Google unleashed yet another set of guidelines to help measure user experience for websites.
User experience is so important to Google that they directly associate it with the website health. Websites with poor UX are thus labeled as having poor health!
Why user experience is such a big deal
Before we dive into UX measurements and tools, let's look at some of the reasons why UX is a big deal for e-commerce websites.
In the Digital Customer Experience playbook, the author's research revealed that on average, every 1 dollar in UX results in a 100 dollar return!
It's not hard to imagine this for e-commerce online businesses. The easier it is for customers to interact with your content, the more likely they will return. This brings us to the next point ----- customer retention.
Improves customer acquisition and retention
If a user has a good experience on your website, they are likely to tell others about it. Similarly, they will tell about their bad experience as well.
Imagine a scenario where you need to buy something. You are probably browsing through the product site and there is this popup that won't go away! Likely you will initiate a search for alternatives or ask for recommendations.
The site with good UX gets new clients from good recommendations while the one with poor UX loses clients.
It may not be easy to tell if you are losing customers because of UX. Using tools such as Google analytics scroll depth tracking can tell you where your customers are dropping off.
According to Esteban Kolsky, 13% of clients will tell others about their bad experiences while 72% will others about good experiences.
Improve SEO rankings
It's now a well-known fact that Google uses page load speed as a positive ranking signal. With the introduction of Google Web Vitals, it's more likely than not that other aspects of UX are going to contribute to positive ranking.
One can also argue that since bad UX is a deterrent for website visitors, it increases the bounce rate. A high bounce rate is a negative signal to Google's search algorithms and this gets a site to rank lower. See how to improve your website page rankings.
Improves Brand Image
It's all about the first impression they say! Not entirely accurate for eCommerce sites but yes, 94% of first impressions are design-related.
Customers are more likely to trust your brand if the UX is good. The quality of your product will directly be tied to the UX.
A study by Moosylvania revealed that the modern consumer builds relationships with brand experience more than traditional advertising.
Now that we know that UX is extremely important, the next sections will shed light on how to measure it.
What is Google's Web Vitals?
This project is still in its infant stage with a few metrics being measured at the time. We, however, are likely to see this evolve into a more robust set of measurable metrics over time.
Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals are a subset of web vitals and currently, they measure 3 core facets of website user experience: loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
Measuring website Loading Experience
The loading experience is measured using (LCP) measurement. LCP is an acronym for the Largest Content Paint. A good loading experience would have the LCP occurring within the first 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading. Anything above 4.0 seconds makes for poor user experience.
Measuring Interactivity Experience
Interactivity Experience is (FID) which is an acronym for First Input Display time.
FID is a measurement of how fast a website takes to respond when a user interacts with an input element.
Good FID values should be less than 100 milliseconds. First Input Display time above 4seconds makes for poor user experience.
Measuring Visual Stability
Visual stability is a measurement of how stable a website's visual elements are. When the layout of a website keeps shifting position, it makes for poor reading and interaction experiences.
Imagine trying to click an element and it moves! Or experience jerky movements while scrolling a page.
These kinds of experiences are often caused by dynamically created elements generated on the fly causing a repositioning or re-sizing of existing elements.
CLS which is an acronym for Cumulative Layout Shift measures visual stability. This measures shift scores across layout shifts that don't occur within 500ms of user input. This is a measure of both the amount of visible content that shifted and the distance these elements moved.
In simple terms, web elements shouldn't be shifting or causing movement when a user is interacting with it.
Websites should have a CLS under 0.1. Anything over 0.25 makes for poor user experience.
Tools to measure core web vitals
Currently, there a few tools that can provide UX measurements for Google's Web Vitals.
Chrome User Experience Report
Chrome User Experience Report uses real user experience data from across the web. This data is from users who opt-in to have their browser history synced, have not set up a Sync passphrase, and have usage statistics.
PageSpeed Insights is a tool that reports on the speed performance of websites on mobile and desktop. It also provides performance improvement recommendations for web pages. PSI can measure (FID) First Input Delay.
What makes PSI different from other performance measurement tools is that it provides both lab and field data about a page. The lab data is useful for debugging performance issues while field data provides real-world data about page performance.
Search Console (Speed Report) has been around for some time now. This too provides FID measurements. The speed report categorizes URLs into 3 groups: Fast, Moderate, and Slow.
This drill-down is extremely helpful in debugging causes of slow websites. You can also track if fixes to the slow pages are working by comparing reports.
Why user experience matters to Google
Why does Google care so much about user experience? Well, Google's core business centers around finding the best results for its searchers.
Previously Google's search result ranking was solely based on having great content i.e text. Google's Algorithms have grown more sophisticated and take into account user sentiment.
If you have great content and a high bounce rate, you likely have a UX problem.
If users recommended to your page by Google get frustrated, it reflects negatively on the Search Engine. In other words, UX matters.