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Google Web Vital. It’s time to take UX seriously

Google gave advance warning before an algorithm update. That was a first!

Last week Google announced an update to their search algorithm planned for 2021 – actually giving us time to prepare.

The new signals, dubbed Core Web Vitals, will evaluate the quality of your site’s user experience when ranking it in organic search.

Google has this to say: “Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”

Another push form Google towards making the web a better place.

Any investment in improving usability is an essential step towards increasing online conversions. And since Mobilegeddon, Google has only gotten more serious about cleaning up the deteriorating state of the web:

  • HTTPS: In 2014 Google announced that secure sites will get a slight ranking boost and by 2018 Chrome started marking non-HTTPS sites as non-secure.
  • Mobile-friendly: In 2015 Google released an update designed to give mobile-friendly sites a boost in organic ranking.
  • Google Safe Browsing: In 2016 Google introduced Safe Browsing, a service that helps browsers, ISPs and Apps protect their users from malware and other threats.
  • Intrusive Interstitials: In 2015 Google started penalising apps that displayed annoying pop-ups and by 2016 that penalty was extended towards websites as well.
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages: In 2018 Google announced AMP, an open-source project designed to help publishers deliver a faster mobile experience.
  • Mobile-first Indexing: In 2016 Google announced it will prioritise indexing mobile-versions of websites and by 2020 switched to indexing mobile-friendly versions of all websites exclusively.

How can you prepare for this update? 

Although the new Core Web Vitals measure metrics like load time, interactivity and stability of the content available on the page, usability is what it’s really about.

After being involved in several web development projects, I can assure you that there’s always a difference between how you thought people will use your site and how they actually use it. 

And the only way to improve usability is to pay attention to your users. 

That means paying extra attention to Service Design and User Experience. 

Where should you start?

In the coming months, you need to answer these questions: 

  • Is it happening? Is the site loading? How quickly?
  • Is it useful? How quickly does the content render so that the user can engage with it?
  • Is it usable? Can the user interact with the page?
  • Is it delightful? Is the user experience smooth and free of lag?

If you have a Service Designer or UI/UX expert on-hand, now’s the time to get them involved in usability testing.

If not, get yourself up-to-speed with Usability and Web Accessibility and other best practices.

Tools like Hotjar allow Session Recording and help you gather the much needed qualitative data to see how people really use your website.

For quantitative metrics, you can use Chrome’s Lighthouse Tools and brand new Web Vitals Chrome extension

A word of advice; don’t just look at speed alone to measure your website’s overall performance. Use testing and optimisation to improve the usability and usefulness of your website.

One thing you can count on is that Google will continue to prioritise pages with better content.

And when you and your competitors all deliver the same quality of content, whoever has the better user experience will be preferred by Google.