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3 Proven Techniques for Improving Your Website’s Usability

How to search for a keyword on a webpage, having a user-friendly website is crucial for success. Your website’s usability not only affects how visitors perceive your brand but also impacts your conversion rates and search engine rankings. In this article, we’ll explore three proven techniques to enhance your website’s usability and create a better experience for your users.

Introduction

Your website is often the first point of contact between your business and potential customers. Ensuring that users can easily navigate and interact with your site is essential. The techniques discussed in this article are designed to help you achieve just that.


Technique 1: Responsive Web Design

In the age of mobile devices, responsive web design has become a necessity. A responsive website adapts to different screen sizes and resolutions, providing a seamless user experience on smartphones, tablets, and desktops. We’ll delve into the importance of responsive design and how to implement it effectively.

The Significance of Responsive Web Design

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, the proliferation of mobile devices has revolutionized how people access the internet. Smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of our daily lives, and users expect a seamless experience across all devices. This shift in user behavior has made responsive web design more critical than ever.

Mobile Device Usage Statistics

To understand the significance of responsive web design, consider the following statistics:

  • In 2021, mobile devices accounted for 54.8% of all web traffic worldwide, surpassing desktop usage (Statista).
  • Google’s mobile-first indexing means that the mobile version of a site is primarily used for ranking and indexing (Google).
  • 53% of mobile users abandon sites that take longer than three seconds to load (Think with Google).
  • Responsive web design can improve your website’s search engine rankings (Google Webmasters).

Benefits of Responsive Design

Responsive web design offers numerous benefits, making it a must-have for any modern website:

Improved User Experience: Users can access your site from any device, and the design will automatically adjust to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience. This reduces the need for horizontal scrolling or zooming in and out.

SEO-Friendly: Google favors mobile-friendly sites in its search rankings. By having a responsive design, your website is more likely to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Lower Bounce Rates: Users are more likely to stay on your site and engage with your content when they have a seamless experience on mobile devices.

Consistency: A responsive design ensures that your brand identity, content, and messaging remain consistent across all devices, reinforcing your brand’s integrity.

Cost-Effective: Maintaining a single responsive website is more cost-effective than developing separate sites for mobile and desktop users.

Implementing Responsive Design

Implementing responsive design requires a combination of techniques and best practices:

Media Queries: Media queries are CSS rules that apply styles based on the characteristics of the user’s device, such as screen width, height, or orientation. By using media queries, you can define how your website should appear on different devices. For example:

css
/* Styles for screens with a maximum width of 768px (typical for smartphones) */
@media (max-width: 768px) {
/* Your CSS styles for small screens go here */
}

CSS Frameworks: CSS frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation provide pre-designed templates and components that are inherently responsive. These frameworks can significantly speed up the development process.

Mobile-First Design: The mobile-first design approach involves creating the mobile version of your site first, then gradually enhancing it for larger screens. This approach ensures that the essential content and functionality are prioritized for mobile users.


Technique 2: Intuitive Navigation

User-friendly navigation is at the core of a usable website. Visitors should be able to find what they’re looking for without frustration. This section will cover the principles of intuitive navigation and how to structure your site for easy exploration.

Navigation Menu Best Practices

Navigation menus are the backbone of your site’s usability. They serve as roadmaps that guide users to different sections and pages of your website. To make navigation as intuitive as possible, consider the following best practices:

Clear and Concise Labels: Use descriptive and concise labels for your navigation items. Users should understand where a link will take them without ambiguity.

Logical Hierarchy: Organize your navigation items in a logical hierarchy. For example, the main menu might include high-level categories, while sub-menus provide further details.

Dropdown Menus: When you have a substantial amount of content, consider using dropdown menus. These menus can display sub-categories or pages, helping users quickly access specific content.

Hamburger Menus: On mobile devices, the hamburger menu (a three-line icon) is a popular choice for compact navigation. When tapped, it reveals the full menu, saving screen space.

Examples of Effective Navigation Menus

  1. Etsy: Etsy’s navigation menu is concise and visually appealing. It offers clear categories, and sub-categories are accessible via dropdown menus. The use of icons and a prominent search bar further enhances the user experience.
  2. Spotify: Spotify employs a clean and intuitive navigation system. The hamburger menu provides access to playlists, your library, and other features. Users can also easily navigate to their favorite music and podcasts.
  3. Amazon: Amazon’s extensive product range requires robust navigation. The site effectively uses dropdown menus to categorize products, making it easy for users to find what they need.

