Whatever the purpose of your business website, the quality of its user experience (UX) can be a huge predictor of how successful it is in achieving its purpose.
Even a single metric, like a website’s loading speed or security, has the potential to totally transform its conversion rate.
That’s why even though UX is often thought of as primarily a designer’s concern, it’s actually something that no business owner can afford to ignore – and your web hosting can have a tremendous impact on the experience of visiting your site.
In this post, we’ll take a deeper look at some of the most important ways reliable web hosting can impact your UX, and how you can apply this knowledge to create a positive experience for your customers.
What is Web Hosting?
Your website is a collection of pages stored in HTML format. It requires a domain (address) and hosting (server) to become published on the Internet.
With web hosting, an external company provides servers where websites and related files can be stored, accessed by people using the Web, and managed in a centralized place. The web host provider you choose will manage and maintain their servers, helping to ensure that your content is available 24/7 to anyone visiting your site.
How Does Web Hosting Impact UX?
1. Site Speed
One of the most obvious aspects of the relationship between web hosting and user experience is site speed.
Site speed has always been a major consideration when it comes to UX optimization, because it affects the way users of all stripes see your site. You can have an attractive website with great quality content, and all it takes is slow speed to make it unusable. Many users may not wait around long enough to even try!
Slow speeds during checkout processes or other conversion pages can directly cost you sales. Data collated by Cloudflare shows how webpages that load in 2.4 seconds enjoy an average 1.9% conversion rate. But if this loading time drops to 4.2 seconds, the average conversions are almost halved.
Are potential conversion rate killers haunting your website? Find out in our article!
When someone is trying to make a purchase or solve a problem, every additional second can cloud their commitment to the task – and their confidence in your site.
If you’re concerned about your page speeds or site speed in general, it’s important to review how your hosting provider facilitates this for you. It’s also important for anyone who manages your website content to understand how certain elements can affect the speed experienced by your users.
Find a web hosting solution that uses a cloud-based server instead of a shared model.
Make sure it doesn’t use legacy storage systems like hard disk drives (HDD), rather than solid-state drives (SSD).
- SSD uses flash memory to store data and has faster read/write speeds and faster website load times
- This makes SSD more reliable and more secure than traditional web hosting solutions
- It helps you to minimize loading times for a positive experience with accessing pages and content
- Caching is the process of storing frequently accessed data or files, to improve performance by reducing the time it takes to load them
- It provides more efficient data transmission, and faster content serving for your site visitors
Vetting your hosting options thoroughly, and making sure you’re only looking at hosts who prioritize loading speed, will give your UX a strong basic foundation – and keep your site up-to-standard with competitors.
There are many different variables that can affect a site’s security, including the site’s hosting. And any business website that stores any kind of data about customers, from basic names and emails to credit card numbers and birthdays, absolutely needs to prioritize security.
A hosting provider’s capacity for back ups, network monitoring, encryption and other security initiatives has the potential to save your site visitors from a negative experience, such as visiting a hacked site or, even worse, having their data stolen.
You don’t want to be the company who has to contact your customers and let them know that their data was compromised.
Using managed rather than unmanaged web hosting means you won’t have to take as much of an active role in securing your server. Some of the key things to think about here are:
- The management team’s experience and credentials: Anyone with a reseller account can potentially set themselves up as a hosting provider. However, a hosting management team with demonstrable experience and credentials in providing web services can be a good indicator that you’ll get a proactive approach to your security.
- The presence of a detailed recovery plan: When you’re shopping around for new hosting providers, the sales reps should be able to lay out a recovery plan in the event of a cyberattack or other unforeseen disaster.
- How the provider has responded to attacks in the past: Learning about previous security incidents and how hosting providers have responded can help you understand the kind of protection you can expect as a client.
- Security policies: The policies that direct your hosting provider’s approach to security should be accessible to you from the first point of contact. If your hosting provider can share this information without a hitch, you can rest assured that your site’s UX will be supported by a number of both preventative and reactive security measures.
Another factor that seems obvious, your website being down is one of the worst possible user experiences for a potential client or customer.
It’s essential to find a web hosting service that ensures your site is accessible 24/7, with dependable caching that will prevent downtime caused by high traffic or demanding high-speed site themes.
There are many causes of a website crash:
- Following a sale launch, the server can’t handle the level of traffic all at once
- A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack
- Issues with the server (which is why we would recommend against a dedicated server)
- Issues with your account
A website’s uptime is directly impacted by the standard of your web hosting.
Though rare, downtime can cost any business dearly. Data collated by virtual waiting room provider Queue-it showed that downtime costs 91% of enterprises approximately $300,000 USD per hour, with this figure being much higher for more popular shopping sites.
Aside from the fact that downtime means your audience won’t be able to access your content, it can also hurt your SEO:
- An outage of a few hours can result in many uses ‘pogo-sticking’ from your crashed site back to search results, which sends Google negative signals about your site (plus those users aren’t likely to come back)
- An outage of one or more days can result in Google attempting to crawl and index your site during that time, finding it down, and deindexing your site altogether
- It’s incredibly hard to recover your previous rankings after being deindexed, and can take a year or more
It’s worth looking for a managed hosting service that includes real-time monitoring, or in the case of unmanaged hosting, getting set up with a tool like Uptimerobot. This will ensure that if you do experience downtime, you’ll be alerted as soon as possible and will be able to react accordingly.
4. Server Location
If you’re a brand serving a global audience, the location of your host’s servers are another variable which can have a big impact on your user experience.
A greater distance between the servers and your users can increase data latency, meaning slower-loading pages, a poorer user experience, and worse engagement.
Though server locations have been a real challenge for UX optimization in the past, many modern cloud hosting providers utilize data centres spread across several global locations. When a web user requests access to a website, the provider routes the request to the best server based on the user’s geographical location, thereby reducing latency and load times.
Furthermore, cloud providers implement redundancy and failover mechanisms so that if one server location experiences issues, traffic can be automatically redirected to another location to maintain consistent service.
When choosing a hosting provider, be sure to research the server locations provided by the service, and consider how this will affect UX for your current and future audience.
5. Plugin Accessibility
If you have any experience with building a website, you’ll know how important plugins can be in providing the kind of user experience your audience is looking for.
Plugins add extra functionality to WordPress sites. They have a vast range of uses from adding simple elements like a table of contents, to providing interactive SEO recommendations, to adding crucial website security.
While plugins that facilitate simpler website features are generally accessible through all hosting providers, some hosts will maintain lists of disallowed plugins for more demanding functions, for example SMTP or FTP.
It’s essential to consider the kind of plugins your site needs for an optimal user experience when choosing your hosting provider, especially if your site is in the early development stages. Though limited access to plugins may be adequate for your needs right now, as your business grows you may want to broaden your site functionality with additional plugins.
It’s important that your hosting provider can accommodate the needs of your audience and your business, and help you create a positive user experience that reflects your vision and goals.
Reliable Hosting for Long-term Success
Maintaining a highly usable website is the key to success. A good hosting provider will deliver the hidden foundations you need to ensure your audience has a positive experience with every visit.
By understanding web hosting’s role in providing a fast, reliable, and secure website, you’ll simplify the process of finding a web host that’s right for you, and building a site that truly delights your audience.