Here’s how you can start fixing your site’s bad user experience

By David Arkin, Local Media Association 

If you invited someone to your house for dinner and punched them in the face, do you think they would want to come back?

Of course not.

Jim Brady, CEO of Spirited Media, during a session at Media Transformation on user experience, said that’s what media companies are doing to their audience.

“People assume that if the content is good enough a reader will fight through the bad experience of a website and that’s simply note true,” Brady said. “In the United States a website loads in five seconds. And a newspaper website launches in 17 seconds.”

Brady and Jason Jedlinski, Vice President of Product Management for Gannet, talked for nearly 45 minutes on the need for the industry to improve UX, now.

Here are a few of their top takeaways:

• At Spirited Media, 60 percent of their revenue comes from events. Brady made a conscious effort to not include pop ups, pop unders or third party links when they launched their online-only sites. “We don’t do anything that is disruptive to the reader,” Brady said.  The key has been that Brady developed a diversified revenue strategy not forcing him to depend on poor experiences.

• Jedlinski pointed out that media companies are willing to take out pop ups and third party links to have their content featured on Facebook’s Instant Articles. “What lessons could we take from what Facebook has required us to do on our own pages?” he asked. He suggested media companies take an inventory of all of the elements they have on a page and determine what solutions may exist to move away from some of the most offensive experiences.

• While media companies don’t want to lose revenue, you could eliminate bad user experiences and position the move as a way to grow time on story or visits, Jedlinski said. “If you ran another business you would not try to squeeze as much as possible out of a single page view,” he said. “You would showcase your voice and your photography and bring them into your brand.”

• Brady stressed that growth in audience takes an entire company working together. He told a story about a former company he worked for that wasn’t pleased with the growth the websites were experiencing and he pointed to poor experiences that were making it difficult to discover the content. “If we put content behind a bad user experience traffic is just not going to grow,” Brady said.

• Jedlinski said models that reward loyal visitors could have upside. “What if we disabled a certain feature for someone who comes back on their second or third visit,” he suggested.

• Advertisers are starting to discover that bad user experiences are not the best ways for them to reach their customers, Jedlinski said. “They are learning that there are better ways to get leads and drive conversion than intrusive experiences,” he said.

• Brady said the most important metric for him is visits per month and Jedlinski said loyalty is their most important metric.