Site Structure for Usability

In addition to a well-designed navigation menu, the overall structure of your site plays a pivotal role in user-friendliness. Here are some guidelines for creating a site structure that enhances usability:

Well-Organized Content: Keep your content organized and logically structured. If your website covers a variety of topics or products, group related content together.

Effective Sitemap: A sitemap is like a table of contents for your website. It provides an overview of the site’s structure and helps users and search engines understand how content is organized.

Improving Internal Linking: Internal links guide users to related pages or resources on your site. Strategic use of internal links can keep visitors engaged and lead them to discover more of your content.


Technique 3: Page Speed Optimization

In today’s fast-paced world, users expect websites to load quickly. Slow-loading pages can lead to high bounce rates and decreased user satisfaction. This section will explore the significance of page speed and strategies to optimize it.

The Impact of Page Speed

The speed at which your web pages load is crucial for user satisfaction and search engine rankings. Let’s examine why page speed is so significant.

Correlation Between Load Times and Bounce Rates: Research has consistently shown that there is a strong correlation between page load times and bounce rates. When a page loads slowly, users are more likely to abandon it. In fact, 53% of mobile users abandon a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load (source: Think with Google).

Impact on SEO: Page speed is also an essential factor for search engine optimization (SEO). Google considers page speed when determining search rankings. Faster-loading pages are more likely to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Financial Implications of Slow-Loading Pages: Slow-loading pages can have financial implications for your business. A study by the Aberdeen Group found that a one-second delay in page load time can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. In e-commerce, this can translate to a significant loss in revenue.

Page Speed Optimization Strategies

Optimizing your website’s page speed involves several strategies, both in terms of front-end and back-end optimizations. Here are some effective techniques to enhance page speed:

Image Optimization and Compression: Large images can significantly slow down a page. By optimizing images and using compression techniques, you can reduce the file size without compromising quality.

Browser Caching: Browser caching allows a user’s browser to store certain elements of your website locally. This means that when a user returns to your site, the browser doesn’t need to re-download the same files, resulting in faster loading times.

Leveraging Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): CDNs distribute your website’s content across a network of servers worldwide. When a user accesses your site, they are served content from the nearest server, reducing latency and improving load times.

Minification of CSS and JavaScript: Minifying CSS and JavaScript files involves removing unnecessary characters, whitespace, and line breaks from these files. This reduces their file size, making them quicker to load.


Conclusion

Improving your website’s usability is an ongoing process. By implementing responsive design, intuitive navigation, and page speed optimization, you can significantly enhance the user experience and achieve your online goals. Remember that a user-friendly website not only satisfies your visitors but also boosts your brand’s reputation and search engine rankings.

Creating a user-friendly website is an investment in your online presence. It’s a process that involves regular evaluation, testing, and improvement. By keeping these techniques in mind, you’ll be well on your way to building a website that keeps your visitors engaged and satisfied.

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, prioritizing usability is the key to staying competitive and ensuring that your website continues to meet the expectations of your audience. With responsive design, intuitive navigation, and optimized page speed, you can provide a seamless and engaging experience for your users.

3 Proven Techniques for Improving Your Website’s Usability

 

The number one factor that makes or breaks your website is whether or not people can use it. This is typically referred to as your website’s usability. It seems simple: if people can’t do what you want them to do (buy things, subscribe to things, request a call, etc.), they won’t do it. Yet, because websites are so easy to change, several companies just create websites, web applications, e-newsletters, etc., and hope that the changes will help their business.

