Your website is important. It’s your store front, the way people first encounter you, and it’s something everyone expects you to have. But it’s not enough to just have a website. It’s got to look good, and it’s got to be useable.
Despairing? Try these 12 tips to immediately improve the user experience on your website.
1. Create space.
It’s all about the best use of space, but that doesn’t mean you should cram every border and margin with banners and images. Instead, think about ease-of-reading. When there’s too much going on, people just don’t know where to look to find what they need. Sensory overload can be a real problem, and even though you’d think you’re getting more exposure for all the services you offer or the awards you’ve won, it turns out that every element on the page gets less attention when there’s less to look at.
You might even want to test this by having a few people browse your site and check how their eyes move across the page. Are they looking at what you want them to look at? Or are their eyes skipping around, trying to take it all in? If they don’t know where to focus, you know that you need to create some more space. If you think about the page like a comic strip, that might help you figure out how to draw people’s eyes where you want them.
2. Reduce ads.
Ads can be a great way to get revenue or draw attention to other services that you don’t have on the page someone’s looking at. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone hates ads. It’s a waste of precious space (see #1), and often people will be using ad blockers anyway. If you keep every element on your page valuable to the user, then their experience of using your website will obviously improve.
3. Improve loading speeds.
There are so many widgets you can add these days that you might feel your website needs to be all-singing, all-dancing. Actually, if it slows down how your page loads, it’s a really bad idea. Not only does it impact your SEO, but it can be really frustrating for users. Often, if a page isn’t loading quickly enough, users will just hit back to try and find the info they want elsewhere – you’ve probably done it yourself.
4. Have a responsive design.
This really means being mobile-friendly. More and more people browse the web via their phones and tablets, so you need to think about how it looks for them. If you don’t have something to test on, this tool might help.
5. Check for broken links.
This is an obvious one, right? If people are clicking on a link on your site and then it just takes them to a page not found message, they’re not going to be able to find what they need. You should sweep your site for broken links every now and again, especially when you know you’ve changed things. It can also help to have a useful error page – something with a search bar or a ‘did you mean…’ prompt.
6. Keep it consistent.
It’s a good idea to make sure all your website looks like the same place. Sudden changes in color and style make people wonder what’s going on – have they accidentally clicked on something they didn’t want to click on? Is your website buggy? Is it going to harm their computer? Just putting in the effort to bring everything into line makes you look much more professional and helps avoid confusion.
7. Consider accessibility.
Grey text on a white background? Not a good plan! All kinds of people will stumble across your website, and you want to make sure they can read it and get the info they need. Adding alt-text to your images helps people with screenreaders, and keeping a good contrast helps people with vision problems. Avoiding tiny text is a good idea, too – even the young ‘uns don’t like having to squint to read. Try this site for tips on accessibility.
8. Use images… but not too many.
Wondering what the monkey's about? I just thought it looked cool. But it was confusing, right?
This is really related to #1. A picture can be worth 1,000 words, but too many quickly crowd out text and make your page harder to read. Irrelevant images are just confusing (like the monkey). Picking one perfect image works better than filling the page with gifs shouting for attention, however cool they look.
9. Make your links stand out.
There’s a longstanding convention about hyperlinked text: it’ll be blue and underlined. It’s worth sticking to that, even if you update it a bit by removing the underline or changing the color. Because it’s an established convention, people know what it means right away, and it draws attention to your links.
10. Figure out your calls to action.
What do you want people to do once they’ve read your page? Do you want them to click another link, order something, tweet about it…? Whatever it is, make that clear! Give them a big Facebook button or a link to your store – and follow up in your page analytics to make sure people are clicking it! If they aren’t, you need to reconsider.
11. Use headings…
When you’re reading anything, you’ve probably noticed it helps if you can quickly skim over it and get the gist of what its saying – and when you’re looking for something specific, headings are really useful for just finding what you need and ignoring the rest. While you don’t really want people ignoring any of your site, user experience will improve if you give them signposts like headings – and headings can be eye-catching, too, drawing people to things they weren’t looking for.
12. And bullet points!
What’s easier to read: a list of bullet points, or a huge wall of text? You know the answer already. You can even give your individuality a boost with quirky and relevant bullet point images.
You might not be able to implement all of those tips together in just one two-hour tweaking session, but a quick checklist of these things will come in handy whenever you’re trying to improve things. And it shouldn’t take much longer than two hours – especially if you keep up to date with it.
Did we miss any tips? Let us know in the comments below!