The Google Experience Update is a new brain baby from Google. It’s a new algorithm update that’s coming our way in 2021. Basically, it’s yet another advancement in Google’s obsession with User Experience (UX). They’re rolling out an algo update that better measures how positive an experience users have on websites and awards ranking points to the best sites accordingly. It’s a touch more complex than that but none of us are data scientists, so we think it’ll do.
What even is User Experience (UX)?
Good question and one we should hash out before we go further. Basically, UX is about the experience the user (vistor, person on your website) has using your website.
So, loading speeds, the layout, and even the font all contribute to the experience a user has. If I click on a link and it doesn’t load quickly, that’s a bad experience.
If I land on a page, but I can’t read the font, it’s a bad experience. If I land on a website and the layout doesn’t follow what I’m used to… Maybe the menu isn’t along the top of the page or in the top, right-hand corner? You guessed it… Terrible experience.
Why does User Experience (UX) matter?
A few reasons. Firstly, websites need to be accessible. It’s 2020 and we’ve all had a while to use computers and the internet and at this stage, it should be intuitive. And it is. We know three lines is a menu, we know to expect a menu up the top of a page or the top right corner. We know if we want to find a link to Instagram, we should check the website’s footer.
When you switch these up, by putting the menu on the bottom left of the page, for example, you’re alienating your visitors. It sounds dramatic but people don’t like change. And so, when that isn’t where they expect, it takes them longer to find what they want, it’s jarring, and often, it leads to them closing your website because who has the time.
Imagine you’re in the shopping centre, and you need to use the bathroom. You’ll be looking at the ceiling for two very generic illustrations of a female and male body side by side. Imagine, you don’t find those illustrations, there’s no signs hanging from the ceiling. Then, you finally come across a worn sign on the busy shopping centre floor.
It sounds a bit chaotic doesn’t it? Totally illogical. That’s a pretty good equivalent for bad UX.
What it means for you and your website
First up, you have ages. Google acknowledges we’re all having ~a time~ with COVID-19 and is promising they’ll give us all six months notice before we have to stress about this.
But, when it does roll out, it means you need to up that User Experience and make sure it’s positive. How? Google dropped some specifics for us.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are a collection of metrics you can use to “measure” your website’s UX. The concept of using metrics to measure an experience seems really funny but these three things that Google has outlined totally do contribute hugely to the experience a user has on a website. Let’s break them down…
Largest Contentful Paint (Loading Speed)
How long your website takes to load is make or break. Typically, we have about two seconds to have the page loaded and ready to go to avoid being abandoned by the user.
First Input Delay (Interactivity)
This is the time from when a user first interacts with an element on your website to when it is loaded. This might be clicking a button or a link or clicking an interactive element. The First Input Delay is the time it takes for the button I clicked to work.
Cumulative Layout Shift (Visual Stability)
This is basically where the website’s elements are still loading or rendering and shift unexpectedly as a result. So, you’re reading a paragraph of text but it randomly moves and you have to go find it, or worse, the ‘Buy Now’ button appears suddenly, as shown in Google’s animation below.
The other bits
These don’t come under Google’s new outline of “Core Web Vitals” but they still contribute to the Page Experience algo update and obviously, your page experience generally.
If your website isn’t mobile friendly, it should be. For every 45 desktop visitors Sonder gets, we get seven mobile visitors — and that’s B2B, an area where visitors are far more likely to be searching on desktop. For most B2C industries, their mobile visitors will be way, way up.
This is basically focusing on security issues. It’s all about ensuring your website doesn’t have malware, suspicious/malicious content, or deceptive content (social engineering).
Yup, having an SSL certificate will be essential if you want to show up on Google with the update. Users are already super iffy if they come across a http: URL anyway, but Google’s cracking down on the security of these pages.
No Intrusive Interstitials
This is an exciting one. Intrusive Interstitials are basically those super spammy pop ups that cover your whole screen but aren’t responsive, so you can’t close them on your phone and just have to abandon the whole tab to get away. The largest UX faux pas in our opinion.
Sure, what does it all mean though?
Google says, “Optimising 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.”
It basically means we need to pay better attention to the User Experience we’re offering and start getting it together so when Google gives us that six months notice they’ve promised, we’re good to go.