 The number one factor that makes or breaks your website is whether or not people can use it. This is typically referred to as your website’s usability. It seems simple: if people can’t do what you want them to do (buy things, subscribe to things, request a call, etc.), they won’t do it. Yet, because websites are so easy to change, several companies just create websites, web applications, e-newsletters, etc., and hope that the changes will help their business. What further confuses this is typically a lack of clear insight into your website’s performance. For example, how well does your website convert visitors into buyers? What are the key decisions that visitors must make on your website? Do you give them the information and tools necessary to make those decisions? This article will help you focus on 3 proven techniques for improving your website’s performance: website analytics, usability testing, and personas. Exactly how you choose to implement these techniques is obviously up to you. However, one thing is guaranteed: all three techniques help you get closer to the people who visit your website: their needs, their desires, and their behaviors. This information is critical if you plan to optimize your website’s usability to achieve your goals. <b>1. Measure Progress with Website Analytics</b> Many companies mistakenly install a standard “website statistics” program and only get a group of standard reports. Typically, these reports do very little to help you judge the true effectiveness of your website. Want to get a jumpstart on creating your own website analytics? Just follow these 3 simple steps: 1. Begin with the end in mind – start with your objectives. Define your website marketing strategy objectives (i.e. “Increase the number of qualified prospects coming from web search engines”), and what you want your website visitors to do to reach those objectives (i.e. “See our listing in the top 10 in Google and click on it) 2. Get in touch with your visitors’ behavior on your website. Track how many unique visitors you get, and how long they stay on your site (including how many pages they view). You want all of these numbers to be going up, since that means you’re getting more visitors who are staying on the site longer. You are maximizing the odds that they will do what you want them to do. 3. Develop your conversion rate. Track how many visitors do the key action you want them to do and compare this number to your total visitors. This helps you determine your conversion rate. For example, if 15 out of 100 visitors requested more information from you (and that is one of your objectives), then your conversion rate for information requests is 15%. Once you have these key website analytics in place, you can start to evolve your tracking and look for trends to optimize for. Here are two examples: • Let’s say you notice higher conversion rates on weekends. Then you might want to spend more on online advertising on weekends and reduce your spending during the week. • Let’s say you need more visitors and embark on a search engine optimization project to improve your rankings. Then you can track the increase or decrease in visitor flow from your project’s activities. Regardless of what you want to achieve, getting to website usability first starts with solid website analytics. Why? Because website analytics force you to identify those areas that matter most, and identify how well or poorly you are doing in them. Once you know this, you are armed with key data that can help you focus your efforts and determine where things like usability testing can help the most. <b>2. Leverage Usability Testing</b> Usability testing is where you take people who would use your website, and actually watch them using it. Typically, you ask the person to do things on the site, and you watch either over their shoulder, behind a one-way mirror, or via a second computer where you can see what’s being recorded on the test computer. It’s amazing how many things you can make better on your website just by watching people use it. Yet, as you get into it, you may find that hiring a usability professional for a testing project can be unnecessarily expensive. Usability professionals are helpful, since they typically have substantial expertise in planning and conducting tests, as well as interpreting test results. However, usability testing does not have to be fancy or formal: people are going to give you their opinion whether you’re sitting in a research company or at Starbucks. So be careful when hiring a professional that seems to make the testing process complicated or costly. When someone does this, it’s usually only for their own financial gain. To successfully conduct a usability test, just follow these 5 steps: 1. Define your objectives. Begin with the end in mind. What do you want to accomplish with this usability test? Do you have specific areas of your website that you want to improve? If so, this is a great way to get ideas on how to make those areas better. Are you planning on rolling out a new area of your website? A usability test is a great way to do a “trial run” before the big launch. 2. Recruit the participants. This will take the most time, and can be the most frustrating part of the test process. You have to find people to participate (which can be tough, particularly if you need to match specific demographic profiles), and then you need to schedule them. Then, some will cancel, some won’t show, and some will be great test participants. The best way to get a feel for the person is to talk to them directly more than once over the phone. TIP: Be sure to call the person the day of the test to remind them about it. 3. Script the test. You’ll want to have an intro script, the test script, and a post-test survey. The intro script serves as a checklist of things you want to be sure to cover with the person before you start the test. TIP: During the part, try to focus on making the person feel comfortable giving their opinion, and reiterate that any feedback is good feedback. The next part, the test script, is a checklist of the actual things you want the person to do. This is followed by the post-test survey, which allows you to ask the person questions, and later compare those answers to what they said during the test. 4. Conduct the test. This is the fun part! You sit down with the person, and walk them through the test scenario. Some tests benefit from close “hand holding,” while others benefit from letting the person do whatever they think is right. It completely depends on the objectives, and they information you want to collect. In either case, the best thing to do is to record both the person and what they do on the computer. TIP: Be sure to compensate the person for their time. 5. Report the results. The best way to report the results is two-fold: First, do a quick, one-page or less recap of each session immediately after the test. That way, the information is still fresh in your mind. TIP: Include a picture of the user in your recap, since it will help make that person’s feedback “come alive.” Next, take the information collected during testing, and create 1 to 4 “personas” – user profiles that explain the type of person, what they need from the website, what issues they encounter frequently on the site, and what can be changed to help them. This will help you explain the results to others, and you can reuse these personas later when you are adding or updating areas of your website. How many people should I test? For most usability tests, you can learn the maximum amount by only testing ten people. Too many more and you’ll start to see too many recurring patterns. If you go less than ten, you might miss things or not see enough of a pattern. <b>3. Develop Personas</b> Let’s face it - no one reads a 20-page usability report from cover to cover. It just doesn’t happen. Usually, key decision makers ask for “recap” presentations, and then “latch on” to one or two key points from the study, quoting that point over and over again. This presents a great opportunity: why not give those key decision makers something memorable? Enter personas. Personas are a way to get everyone involved thinking about the actual people who visit your website. What Personas are: Fake people based on real data A practical tool to maintain focus on your target customers A way to make your data come alive and be more memorable What Personas are not: Every possible customer profile “Made up”; they are created from real data, like usability test results A replacement for existing ways we design and build our web site Reporting user tests as personas is a great way to: 1. Get key decision makers on board with the persona concept 2. Communicate web site issues in the context of the people actually using your site Creating personas from usability testing data is time-consuming, but very valuable. Just look across the data for key trends: what common roles, goals, and actions do you see? Can you group the feedback along those things? You’ll quickly start to evolve a handful of personas which can be refined over time. Add a name and a few pictures of that “person” and you’ll be on your way to creating a more user-focused website experience. Again, exactly how you choose to implement these techniques is obviously up to you. Even small steps can make a big impact. You don’t have to have super-sophisticated website analytics, test your website with 100 users, or develop extremely detailed personas. Every step you take in these three areas, no matter how big or how small, will help you get more from your website, and your website marketing strategy.

