Correctly marketing your website is important now more than ever! For your website is the holder of your content. It is a key place for people to land after they’ve seen a video, social media post, or blog. We’ve introduced the importance of making sure these mediums link back to the source by linking to a website address. Thus, the next step is to be ready for your audience by assuring that your homepage or landing page is user-friendly! And one of the most important, yet often overlooked aspect of web marketing is website usability.
Website usability means that your site is navigable, user-friendly, and its capabilities and features are straightforward.
Your website is a reflection of your organization. If you can make a big impact with your website and build a happy group of visitors, you will be able to accomplish much more even with limited resources.
Here are some simple changes that will make your website more user-friendly so that can have greater success on the Internet, so that all the efforts you’ve made thus far don’t end when someone lands on your site:
Studies show that within the first two seconds, the visitor decides whether they will leave your page, or stay and engage. That two-second time frame is all they need to gather the look and feeling of your site. Two things, therefore, are very important in making a good first impression:
- Have a high quality visual presentation, and
- Clearly convey who you are, and what your purpose is.
These can be improved further with a simple design will allow readers to immediately see what information you are sharing. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Make the layout one column, and your readers will be guided in a more predictable way. Furthermore, the page will more easily flow to places of importance.
- Provide a clear next step for your visitors (call-to-action). Have a link guiding them to the next place to go, or next content to see. And be sure it is visible. These should be the pathways that lead to landing pages. By having clear directions you will find you are more successful and users trust your services as they navigate with ease and purpose.
- Less is more. Don’t duplicate the same information in different places. Make sure that your content is straightforward, keep instructions uncomplicated, and don’t waste space. Users don’t want to spend a lot of time searching for things, they just want to be easily directed to the information they need.
- Keep the content language clear by using keyword phrases that your audience will understand and be encouraged to read more, or visit more pages.
- To keep content straightforward and relative to your theme, focus on using words or phrases in your content that match your website’s purpose and intent. This will also help with search engine optimization.
Make the webpages clear and understandable as to what’s what. The most important place one can do this is first within the menu-navigation bar:
- Distinguish topics
- Keep options visible and drop-downs minimal.
- You may want to use something called an Ubermenu.
- Have distinct styles between links or menu items that are clickable (where they can go on the site) versus selected (where they are on the site)
Your home page should also capture the user’s attention within those first few seconds. So the layout should let the user know right away what the organization is about, its purpose, and why you are special or unique from others in your field.
- Make the homepage information and picture small enough so that all of the most important sentences that identify your purpose can be seen without the user having to scroll down– they can see it right away.
- Make the most of your homepage header space, logo, images, and columns (e.g. widgets).
- Have clear actions that the user can do to get to their next page of interest. Make the links clear and easy for a person to get back to the home page if necessary. To be navigable, keep important information highlighted and easy to find. Put in the effort required to make the site headers and menus simple and yet visually appealing. Users should be able to easily find answers to their questions relating to why they came your webpage in the first place.
- Have clear visual hierarchies that organize the web pages. This is similar to how newspapers are set up by categories and hierarchy, using headlines and captions to help readers visually scan and find the sections they want to go. This improves satisfaction and audience trust. On the web, being set up for reader scanning improves the likelihood that they will return to your site and support you in the future.
- Improve the use of headers to help the user navigate. Headers also help with search engine optimization because their words/phrases are picked up in search engines and increase their ranking.
Within landing pages or top ten pages, you will want to also focus on improving the following:
- Have a rhythm for each page’s organization and layout. This includes the use of headers, titles, subtitles, information, and call to action (next steps, further reading, etc.). Keep a consistent organization as people travel from page to page.
- Define the theme of the particular page, with two to three main points per page that belong to the overarching theme of the website itself. These points will be part of the thread throughout the website that tie it all together (contributing to a powerful marketing framework and brand).
- Don’t include too much information. Most visitors on the web are not searching for long passages; nor do they have time to read them when they are looking for quick answers to their questions. You can shorten lengthy paragraphs into bullet points and easy-to-read sections wherever possible and make it scannable. Think about the layout of a newspaper: it affords the reader a conveniently quick, point-by-point glance.
Establish yourself as a qualified resource in your field of service by illustrating the qualities that make you reliable and trustworthy:
- If people are visiting your site in order to learn more information–be it about a topic, product, or service–be sure to show them what’s useful to them or relevant to their needs. They are there to learn; you must guide them in the process.
- Be frank about what you have to give, and for who (the audience) it is helpful. For example, label menu tabs for certain target audiences, e.g. “For Educators” or “For Parents” to help them get to pages for which they are most likely interested.
- Use testimonials to show positive things that have been said about what you offer, or what you have accomplished.
Also be sure to make your website interactive and fun to use. Trends suggest sites that keep visitors interacting with quizzes, polls, apps, forums, or clickable features are more likely to succeed. Be creative and have fun with new ideas for keeping visitors engaged. Ask yourself:
What can I offer them that they might share with others? Is it a gift, an eBook, an inspirational piece, or anything else to show your visitors that you want to help them? Decide what you can share that is practical, helpful, and interesting.
This will help build trust: a key ingredient in any lasting relationship, and give them incentive to return in the future, share it with friends, and stay connected with your organization (via social media or newsletter etc.).
Imagery and video are also interactive. As the saying goes, “a picture says a thousand words.” Don’t just talk to your visitors, help them to experience what you mean and what you are offering that is unique. For example, infographics are useful for giving information in a creative, dynamic way. They display information along with a supportive graphic, allowing the viewer to assimilate what you are conveying clearly and quickly, and more memorably according to research.
User testing is the best way to measure the effectiveness of your usability improvements.
It is very important to test your website usability early and often. People forget that this process needs to be done from the very beginning in order to save time and energy down the road. And from then on, test usability again every few months. Sit with a potential website user or visitor to perform the testing. Have them report their experience page-by-page (or action-by-action). Ask thought-provoking questions, have them perform key actions, and record helpful information for making future site improvements. Some examples of questions include:
- What do you make of our header?
- If you had to guess, what do you think these menu tabs go to?
- What is the first thing you think of when you see this page?
- Where would you go to find _____?
- What stands out, or captures your attention first?
- Where do you think clicking _____ will take you?
- If you land on this page, what would you do next?
Use Google Analytics as a complementary analysis tool to see how your audience users your site, and observe which pages are doing better than others (user’s jump rates).
Over time, you will be able to watch as the benefits from website usability continue to take form. And after all is said and done, remember to have fun! If you are having fun creating it, visitors will have fun engaging in it.