Build a strong foundation, set a clear path and don’t allow clutter.

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Is your business website instantly welcoming? With more and more online-only experiences and business operations, it’s increasingly important that your website deliver a stellar first impression.

You want your site to provide people with an experience akin to a classy department store that makes customers feel important and taken care of. Sadly, many of today’s websites resemble the online versions of outlet shops, where you dig through unattended piles of random stuff searching for what you need.

Related: Usability First: Why You Should Pay Attention To User Experience

In 2018, it’s not enough to solve your customer’s problems. There are likely at least half a dozen other businesses doing that. You need to go beyond providing features to providing a seamless user experience (UX) in the process as well.

According to UX pioneer Peter Morville’s user experience honeycomb framework, at the very least, you need to ensure that your site’s content is useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible and credible.

Address the following basics, and you’ll be well on your way there.

1. Build on a solid foundation.

For a user experience that delivers, your website needs a strong foundation to match. Your website needs to reliably deliver the same experience, regardless of the device and operating system people use to access it. Make sure you build your website to load quickly, reliably and securely for any visitor, or people will give up and go elsewhere.

Use a trusted host for your website to keep downtime to a rarity. You can use a content delivery network (CDN) as well, to boost speed and improve reliability. Minimizing load times is quickly becoming a business-critical objective as mobile becomes the standard for web access.

Every element of your website experience needs to adapt to small screens as seamlessly as it does a desktop computer. You can use Google’s free mobile site testing tool to receive a complete assessment, including personalized tips for optimization.

The ways in which customers can interact with your brand online are constantly changing, and you need to be prepared for all of it. Build a fast, stable and accessible website before anything else. After all, a fully optimized sales funnel that glitches out when traffic spikes, or that can’t be viewed on mobile, won’t make you much money.

Related: 10 Steps to Creating an Engaging Digital Experience

2. Clear journey paths.

Once your website’s foundation is strong, it’s time to optimize the structure built on top of it. Take a look at how your website is organized, and reconcile that with the ideal journey you want users to take when they land on your site. What are the possible directions they could take? Are paths for those clearly drawn?

Whether you offer one option or a few, visitors first taking in the homepage should see clear choices laid out for them, guiding them where to go next.

Everything should be organized around helping users achieve their end goals. The language, navigation, design — everything. It should all be precisely focused around generating a lead, sale or whatever action you’re trying to get your site visitors to take, but this experience should be framed by the improved lives they’ll lead once they’re doing business with you.

Landing page tools like Unbounce, LeadPages and Thrive Architect let you easily create focused lead capture experiences. They offer multiple page templates in the same style as well, making it easy to offer consistent design experiences across multiple types of content pages. This creates the smoothest road possible to conversion.

3. Light on clutter.

Finally, if you have a clear path to completing a goal paved out for your site visitors, don’t distract them with gratuitous clutter.

Keeping with the retail analogy from earlier, few businesses can pull off being Costco, a company that doesn’t just offer something for everyone — they offer everything for everyone. When you walk in, you’re immediately given 1,000 options as to which aisle to venture down, but you’ll find something useful in any of them.

The same will never be true of your website, so don’t even try to offer that kind of variety. If you do, you’ll just end up overwhelming people.

The good news is, once you have your visitor’s main goals defined, and the paths to them laid out through strategic journeys, it’s far easier to determine which elements support that and which are expendable.

Your business doesn’t need a dozen links in your site navigation, a full blog sidebar, and pages you’ve created in the past. Removing anything that’s not actively moving people towards the end goal decreases distractions and makes the ideal journey even more clear to visitors.

Related: Digital Marketing in 2018: Advanced Strategies and Tips for Best Results

Help people accomplish their goals.

UX is ultimately about making it as clear and easy as possible for users to do what they want to do. Remember that your website is your storefront, and small features and pages are like employees. They each need to actively work for you, and they need to function well together as a team. This calls for training and designing them carefully.

Using the above tips, start molding your user experience to better help your audience.

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