What further confuses this is typically a lack of clear insight into your website’s performance. For example, how well does your website convert visitors into buyers? What are the key decisions that visitors must make on your website? Do you give them the information and tools necessary to make those decisions?

This article will help you focus on 3 proven techniques for improving your website’s performance: website analytics, usability testing, and personas. Exactly how you choose to implement these techniques is obviously up to you. However, one thing is guaranteed: all three techniques help you get closer to the people who visit your website: their needs, their desires, and their behaviors. This information is critical if you plan to optimize your website’s usability to achieve your goals.

How to Improve Website

1. Measure Progress with Website Analytics

Many companies mistakenly install a standard “how to search for a keyword on a webpage” program and only get a group of standard reports. Typically, these reports do very little to help you judge the true effectiveness of your website.

Want to get a jumpstart on creating your own website analytics? Just follow these 3 simple steps:

1. Begin with the end in mind – start with your objectives. Define your website marketing strategy objectives (i.e. “how to search for a keyword on a webpage of qualified prospects coming from web search engines”), and what you want your website visitors to do to reach those objectives (i.e. “See our listing in the top 10 in Google and click on it)
2. Get in touch with your visitors’ behavior on your website. Track how many unique visitors you get, and how long they stay on your site (including how many pages they view). You want all of these numbers to be going up since that means you’re getting more visitors who are staying on the site longer. You are maximizing the odds that they will do what you want them to do.
3. Develop your conversion rate. Track how many visitors do the key action you want them to do and compare this number to your total visitors. This helps you determine your conversion rate. For example, if 15 out of 100 visitors requested more information from you (and that is one of your objectives), then your conversion rate for information requests is 15%.

Once you have these key website analytics in place, you can start to evolve your tracking and look for trends to optimize for. Here are two examples:

• Let’s say you notice higher conversion rates on weekends. Then you might want to spend more on online advertising on weekends and reduce your spending during the week.
• Let’s say you need more visitors and embark on a search engine optimization project to improve your rankings. Then you can track the increase or decrease in visitor flow from your project’s activities.

Regardless of what you want to achieve, getting to website usability first starts with solid website analytics. Why? Because website analytics force you to identify those areas that matter most, and identify how well or poorly you are doing in them. Once you know this, you are armed with key data that can help you focus your efforts and determine where things like usability testing can help the most.

