Wikipedia defines web usability as the “ease of use of a website,” which begs the question: just how easy is it for people to use your site?
Two other questions worth considering are…
- How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they visit your site?
- Does your site function in a way that helps visitors easily find the information they’re looking for?
An article on web usability makes the following assertion:
“If a website is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a website, they leave. If a website’s information is hard to read or doesn’t answer users’ key questions, they leave.”
If people are leaving your site for any of these reasons, it may be time to consider a redesign. At the very least, it mandates that attention be paid to factors governing usability on your current site.
Here are 5 best practices that can help guide the process.
1. Keep content limited to bite-sized chunks.
It’s a well-researched, established fact that people don’t read online, they scan. If visitors to your site encounter a “wall of words” (i.e., long paragraphs), your content will not be read.
Therefore, it’s better to keep content broken into “chunks” of information.
- Limit paragraphs to two or three lines of text;
- Highlight keywords with bold text to facilitate scanning;
- Use meaningful sub-headings, not “clever” ones;
- Use bulleted and numbered lists;
- Stick with one idea per paragraph;
- Write like a reporter and start with the conclusion (inverted pyramid style);
- Reduce the word count by half (yes, half!).
2. Keep navigation consistent across the site.
We addressed this in Monday’s post – Make Every Page on Your Website a Home Page – but it bears repeating.
Visitors should be able to easily return to your home page or other major areas within the site. It’s also helpful to keep major navigation items limited to no more than seven. Everything else should become a sub-navigation item that fits underneath those.
3. Organize your site into clearly defined sections.
Think about how your visitor would use the site. For example, your company’s “Mission” page would logically fit under the “About” section. The same with leadership bios.
It’s not always easy to determine the best placement for your content, which is where Bizzuka can help. Our drag-and-drop technology makes it easy to move pages around in order to achieve a better fit.
4. Don’t always tell, show instead.
In the post, Rise of the Visual Web, I indicated that the Internet has become a highly visual medium (by “visual” I mean the use of images and video).
People are busy. They don’t always have time to read, so show them a picture instead…or a video, infographic, Powerpoint presentation or other form of imagery.
The same principle that applies to text also applies to visual – shorter is better.
Even though there is an ongoing debate over the optimum length of online video, all I know is that 4 minutes is a long time when it comes to sitting quietly in front of a computer screen watching a video (10 minutes seems like an eternity!).
5. Make it work on mobile.
Is there a mobile version of your website? If not, you’re losing a sizable portion of your audience.
According to a May 2013 Pew Internet study, 91% of American adults have a cell phone and 56% of those own a smartphone. More than half use the device to access the Internet.
So I ask you again, is there a mobile version of your website?
When it comes to mobile web usability, everything I said earlier applies, and to an even greater degree.
The title of a now classic book on web usability says it best: “Don’t Make Me Think.” Your website visitors should not have to waste time attempting to figure things out. They should, with minimal effort, be able to “get it” and accomplish what they came to your site to do. If not, they will leave and possible you’ll never see them again.
Web usability is an essential to making your site an effective marketing tool. Hopefully, these 5 tips will help. Are there others you’d like to mention? If so, please leave them in a comment.