5 Tips to Improve Website Usability

The Internet has changed drastically since I created my first website in 1998. Many of the technologies and processes that exist now did not exist back then. I remember when most websites were built with HTML and an animated .gif would knock your socks off! Here, I will share with you 5 key points that I’ve learned throughout the years to leverage your website to suit your needs.

1. First Impressions
In life, I was taught, “Looks aren’t everything”; but in the online world – looks is a major part of legitimacy of your website. A design that suits your clientele with an easy to navigate menu and strategically organized content will go a long way to achieving your online goals. Ask yourself: Who is your target audience? What are you trying to achieve with a website? Who are your competitors? What is your budget? Being specific in your needs will help make sure you have a solid foundation before embarking on a website build.  A website is just like a house – a strong foundation is critical.

2. Starting pages
Make sure all pages of your website are relevant and to the point.  Every page is your homepage now.   Your actual homepage probably only accounts for less than 40% of incoming visitors. Surprised? Here is an example:

If we search “William Joseph Communications” in a Google search, sometime similar to this (below) will display:

People can click on the contact link and miss the homepage where we showcase material of interest – this is why we’ve integrated content buckets on that page featuring this content in smaller form.   This way, people get what they came for (our contact info) and a little extra by the ability to be quickly transported to our portfolio.  That being said, I’ve analyzed various user-clicking habits in the past and about half the people click on the smaller sub page links. This intrigued me as I usually click on the homepage and from there, navigate through other parts of the website.  It just goes to show that you need to think about all the ways that a user might experience your site, and how and what you want them to take away from it no matter where they enter.

3. Up-to-date content
Love it or hate it, content is king in the online world. Adding quality material to engage consumers is key. The design will intrigue the user, but the content is what keeps them coming back. There is an analytic term called “bounce rate”; this refers to the amount of time that visitors enter the site and leave the site rather than continue on to view other pages. Typically, the lower the bounce rate the better on pages with significant content. A high bounce rate on pages that display something other than quickly consumed information (say, your contact information, or other quick info) typically indicates that users have not found what they are looking for and so have left to go find it.

4. User device
Times are changing, mobile surfing is growing fast. Is your website compatible to both mobile and conventional web surfing? Does technology on your website (i.e. videos) work on all browsers and mobile devices (i.e. flash is not supported in an iPhone). The dimensions of a website layout has changed throughout the years as well. In the 90’s square monitors (left) were the main stream where as now, the wide screen theater style (right) is more popular. Keep up with what your clientele and the technology they use for the best results.  Out of date websites are more apparent than ever now due to changing device formats and platforms.

5. Track with Analytics
Knowing where your visitors came from, which pages get the most activity and what kind of device they are using can be an easy way to help you change your game plan to gain more visitors and/or sales by targeting a more specific audience. Google Analytics can tell you all of this information and display it in a chart or graph form as well. Knowing what is happening can help refine your future goals and monitor your past actions for success.

REF:
http://www.netmagazine.com/features/five-essential-google-analytics-tips-web-designers
http://www.netmagazine.com/news/mobile-drives-marketers-soda-survey-121810
http://support.google.com/adwords/certification/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=23858&guide=23857&page=guide.cs&answer=152618

Images used:
http://www.google.com/search?q=william+joseph+communications&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
http://img1.grafika.cz/grafika/images/FW900.jpg
http://www.externaldevicesprice.co.uk/images/cheap-Samsung-P2470HD-Full-HD-Widescreen-LCD-TV-Monitor-Freeview.jpg
http://dallasgoogleguru.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/google-analytics-example.jpg