Experience vs. Performance – Which Should Your Website Prioritize?

When redesigning your website, one thing is for certain: there are a myriad of platforms to choose from.

WordPress. Wix. Squarespace. Weebly…they make it sound so easy.

Instead of approaching a new and/or redesigned website from the standpoint of platforms, pricing, and features, first ask some crucial questions:

Which is more important for my organization’s needs: website experience or website performance?

Is one more important than the other? Is it possible to have a website with both?

We’re providing context to the questions above. Continue reading to learn:

  • A definition of a performance driven website
  • Two of the defining characteristics of performance-driven websites
  • A definition of an experience driven website
  • Two of the defining characteristics of experience-driven websites

What Does it Mean for a Website to Rely on Performance?

The primary goal of a performance-driven website is to earn and grow traffic. Typically, websites that rely on performance are easy to find on search engines. These websites, or pages that rank well within performance-driven websites, don’t have to be “new” in the sense that the page was created today and ranks favorably the next hour.

Search engine crawlers take time to index new pages and a performance-driven website doesn’t necessarily rely on its newest content to drive traffic. Sometimes, pages created in 2015 or even earlier can still rank favorably. Granted, these pages with evergreen content are often updated to reflect any recent changes or developments to remain relevant to its desired audience.

Characteristic #1 of Performance Websites: Fast Page Load Times and On-Page and Technical SEO

The mission of performance websites is to generate traffic. Accessibility and functionality are first and foremost with performance driven websites. Accessibility refers to how easily your site can be accessed and discovered by search engines.

In terms of functionality, performance websites have impressive page load speed, regardless of the device. That said, your team should prioritize and focus on your mobile site, as mobile usage has outpaced desktop use for the fourth year in a row.

If page load times are between one to three seconds, the probability of visitors bouncing increases 32%. The probability increases to 91% if site visitors wait up to 10 seconds. Google has simple advice to rectify this issue: faster is better and less is more.

Websites that focus on performance optimize for on-page SEO and technical SEO. On-page SEO, or On-site SEO, refers to tweaks and changes to specific pages within a website to maximize visibility and rankings.

From a technical SEO standpoint, performance websites will be easily crawled, indexed, and followed by search engine crawlers and spiders through robots.txt files. These websites also have a defined and easy-to-read XML sitemap for search engine crawlers. Additionally, schema markup will be utilized. Performance websites have a high domain authority, which also correlates to prominent rankings on search engines.

Characteristic #2 of Performance Websites: Evergreen Content

As defined by Ahrefs, evergreen content addresses a topic that maintains interest and search volume over time which never goes out-of-date, hence its reference to evergreen trees that don’t lose leaves. Websites that create evergreen content are focused on retaining relevance on search engines for the long-term and are difficult to outrank on a search engine results page (SERP).

That’s not to say that this type of content doesn’t need updated and optimized over time. Performance websites leverage evergreen content to continually drive traffic based on a careful selection of keywords that allow the content to retain search volume and relevancy.

What is an Experience-Driven Website?

The mission of an experience-driven website is to engage with and eventually convert site traffic. A website that falls into this category will contain captivating imagery, interactive elements, and constantly engages with traffic throughout their journey.

These websites make the pathway to a conversion relatively seamless, to reduce instances of traffic bouncing. Traffic volume isn’t necessarily the main driver of the strategy, it’s what traffic does after the website is found.

Characteristic #1 of Experience Websites: Compelling User Experience (UX)

UX is focused on providing an easy and enjoyable experience for visitors. Websites centered around sound UX have features like location finders (if applicable) and helpful internal links in content. Providing site visitors the most pertinent pages (based on historical data) is a UX design staple. Meaning, not every page that’s indexed should necessarily find its way to the site navigation to cut down on mega menus.

A UX trend is the minimalism movement. Specifically, websites focusing on an engaging user experience are removing “visual clutter” to not impede the individual exploring a website. Any element distracting a user from a pages primary CTA should either be removed or made less prominent. Simplicity is key to retaining and converting site traffic.

If the layout is confusing to site visitors, they won’t click around until they’ve landed on the desired page. That visitor will likely bounce. Providing fewer options for site visitors allows for quicker decision-making, which ultimately ladders up to an increase in conversions.

Characteristic #2 of Experience Websites: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

A CRO-friendly website experience is one that caters to site visitors first and foremost. In a practical sense, this means that CRO marketing teams will utilize tools like heat mapping to gain user behavior insights. Heat maps help website design teams learn what site visitors are doing on a specific page and why they’re taking (or not taking) a specific action.

Websites that aim to provide an engaging site experience will regularly check Conversion Reports in Google Analytics to glean insight into content performance. Another foundation of sound CRO marketing is studying scroll depth on site pages. CRO-friendly pages will keep forms, offers and pertinent information above the fold to provide a seamless conversion experience.

Similar in scope with the methodology of removing visual clutter, experienced-driven websites will follow the CRO principle of reducing click activity. Reducing the number of clickable buttons allows your CRO marketing team the ability to provide a direct path for users to convert on your site.

Experience or Performance? Websites Need Both

Today’s digital consumer expects a website to appear prominently on search engines (so they don’t have to click beyond the first page of the SERP), fast loading times on mobile and desktop, valuable/useful content and a natural conversion process that isn’t annoying or intrusive.

If you noticed overlaps between website performance and website experience in the characteristics above, it’s because both are equally vital for website visitors. Simply put, a website that ranks prominently but doesn’t provide an engaging site experience encouraging traffic to click on deeper areas of its site to convert will constantly bounce and churn traffic.

Conversely, a sleek website that is aesthetically pleasing and provides an engaging site experience that doesn’t rank on search engines won’t accomplish its desired organizational goal.

Even with a website that is equally focused on experience and performance, analytics and reporting will be necessary. Consistent reporting helps communicate stories and connect the dots from the site visitor to the marketing and design team. If your organization needs help selecting the solution that will help it rank on search engines and provide an engaging site experience, contact our team.

We’ve designed hundreds of websites for client partners. Our team provides expert consultation to help client partners avoid the perils, pitfalls and unintended consequences that can occur during the website selection, design process, launch and subsequent SEO strategy.

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