Your website is by far one of the most valuable marketing tools in the whole arsenal of your business. However, if you’re not making the most effective use of it, it can also be one of the biggest wastes of potential. It doesn’t matter how killer your content is or how aesthetically appealing your website is if you don’t focus on the most important thing of all: how usable it is. After all, usability is what allows customers to engage with that content in the first place. For that reason, we’re going to take a look at some tips that can help you improve the overall usability of the website.
Make it much easier to find
While not strictly a usability issue in and of itself, having few people coming to and clicking on your website is necessarily going to stop them from using it so it is an issue worth starting with in the first place. There are plenty of ways to optimize your website and encouraging clicks. Search engine optimization can help you win over more customers by making sure that the site is placed as close to the top of search engine results pages as possible, for instance, allowing more people to see it through one of the most highly trafficked websites in all of the internet.
Avoid making it too complex
You might feel the need to make your website look sophisticated and detailed by making it slightly more complex and offering more options to the user. However, the more choices you offer them, the more likely they are to experience the paradox of choice, not knowing exactly where to look. It’s wise to keep it relatively simple when you’re targeting consumers and this applies to your content as well. Tools like Hemingway can help you simplify your written content, thus making it more readable for the average person. People aren’t there to engage in high-level ideas on your website most of the time. Usually, they’re looking for fast solutions and easy-to-digest information for a very specific reason
Be wary of clutter
This can be considered an extension of the last tip, but there is one certain kind of complexity that seems to make it more difficult for people to effectively use a website than others. We’re talking about the visual clutter that can often stuff up a page. One of the core ideas that is driving the modern website design is the generous use of white space. This is effectively the blank space, often literally white or at least some other light background color, that makes the existing content stand out more. By using white space effectively, it has been shown that you can improve how much the user pays attention by up to 20%.
Cut irrelevant content
No-one writes content or creates pages with the intention of making parts of the site that aren’t relevant to the interests of customers visiting it. However, what might seem like it has some value at first can later prove to be more of a waste of time and resources than anything else. For instance, many company “About Us” pages are full of non-essential, self-congratulatory fluff that most customers are never going to read. Take a look at all of your pages and all of your content and think about whether it really has value to your customer. If it doesn’t, it might be worth considering removing it, whether it’s a paragraph, a page, or even a whole category.
Use media to your advantage
Overreliance on written content can make your website far too verbose, as well as making it more reliant on the visitor’s willingness to scroll. Sometimes, you can communicate concepts and navigational features much better by using media such as images and videos. Multimedia design on your website can improve its usability tremendously. However, you have to be careful about overusing it. Too many images on one page can make it much easier for the customer to simply ignore and try to navigate around the images as well. Find the images that best convey the navigation or concept that you’re trying to promote and limit it to just one use per element.
Make sure it’s not super slow at loading
As internet connections get more and more sophisticated and faster, people have less and less patience for websites that aren’t able to load in time. There is a range of tools as shown at HubSpot that can help you identify elements that might be slowing the load times of your website, which you can then go on to fix and address. For instance, having too many large files like super high definition images and videos can slow down page load speeds. Your choice of hosting provider may also affect page load speeds, as will other issues like CSS files and browser caching. Most people are not going to wait more than 3 seconds for a website to load, so you better make sure yours is faster than that.
Be responsive to different devices
Let’s not forget that, in the 21st century, people are using all kinds of devices to access your website. When we design websites, we often think of the people who will be sitting in front of a mouse and keyboard, but they aren’t going to be all of your users. In fact, they may not even be the majority of your users. Mobile devices with different screen sizes and layouts, from laptops to smartphones to tablets, continue to see an increasing portion of web traffic. For that reason, investing in responsive design is crucial. Test and adapt your website to work better on different mediums if you want to make sure that it reaches more people.
Making your website open to all
It’s not enough to solely consider the different kinds of devices that your visitors might be using. You also have to consider the different kinds of visitors that might be using your website, as well. In particular, you must consider visitors with different kinds of disabilities and how able they are to use your website, from color blindness to levels of eyesight loss and beyond. Services like AudioEye are helping businesses bake accessibility into their website. For most businesses, this isn’t just a factor in making sure more people can use the website: it’s also a question of legal compliance. The ADA provisions might make it that your business has to aim to make its services more accessible, meaning this applies to your website, too.
Ensure that the website is consistent
If your customer clicks on a link within your website that leads to another page on your website, it should make sense to them, visually, that they’re still in your domain. If they click that link and the page on the other side looks drastically different, they’re going to assume that they have been taken to a different part of the internet, which might lead them to click away. It’s important to make sure there is a level of consistency across all of your webpages. Most website owners understand this and will not intentionally design websites that use inconsistent designs. However, when updating the website, they might end up missing pages that don’t get the same visual overhaul and, thus, become a lot more confusing to visitors.
Use calls-to-action that makes sense
Another point that pays attention to how “sensible” the progression through your website is. Your customers should have a good idea of where they’re going to go when they click a link, even before they click it. A call-to-action is an effective way to link content to another page, often a page that gets you closer to goals such as converting customers. You have to take care when writing calls-to-action, however. They should not aim to surprise customers by clickbaiting them towards a service page, for instance. Instead, they should clearly lay out what they want the visitor to do and the value of doing just that. Be clear and concise when writing calls to action, as Opt-In Monster suggests.
Be sure to test it
There is some level of intuition and good sense that goes into website design, especially in making a website more usable. However, you should never assume that you know best. Instead, you should start with intuition and what you learn from posts like this, then see if it matches up with the data. The most effective way to do this is with A/B testing. A/B testing is effectively running two versions of the webpage at the same time or very close to one another to see differences in metrics such as clickthrough and how long the user stays there. It can help you get a more data-driven idea of what actually makes the site more usable.
The moment that you let usability become a second-string element of your website design, you’re going to start losing real conversion power. Follow the tips above to ensure that this does not happen under your watch.