3 weird things you never knew about your website’s visitors

posted on 6th Jul 2018 by Caitriona Butler

Imagine you have just launched your brand new website – and congratulations, it’s gorgeous! You’re sitting at your desk, clicking around and it’s all shiny and scrolly and fast and lovely, just like you wanted. What you may not realise is that you, sitting at a broadband-enabled desktop computer may not be typical of every visitor to your website. Some visitors to your site are having an entirely different experience. But who are they and what are they experiencing? Let’s run through a few of the unexpectedly different visitor types and discuss some tips on how to view your website through their eyes.

1) Your website visitor is not human.

Web bots (small computer programmes that run automated tasks on the internet) account for more than half of the world’s internet traffic [source]. They are the reason you have to repeatedly affirm that ‘I am not a robot’ when submitting certain forms online. A bot’s purpose can range from passively benign to the deliberately malicious but the ones that we care most about and welcome on to our sites with open arms are those sent by the search engines. We want to fill them full of delicious SEO goodness and send them on their way. A search engine bot’s job is to scan the text content of our site and create a listing on their search engine. They will mostly ignore the pretty pictures and are unimpressed by flashy colours.

A super-simple way to view your site through the eyes of a bot is to consider only the text content of your web page. One way to do this to copy the entire contents of a web page & paste it into a plain-text editor. This will strip out all the colours, images and formatting. Alternatively an online tool that will show a text-only representation of your site is textise.net. Try it out! I bet you’ll be surprised at the simplicity of what you see.

2) Your website visitor is not using a computer.

Well, not a desktop computer at any rate. The devices that we carry everywhere with us and increasingly rarely use to make phone calls, they are technically computers, I suppose. Whether your visitor is viewing your site on a smart phone, a tablet or a laptop, each device brings with it a plethora of different browsing scenarios. The most obvious difference is the size of the screen but another effect on the browsing experience is the device’s network connection. Is the visitor on flakey 3G or a throttled hotel wifi connection?

Many web development agencies assemble in-house ‘device labs’ with a range of phones, tablets and computers they can use for testing websites. I have also heard of companies that provide a separate throttled wifi network for testing with a slow connection! But if this is out of your reach, Google’s Chrome browser is your new best friend. You can use Chrome DevTools’ Device Mode to simulate a wide range of devices and network speeds. Want to see how your site looks on a Blackberry over 3G? Google provide full instructions here.

3) Your website visitor has colour vision deficiency.

Also known as colour-blindness, colour vision deficiency effects around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women worldwide. This could mean that for every 100 users that visit your website, up to 8 people have a significantly different visual experience. Relying on colour alone to convey a message might make it difficult or impossible for your colour vision deficient visitors to interpret that message.

You can go to this site and enter your website’s url to simulate how people with colour vision deficiency may be experiencing your website.

Happily, many of the design techniques for accommodating colour-blind visitors will also benefit visitors in other visually-impaired scenarios – from age-related sight deterioration to someone browsing the web on their phone in bright sunlight. Having a site that in general avoids low-contrast design is good for all your visitors.

Caitriona Butler, Web Developer.
When not considering atypical browsing scenarios, Caitriona can be found crafting robust and effective responsive web sites across a range of programming languages & technologies in Neworld, a creative design & digital agency based in Dublin.