Substance over style: 9 essentials to optimise your website’s experience in 2019

Posted by Simon Williams
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Substance over style

When it comes to digital experiences, all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. Organisations can often become fixated on how their website looks rather than the experience it delivers to the user. First impressions count but looks aren’t everything; too often there’s a mistaken belief that good design equates to flashy UX and attention-grabbing visuals, but such features are only finishing touches.

The substance of a website is far more important than the style. When undertaking any sort of digital transformation from new channels to new functionality, every aspect needs to address a specific need. Here, we’ve outlined nine key aspects of digital experience to have on your roadmap for 2019, and what to consider beyond strong creative, when building a new digital presence.

Be clear on your reasons for changing

Before embarking on a journey of digital transformation, it’s important to first ask why you’re undertaking the change. Be clear on the outcomes you’re looking to achieve and use these outcomes to create goals and targets for the experience you’re trying to create. Who is the target audience? What channels and devices do they use most often? How will you measure success? What metrics will you gather? Being clear on the reasons for making a change will focus development and drive better results for your organisation and your users.

Initial impact

Customers are ruthless when they land on a new website with nearly all leaving after just 15 seconds, or after the 2 minute-mark, if you’re lucky. Making the right first impression is critical and there’s little time to waste in doing so, but there are a complex mix of motivations that encourage users to stay on your site. As such, it’s vital that your landing page is optimised correctly to deliver the information your users need in a way that’s impactful and easy to navigate.


After grabbing the attention of a user, the next stage is converting them to a potential customer. As the above point makes clear, you don’t have long to do this. Customers must be able to quickly follow the journey through your site to find what they need. They then must be tempted to interact with appropriately tempting calls to action.


Personalisation is an important element that has repeatedly been shown to improve website conversion rates. Customers will stay longer if what they read is directly aimed at them. This works especially well with returning customers; the more you know about a user, the more the content can be customised to encourage them to buy. The growing capability of AI in this area shows great promise, offering the ability to serve personalised content to users based on their behaviour and preferences at scale. It effectively ‘learns’ how they use the site and tailors the content they see in response, faster than any human could hope to.


If content doesn’t load quickly enough, we’ll move elsewhere. The performance of a website is key in delivering a smooth, seamless experience, so it’s worth considering what content is being displayed and how the website will be used. Video content, hosting, target devices, architecture and processing capacity can all impact the speed at which users can navigate your website, and as we’ve already touched upon; time is of the essence.


Just as important as performance is reliability. If the site is unavailable at the critical time when someone is prepared to buy, it is highly likely you will lose the sale. Similarly, if any part of the website fails to work along the customer journey, again customers will walk. As with performance, building good reliability requires wide consideration. Equally, it requires close monitoring once live to spot potential problems.


We frequently hear stories about website security that highlight how poorly many organisations consider this part of their digital estate. With data and security currently at the forefront of the users’ minds, customers will quickly move elsewhere if there’s even a hint that their personal details may be exposed. All of which would undo the hard work that went into building your website and your customer base. It’s also extremely difficult to recover from the ongoing reputational damage of a security breach, and as such the more consideration given to security in the initial phases of development, the better.


It’s important to understand the devices on which your target audience access your content in order to deliver the best possible experience. Most users will have at least two web browsing devices, so content must be readable across anything from laptops to phones to tablets. Good platforms will deliver most content effectively out of the box from one design. However, your development partner still needs to know the nuances of the chosen platform to do this effectively.


Accessibility is critical for many reasons. It is vital that your content supports the needs of all of your users, and failure to do so can damage the potential market for your service and more broadly impact your reputation if you inadvertently discriminate. This is increasingly important due to a rapidly aging population. The rapidly growing popularity of intelligent agents delivered by voice services including Alexa, Siri, Google and Cortana offer some great potential for improving accessibility to the hearing population.

In summary, all nine of these aspects need to be considered when designing new functionality or a new digital channel. Don’t fall into the trap of style over substance, or you’ll be left behind.

Netcel acted as a technical partner for Metro Bank on the redevelopment of their public-facing website. The solution required consideration of all the points mentioned above. The upgraded website was delivered to a tight timescale requiring close collaboration with other specialists. To quote Joe Postle, Digital Propositions Lead at Metro Bank: “Public reaction to the new website has been overwhelmingly positive. Visitors delight in a responsive, device-agnostic, intelligent and personalised experience that corresponds with Metro Bank’s acclaimed in-branch experience.” Since going live, Metro Bank’s score has risen from 4.5 to 7.5, in independent ‘Digital Confidence’ tests. uses cookies to make sure you get the best experience possible on our website. You can review our cookie policy and learn how to change your privacy settings on our cookie policy page. By continuing to navigate this website, or by clicking the button below, you hereby accept our policy regarding the usage of cookies as detailed in our cookie policy.