There are many different elements that need to come together to create a new website. You need to consider the layout, the design, the page content, the menu, the footer, the sidebar and any extra functionality that you want to include.
But there is one very important factor that needs to be considered and is often overlooked. The user’s experience.
A website is often built with aesthetics as the primary goal. However, focusing only on the ‘wow factor’ may result in a website that is difficult to navigate and just downright annoying for your visitors. A website that turns away visitors is useless to a business. This is why the user’s experience should be front and centre of your mind at all times during the creative process.
Here are our tips for creating a website that is both easy to navigate and useful for your visitors.
What is the most Important Information?
It’s very rare for a website visitor to read all the information on a single website page. They might read the headline and maybe the first few sentences. Maybe they then skim read through the other headings on the page to see if there is anything else relevant to them. The majority stop reading at this point. If they haven’t found the information that they need in this time, they move on.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very important to include all the information that may be useful to your website visitors. However, it’s important to keep the average user’s browsing habits in mind as you lay out the page. Leave out any information that doesn’t need to be there. Use description headings to separate each section of information so a reader can easily skim the page to determine whether the information is relevant to them.
Most of the visitor’s attention is given to the first heading and paragraph on the page. Use this to your advantage. What is it that you want them to know the most? Do you have a unique selling point that you want to highlight? If so, add it to the top of the page or perhaps work it into your page title.
The Menu is a Roadmap for your Website
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What information might visitors be looking for when they visit my website?
- What information might I want visitors to find?
- Can links to this information be easily found from any page on the website?
Use this information when deciding what content should go on each page and where that page should sit in the menu. You want it to be obvious to visitors where they need to go to find what they’re looking for (or what you want them to find).
How you set up the menu might also depend on your target market. We found an interesting example recently. Normally, when viewing a website on a desktop, you’d expect to see the menu sit horizontally along the top of the screen or vertically down the side. When viewing a website on a smaller screen (for example, an iPhone), a smaller “menu symbol” is shown (see the example from the Bizboost website below). When you click on this website, the full menu will load.
On a website we viewed recently, they’ve chosen to use the menu symbol, even when the website is viewed on a desktop computer.
This is where your target audience might come into play. A millennial who have spent half their life browsing the internet on their iPhone (like me) is more likely to see this symbol and realise straight away that this is the menu. Other generations who have not spent as much time addicted to their smartphones may not find this as quick. This is a generalisation of course, but a useful place to start when making decisions about your website.
Can Your Contact Details be found Easily?
For many businesses, the location contact details are the most important piece of information on the site. Where do people need to go if they want to buy from you? How can people reach out to you if they have more questions about your products or services?
Make sure this information can be found easily. People often expect to find these details on a ‘contact us’ or ‘location’ page, so including these in your menu is useful. Many businesses will also have their details in the footer of the site, so it can be found easily on every page.
It’s common for people to search for a local business on their smartphones so it can be very useful to include a Google Map on your website. Clicking on this map will then open Maps app on the phone, which allows visitors to get directions from their location to your business.
Keep it Fast
The attention span of your average internet user is not what they used to be. Having a website that is slow to load increases the chance of a person leaving the site before they find the information that they need. This is why the speed of your website is so important.
If you have a WordPress website and have signed up for our WordPress Tune-Up, we already look after this for you. Once every six months, we update your website, optimise images, delete unnecessary files and generally give everything a good check to ensure it’s running as quick as possible.
Outside of this, there are also things that you can do. Ensure that the images you upload are no larger than they need to be. If uploading documents, keep them as small as possible. For more on optimising your media files, see the sections titled “preparing images user guides” and “PDF Documents User Guides” on our resources page.
Make it Mobile Responsive
Being “mobile responsive” means that the website automatically adapts depending on the size of the screen that it’s viewed on. The practical effect of this is that it is much easier for visitors to scroll and navigate through the website. The buttons are bigger on the screen and there’s no need to zoom and pan through the page to read the content. It also has the added benefit of being more google-friendly then a non-responsive site, making it more likely to be found in the search results.
The ability to make a website mobile responsive is a relatively new feature. If your website has been developed by us within the last six years, it’s likely that it’s already responsive. If older, it may not be. But don’t fret, it’s often possible to convert an older site into a responsive site, without needing to create an entirely new template. You can find out more here.
So, these are five tips we have for improving the usability of your website. It’s by no means a comprehensive list. So if you’ve noticed things that have irked you or made it easier for you to use a website, you can share it in the comments below.