There was a time in the not-so-distant past when merely having your own website, no matter how shoddy, was a big deal. But that’s not the case anymore.
Today, startups and the smallest of small businesses can’t survive, let alone thrive, without having a decent online presence. And it all starts with a website — your home on the internet.
Modern customers instinctively expect you to have a website and without one, your business won’t be taken seriously, plain and simple.
So, having a website is super commonplace. Nearly every business has one, including all your competitors. The question is — does it really facilitate more business? Do your potential customers have a good time using your website?
All of that comes down to the user experience (UX) or usability of your website. That is, if your website isn’t user-friendly, it won’t be effective. Because people won’t put up with poor usability anymore. If they can’t easily navigate your website or find it unappealing, they’ll just navigate back to the search engine and find an alternative to satisfy their needs.
That’s why website usability — delivering a pleasant user experience to your website visitors — should be your top priority in 2020.
Now, as you probably know, artificial intelligence (AI) is making great strides in recent years, with positive influences in various industries such as healthcare, hospitality, automotive, and even online usability (UX).
To illustrate the latter, here’s how AI can improve a website’s usability:
Chatbots are the best-known way websites can enhance user experience using AI. These are essentially virtual assistants working as 24/7 customer support for website visitors.
You may think that losing the “human touch” in such business-to-customer interactions is a bad thing. However, this is far from the truth. Website visitors appreciate the prompt support they receive, and businesses save big bucks by automating the tedious aspects of customer support. It’s a win-win.
In fact, 75% of businesses using chatbots on their website report at least a 10% boost in customer satisfaction.
Besides working 24/7, chatbots are also immune to frustration and stress from unruly visitors. While it’s highly unlikely that these AI bots will completely replace humans in customer service, their benefits in improving UX are clear.
2. Semantic Search
Search bars are a nifty feature on any website as they allow visitors to quickly navigate to what they’re looking for. These users have a specific intent in mind, such as finding a piece of information or shopping for a particular product.
Having a stellar search experience leads to happier site visitors which translates to better odds of user retention. But traditional search, known as lexical search, involves character-matching wherein the results were limited to literal matches of the query words or variants of them.
That’s where AI helps — with semantic search, the search engine can figure out the intent and contextual meaning of the search query, thus improving the accuracy of search results, and consequently boosting user satisfaction.
3. Personalized Recommendations
The ability to serve tailor-made content and personalized product recommendations (especially for SaaS and eCommerce stores) can go a long way in growing your website.
Did you know Amazon attributes 35% of its revenue to personalized product recommendations, which are continually updated and optimized to engage each individual user. This extreme level of personalization, thanks to advancements in AI and machine learning, enables businesses to maximize their returns with every customer and improves the odds of turning first-time visitors into perennial brand supporters.
4. Better Accessibility
One of the most critical elements of website usability design today is accessibility. An accessible website accommodates all visitors on all devices irrespective of the physical or mental ability of the user.
Like it or not, having an accessible website is mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). So, just as the physical premises of shopping malls and retail stores need to be wheelchair accessible, ADA requires that your website is easily usable by people with disabilities.
Not making your website accessible leaves your business vulnerable to expensive lawsuits. What’s more, discussions about website accessibility have increased and 2018 saw a 181% rise in Federal ADA lawsuits over 2017.
And with almost 26% (one in four) of adults in the United States live with a disability, overlooking website accessibility means you are willingly shunning a big audience from using your website.
Therefore, accessibility is important not just to avoid ADA lawsuits but to grow your business and capture new audiences. While there are many things you can manually do to improve your site’s accessibility, such as include alt text for images, ensure sufficient color contrast, write descriptive anchor texts, and more, AI can be of huge help yet again.
For instance, AI already provides language translation and captioning for people who are hard-of-hearing. It also enables automatic image recognition and alt text for visually-challenged people.
Thus, with an AI-powered web accessibility tool, site owners and companies can easily make their content accessible to disabled users.
5. Quantitative Usability Testing
Usability testing is a process to gauge how easy-to-use a website is. The tests take place with real users to measure the intuitiveness of the website.
Usability testing is an indispensable step when aiming to design an excellent user experience, however, the data gathered from the test can often be inadequate to make the best possible decisions.
Now, due to the sheer capacity for data processing, AI is a mighty asset to have for any type of testing. With the help of machine learning algorithms, quantitative usability testing allows to track and assess an enormous array of important UX metrics. This includes information about the:
- Device that a user is visiting your website on
- User’s location
- Session time and length
- Total number of visitors
- Source of traffic
- Pages visited
- Categories or products viewed
- Bounce rates
- And more.
All these metrics are crucial to developing a clear understanding of user behaviors and interests.
From providing prompt customer support and personalized product recommendations to improving accessibility for the disabled, it is clear just how much of a positive impact AI can have on your website’s usability.
About the Author:
Gaurav Belani is a senior SEO and content marketing analyst at The 20 Media, a content marketing agency that specializes in data-driven SEO. He has more than seven years of experience in digital marketing and loves to read and write about education technology, AI, machine learning, data science, and other emerging technologies. In his spare time, he enjoys watching movies and listening to music. Connect with him on Linkedin and Twitter @belanigaurav.
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