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Website Usability Tips

Published 03/03/2020

In a recent report from We Are Social, over half the world’s population are active internet users – a total of 4.48 billion people. This figure is growing on average 9% year-on-year, with the vast majority using the internet for social networking, searching for information and online shopping. That’s a lot of website visits and a pretty solid reason to ensure website usability is as good as it can be; to maximise engagement.

What is website usability?

Website usability is defined as how easy it is for users to engage or interact with a website they are visiting.

Whilst web design is often what makes the initial impression when a user lands on a website, it’s more often than not the user experience that determines whether or not they stay on a website and completes an action as desired by the website owner. That action could be a purchase or it could be a sequence of clicks that lead the user into an engagement.

There are a few different terms that are associated with website usability. Some of these terms may be more familiar than others, but often they are interchangeable:

User experience

The user experience is often called the UX. It’s the design process that is created for users to have meaningful experiences on a website.  Every time a user lands on a website, they will get a user experience. The type of experience they get will vary from site to site, but an optimal meaningful user experience is one that provides easy navigation, good value content and simplistic actions.

User interface

The user interface or UI enables the interaction between the user and the website. Without a user interface, they would be interacting with code. The user interface, or graphical user interface (GUI) is the graphical layover that makes it user-friendly.

Website usability testing

Before a website is released to the public, design teams execute a task known as usability testing to ensure the user interface is functional and the user experience is meaningful. User testers will highlight any functionality or design issues that need to be addressed before ‘go-live’. Testing is a critical part of website development and design.

UX design, UI design and usability testing are all important components in ensuring a website performs in the way that you want it to.

Why is website experience important?

Your website experience is a key to your online performance. If users are struggling to use your website then they will not be able to complete the goals or convert in the way you want them to. Goals and conversions can include any of the following:

1.      An online sale

2.      A request for information

3.      A contact us

4.      A registration

5.      A document / whitepaper download

6.      A survey completion

7.      A video play

All of these goals are KPIs (key performance indicators) and metrics,these can be obtained via Google Analytics if you have adequately set up tracking. Usability is also counted as a quality metric, and whilst difficult to measure a person’s subjective feelings, it can indicate if there is a trend in users dropping off your site at a particular point on your site.

For ecommerce sites, a drop off can be seen as  loss of a potential sale. This is frustrating if the user had intended to make a purchase, but was unable to do so, because of an issue such as a complex navigation or poor functionality of a  call-to-action.

For non-ecommerce sites where the goals are not sales but rather data collection, poor usability could equate to the loss of a lead.

Getting your website experience right is critical to the success of your online goals.

Tips for improving website usability

If your website’s usability is suffering and you have the insights as to why, you can address the specific development issues and measure the improvements over a specific time period. If you are not privy to insights or you just want to improve this generally, there are some key things you can do:

1.       Reduce page load speed

If your page load speed exceeds two seconds, you are getting into the danger zone where users will become frustrated at the wait time and click the back button or exit your site altogether and visit the next one in the search engine results pages. Reduce your page load speed by optimising your images, compressing content and minifying your code.

2.       Improve your quality of content

If you have large chunks of text, this is likely to overwhelm the user. Whilst the quantity of content does play some importance in your site’s optimisation, the quality of content is far superior. Make key information stand out by highlighting important USPs or directives. Break the content up with headers and sub-headers and make your content dynamic with the use of video.

3.       Make call-to-action buttons more obvious

It sounds obvious but your call-to-action buttons are you drivers for users to perform an action. If they are hard to spot or  function awkwardly you will lose the user’s interest. Surprisingly, the location and colour of buttons can play a huge difference in the engagement level so try out a few designs with some A/B split-testing and go with the most successful.

4.       Ensure your site is responsive

All sites in this day and age should be responsive. This means that the design responds to whatever device or screen size the website is being viewed on. With over half of all web searches now conducted via mobile phone, at the very least your site should be mobile-friendly. If you have ever tried to view a desktop version of a website via a smartphone, you will understand how frustrating the user experience is. This isn’t something you want to replicate for your own users

5.       Simplify navigation

Choose a navigation that people are familiar with. The vast majority of websites list the most important topics from left to right, with things like Services, About Us and Products appearing first. Contact us buttons generally tend to sit on the right of the page. Whilst there is no hard and fast rule on this, if you break the mould on navigation design   and your usability is suffering, it’s a no brainer that a familiar design will work better.

6.       Reduce click depth

Click depth is the amount of clicks it takes for a user to locate a page. Often on ecommerce sites, product variants can be buried on sub-pages deep in the sitemap and can be frustrating to find. Where possible, shorten click-depth by improving your internal link structure. Linking up pages improves navigation.

7.       Remove unnecessary ads

Ad space is a big revenue generator for many businesses and a great way to monetise your website However, too many ads can kill the user experience and make usability really tiresome. Use your judgment to get the balance just right between ads and UX. You want to maximise revenue from both channels without compromising one another.

8.       Address your page errors

We’ve all landed on a webpage with an error message before. Often this is a “404” error for a page that is no longer found because it’s been removed, but the URL is still cached. When a user lands on a page that no longer exists, they will often click straight back to the previous page, usually the search engine, which means they are no longer on your site. Fix this by redirecting all your error pages to pages with similar content. It could mean the difference between a sale or a lead.

Conclusion

The key with website usability is to monitor your analytics for insights and keep testing. If you maintain a proactive approach then you’ll be one step ahead of the game in ensuring your user experience is optimised for the best outcome – which essentially means more customers!