effect but for speed is a huge part of ensuring high website user engagement. 

3. Mobile is Taking Center Stage

More and more consumers are becoming comfortable navigating the web and shopping on their mobile phones. 

On the web, design really matters. On mobile, its importance grows to epic proportions. For example, 46% of consumers said they would not return to shop with a brand that provided an interruptive mobile experience. Furthermore, 63% are less likely to purchase from a business after just one bad mobile experience. 

Your website needs to be faster and even more obvious. Measuring engagement and finding the most efficient way to present your product or service can make or break your company.

4. User Experience-Centric View Makes for Returning Customers

As the stats in the above point suggest, not designing for user engagement and experience not just can but will cost you customers. 

Whether it’s mobile or desktop, you probably invest a lot into attracting customers to your website. So, why drop the ball once you get them there?

Findings from Forrester Research show that a well-conceived, frictionless UX web design has the potential to raise customer conversion rates up to 400%.

Simple Ways to Make your Website more Engaging for Users

Now that you know why it matters, here are a few simple ways to make your website more engaging for your users. 

1. Make your Website Customer Experience-Centric

I understand that this is easier said than done. It also sounds quite vague as a stand-alone task. But don’t worry. All it takes is placing your customer first and designing your strategy around them.

To do that, you need to know who they are. More often than not, you will end up having to segment your audience. 

The thing is, if you are targeting a broader and more varied audience, you might have a difficult time reaching them. So, I find visitor segmentation one of the most helpful strategies to increase website user engagement.

Segmenting helps you break down the varied mass that is your audience into smaller, more mandible bites. It allows you to concentrate and communicate with “one bite at a time”. Divide your most active customers into groups based on the key characteristics, whether behavioral or demographic. 

What can be the impact on your website engagement? 

For example, in the past, I’ve used it to: 

  • Recommend products based on on-site visitor behavior and even their past browsing history.
  • Feature products or services geared towards a particular age group or location and speed up their journey into and through your sales funnel.
  • Personalize brand messaging to make it clearer what benefits come with becoming your customer. (It should focus on articulating benefits to your target audience and connect with it.)

Tip: I find chatbots to be great partners for segmentation. They are supper at quickly collecting and processing data about your audience while also offering the perfect real-time segmentation interface. In other words, they can send first-time visitors to tailored content and solutions instantly, based on their responses.

2. Optimize your Site Speed, Responsiveness, and SEO

Now, contrary to popular opinion, designing for better engagement is not about the design you see. 

A lot of the legwork goes into speed optimization that cannot be seen but simply experienced.

Some of the most crucial actions include:

Optimizing images and assets (videos, gifs) by:

image web optimization
  • Compressing Images. It means encoding the image/asset data using fewer bits than the original and minimizing their size without affecting the quality. To achieve this, there are plenty of free or paid compression tools available on the market.
  • Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). It’s basically a geographically varied network of servers. Quite simply, it helps speed up webpage loading time by minimizing the distance between the site visitor and the server. Some of the best ones include StackPath, Sucuri, Cloudflare, etc. 

Optimizing On-page SEO Specs. Doing so not only makes your web pages easier to find, but it also raises your authority in the eyes of the god of search engines, Google. Make sure: 

  • All your images have ALT tags
  • No page is lacking an SEO title and description
  • Keywords are evenly distributed throughout your content

For a more detailed guide to SEO, check out this article by SEMrush: 

Improving Internal Linking & Access to Related Content. Rather than thinking of lading pages like destinations, think of them as steps on a journey. Your pages need to be connected to the rest of the site in a manner that makes it all pleasant and logical. Internal linking not only improves the user experience, but it also matters for SEO optimization, making it easier for Google crawlers to assess the relevance of your content. 

3. Automate your Website Engagement with Bots

I’ve already talked about bots as convenient segmentation buddies. Though truth be told, that is a severe underestimation of their engagement potential. 

Chatbots, both rule-based and AI, can be used in various use cases along the entire customer journey. Their interactive nature makes for instant engagement while allowing users to personalize their own experience with the choices and demands they make without even leaving the homepage or landing page. 

For instance, on the Landbot homepage, features, instead of a hero shot, a product showcase bot that lets users give a taste of what they can achieve with the tool in the very first interactions. 

The great thing about this bot is that it allows users to customize the interaction by offering them to select the use case they want to experience. So It’s not an AI miracle. In fact, it’s pretty simple and quickly built yet incredibly effective when it comes to engagement. It captures attention and elicits action on the part of the visitors.

chatbot user engagment

Bots are also amazing substitutes for traditional landing pages. 

Turning a bot into a landing page focuses user attention on a single task of interacting with the assistant. Once conversing, the visitors are more likely to stay and engage as each interactive exchange further personalized their experience. When we first discovered the power of conversational landing pages, we saw conversion quadruple.

4. Creating Logical Visual Hierarchy

How you place content and visual assets on the page plays a considerable role in how users engage with your site. 

For instance, when items are too close together, your design can look busy, and the effect can be overwhelming for users. Additionally, it can make it difficult for potential customers to scan through the products you offer.

Visual hierarchy is a science involving organizing visual elements in such a way that is pleasing to the eye and helps website visitors find what they are searching for. It has to do with following natural eye movement patterns and putting website elements in the right places – where they are most likely to get noticed by users.

You have probably come across an image similar to this one:

visual hierarchy

It’s the most popular way to demonstrate the impact of visual hierarchy on the perceiver. 

You need to use visual hierarchy to communicate the importance of individual elements or messages on the page by manipulating basic characteristics such as size, color, contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity, use of whitespace, textures, etc. Discover more about it in an insightful post by Interactive Design Foundation!

5. Think about Hiring an Experienced Web Designer

There are plenty of no-code website builders that offer you a great deal of independence in website creation. That freedom is great. However, having the tools (even the most intuitive ones) to do it doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. 

If you do not have previous experience with web design, you can go into it solo. However, it might take months of A/B testing your chatbot before you figure out what works best. 

While using an experienced web designer can increase your initial costs, it’s likely to help you succeed and grow revenue faster than working without experience. 

Though, if you still wish to do it yourself, make sure you give it due diligence with research and testing. 

Optimizing user engagement matters and will directly affect your business’s bottom line.