What website 'friction' is and how to avoid it

Is something harming your lead generation success or ecommerce conversions? It could be what's known as website 'friction'.

What is website friction?

In the world of websites and online commerce, the term 'friction' refers to any element of a website that slows down or impedes the user's ability to make a purchase or complete another desired action.

Things that cause friction include slow page load times, confusing navigation, overly complex forms or checkout processes, or poor mobile optimisation, just to name a few.

Website friction can be caused in a number of ways, including poor design, technical issues, or simply a lack of attention to detail. Whatever the cause, though, the result is the same: users are more likely to abandon their efforts to make a purchase or complete another desired action on the website.

Why does website friction harm conversion rates?

There are a number of ways in which website friction can harm conversion rates. Here are just a few examples:

Increased bounce rates. When users encounter friction on a website, they are more likely to "bounce," or leave the site without completing any desired actions. This can lead to higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates.

Abandoned shopping carts. If a website's checkout process is overly complicated or time-consuming, users may abandon their shopping carts before completing a purchase. This can result in lost sales and lower conversion rates.

Poor user experience. When users encounter friction on a website, it can create a negative overall user experience. This can lead to decreased trust in the website and brand, which can ultimately harm conversion rates.

Lost repeat business. If users have a negative experience on a website due to friction, they are less likely to return in the future. This can result in lost repeat business and lower lifetime customer value.

Fewer leads or signups. When visitors to a website are faced with friction, they're less likely to register for your 'gated content', submit an enquiry or sign-up to your newsletter out of sheer frustration and disillusionment.

How can website friction be addressed?

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to website friction, there are a number of steps that website owners and designers can take to reduce friction and improve conversion rates. Here are a few ideas:

1. Simplify forms and checkout processes. One of the most common sources of website friction is overly complex forms and checkout processes. By simplifying these elements, website owners can reduce friction and make it easier for users to complete desired actions

2. Optimise for mobile. With more and more users accessing websites on mobile devices, it's important to ensure that websites are optimised for mobile. This might mean using responsive design, optimising images and other elements for mobile, and streamlining the user experience for smaller screens.

3. Improve website speed. Slow-loading pages can be a major source of friction for website users, with some research finding that bounce rates increase dramatically on websites that haven't loaded within 3 seconds (Google suggests trying to keep load speeds to 2 seconds or under, and has an internal target of ensuring its websites load in 0.5 seconds). By improving website speed through techniques like image optimisation (compressing image files so they're smaller and take less time to load) and caching, website owners can reduce friction and improve conversion rates.

4. Focus on user experience. By paying close attention to the overall user experience on a website, website owners can identify sources of friction and work to eliminate them. Make it immediately clear what your website's purpose is and what your organisation is all about in the first few seconds. This might mean conducting user testing, soliciting feedback from users, and making iterative improvements to the website over time.

5. Reduce distractions. Another common source of website friction is unnecessary distractions, such as pop-ups (including the dreaded GDPR content/legitimate interest pop-ups), ads, or autoplaying videos. By reducing or eliminating these distractions, website owners can make it easier for users to focus on completing desired actions on the site.

We design and build friction-free websites and buying journeys, more here.

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