2. Leverage Usability Testing

Usability testing is where you take people who would use your website, and actually watch them using it. Typically, you ask the person to do things on the site, and you watch either over their shoulder, behind a one-way mirror, or via a second computer where you can see what’s being recorded on the test computer.

It’s amazing how many things you can make better on your website just by watching people use it. Yet, as you get into it, you may find that hiring a usability professional for a testing project can be unnecessarily expensive. Usability professionals are helpful, since they typically have substantial expertise in planning and conducting tests, as well as interpreting test results. However, usability testing does not have to be fancy or formal: people are going to give you their opinion on whether you’re sitting in a research company or at Starbucks. So be careful when hiring a professional that seems to make the testing process complicated or costly. When someone does this, it’s usually only for their own financial gain.

To successfully conduct a usability test, just follow these 5 steps:

1. Define your objectives. Begin with the end in mind. What do you want to accomplish with this usability test? Do you have specific areas of your website that you want to improve? If so, this is a great way to get ideas on how to make those areas better. Are you planning on rolling out a new area of your website? A usability test is a great way to do a “trial run” before the big launch.
2. Recruit the participants. This will take the most time, and can be the most frustrating part of the test process. You have to find people to participate (which can be tough, particularly if you need to match specific demographic profiles), and then you need to schedule them. Then, some will cancel, some won’t show, and some will be great test participants. The best way to get a feel for the person is to talk to them directly more than once over the phone. TIP: Be sure to call the person the day of the test to remind them about it.
3. Script the test. You’ll want to have an intro script, the test script, and a post-test survey. The intro script serves as a checklist of things you want to be sure to cover with the person before you start the test. TIP: During the part, try to focus on making the person feel comfortable giving their opinion, and reiterate that any feedback is good feedback. The next part, the test script, is a checklist of the actual things you want the person to do. This is followed by the post-test survey, which allows you to ask the person questions, and later compare those answers to what they said during the test.
4. Conduct the test. This is the fun part! You sit down with the person and walk them through the test scenario. Some tests benefit from close “hand-holding,” while others benefit from letting the person do whatever they think is right. It completely depends on the objectives and the information you want to collect. In either case, the best thing to do is to record both the person and what they do on the computer. TIP: Be sure to compensate the person for their time.
5. Report the results. The best way to report the results is two-fold: First, do a quick, one-page, or less recap of each session immediately after the test. That way, the information is still fresh in your mind. TIP: Include a picture of the user in your recap, since it will help make that person’s feedback “come alive.” Next, take the information collected during testing, and create 1 to 4 “personas” – user profiles that explain the type of person, what they need from the website, what issues they encounter frequently on the site, and what can be changed to help them. This will help you explain the results to others, and you can reuse these personas later when you are adding or updating areas of your website.

How many people should I test?
For most usability tests, you can learn the maximum amount by only testing ten people. Too many more and you’ll start to see too many recurring patterns. If you go less than ten, you might miss things or not see enough of a pattern.

3. Develop Personas

Let’s face it – no one reads a 20-page usability report from cover to cover. It just doesn’t happen. Usually, key decision-makers ask for “how to search for a keyword on a webpage” presentations, and then “latch on” to one or two key points from the study, quoting that point over and over again.

This presents a great opportunity: why not give those key decision-makers something memorable? Enter personas.

Personas are a way to get everyone involved thinking about the actual people who visit your website.
What Personas are:

Fake people based on real data

A practical tool to maintain focus on your target customers

A way to make your data come alive and be more memorable

What Personas are not:

Every possible customer profile

“Made up”; they are created from real data, like usability test results

A replacement for existing ways we design and build our web site

Reporting user tests as personas is a great way to:

1. Get key decision-makers on board with the persona concept
2. Communicate web site issues in the context of the people actually using your site

Creating personas from usability testing data is time-consuming, but very valuable. Just look across the data for key trends: what common roles, goals, and actions do you see? Can you group the feedback along with those things? You’ll quickly start to evolve a handful of personas that can be refined over time. Add a name and a few pictures of that “how to search for a keyword on a webpage” and you’ll be on your way to creating a more user-focused website experience.

Again, exactly how you choose to implement these techniques is obviously up to you. Even small steps can make a big impact. You don’t have to have super-sophisticated website analytics, test your website with 100 users, or develop extremely detailed personas. Every step you take in these three areas, no matter how big or how small, will help you get more from your website, and your website marketing strategy.