Customer experience is higher on the CMO’s priority list than product innovation. Why? Because experts understand that customer experience is a differentiator — a competitive advantage. Consumers will do business with a company that meets their needs, but they’ll be loyal to one that exceeds their expectations.

In the digital world, customer experience translates to user experience, or UX. A good user experience on your website can certainly help with online conversions — such as online sales or lead generation. But an exceptional user experience drives stickiness and retention.

Below are 6 UX tips that can help increase your digital competitive edge.

  1. Begin the design phase with a content strategy. Having a good understanding of your content helps you know how to focus your layout and design. Consider what primary messages or features should be touted as part of your user experience. And keep in mind, with smaller mobile screen devices you’ll have less real estate; primary screen space should be dedicated to the most important message or feature that you want to deliver.
  2. Don’t shortchange your mobile users. While it’s true you have less initial screen real estate on mobile devices, ultimately users still want the same content and features on your website, regardless of what device they’re using. ‘View full site’ is no longer acceptable on your mobile website and neither is ‘download our app’ (many users do not want to download an app just to interact with your brand on their phone). The mobile tipping point has been reached; businesses must adapt. A responsive website — with one code base and one content base — is our recommended approach.
  3. Put a lot of focus on usability, especially good navigation. Navigation is an area where usability is currently evolving and changing — largely due to increased mobile use. We are seeing widespread adoption of navigation cues such as the hamburger icon (or as we prefer to call it, the “three-bar” icon), across mobile and desktop sites. However, designers should ensure that navigational cues and icons are used to improve usability — not just for design convenience (e.g. saving real estate). Users come to understand site content and structure through the navigation menu, and hiding it behind a tidy icon may not be the right decision for your users.
  4. Consider your breakpoints as you’re designing and developing. For our websites, we typically design wireframes and mockups for two breakpoints — mobile and desktop — and the responsive behavior in between those two breakpoints comes together through collaboration during the build phase. We watch what happens to content and functionality as the screen size shrinks, and we make decisions on whether to allow the content to adjust fluidly or to introduce new formatting or behavior for smaller screens. This is a much more efficient approach than attempting to wireframe or create Photoshop comps for multiple breakpoints.
  5. Compress and optimize your visuals. The majority of the time, images account for most of the data download for a page. The faster a page can download and display, the better the user experience is for your visitors. Fast page loads equal higher rankings and conversion rates.
  6. Don’t skimp on the little touches. Many times little features and intangible touches will give your site that differentiated feel. If you offer a search feature on your site, allow users to filter results to narrow their choices down. Build forms with a minimal amount of fields, pre-fill where possible, validate entries in-line and make error messages easy to find and understand. Offer a sticky navigation that stays with users as they scroll or a shortcut icon that gets users back to the top quickly. Your site might function well at a basic level, but it’s these types of extra touches that create an optimal experience.

Renee Triemstra, VP of Strategy and Customer Experience at ChannelNet, has shaped and launched many successful digital marketing programs for Fortune 500 companies across multiple industries, including automotive, finance, home improvement and retail. She is an expert in web solutions, re-engineering business processes and creating customer communications that sell products and retain customer relationships.