Website Usability Assessment
Quality website designers put in a great deal of effort and money create and maintain a website. Some of them however forget about a very important factor and fail to invest in the website usability, that is, the ease with which the user can achieve the purpose of visiting that website in the first place, in other words the User Experience Goals.
Here at Websitze we can assess and recommend how best to improve the website usability of your site. There is no substitute for a User Experience Professional. We charge a single one off fee and at the same time will look at your SEO structure and recommend improvements
Website Usability has more far-reaching implications on a business than just goal achievement – it improves the number of visitor conversions for whatever purpose your website has . Should a business use Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising to promote its products, hence its website, then good website usability will certainly help to improve the quality score as well as sales conversions which is hugely beneficial to SEO too.
This has the effect of reducing the overall acquisition costs by reducing the PPC cost and a higher conversion rate means a lower average cost per sale. It also helps secure the user as a customer who will visit you direct next time and understands the website, product, service or content that you provide. New visitors are extremely valuable but returning visitors are even more so.
What is it then makes a site attractive and at the same time a usable one? There is not just one thing that would be far too easy, there are a number of issues each with a major degree of importance.
On the Web, a company’s website is the only point of contact that that company has with its potential customers. As a consequence most companies have to rely almost entirely on their web exposure in order to achieve whatever their online goals are, whether it is corporate information or selling their products online or anything else.
As a consequence visitors to the website and potential customers often base their opinion of the company on the quality of their website. Fairly or unfairly, it does not matter. We all make judgements based on first impressions and a company website is no different.
If a company’s website usability is good, then it is very likely that a user will achieve his or her purpose in using it and that fact alone will contribute towards the company’s own aims whichever direction they lay.
Given this scenario you can see just how important to companies their websites can be.
I believe there are 7 major factors that make website usability better for visitors and potential customers and these are as follows
A Good Looking Interface
Websites need to be designed with the target audience in mind. If your website is about sportswear for example, you would be able to introduce many more creative elements and action images, which would probably not be suitable if you are designing an accountant’s website where sobriety is much more the norm or a corporate business to business website where a level of traditional respectability is expected. That is not to say it cannot be an interesting experience however, but it must be geared to its intended audience.
Another factor is that the same website will not necessarily appear identical when viewed on different browsers or on mobile devices and the compatibility needs to be checked accordingly.
There are various Web Usability Testing methods available including a number of emulators for devices such as iPhones and iPads. Whilst these emulators can be unreliable from time to time, they can offer a reasonably accurate assessment and are by and large very cost effective.
Ease of Navigation
Poor navigation will always remain one of the top reasons why users leave a website. Early departure is bad for SEO and consequently ranking. Pay attention to where you place your navigation elements, how you name them and how you distinguish between primary, secondary and utility navigation. These guidelines should also extend to link usability and breadcrumb usability. Consider how your user will navigate from through your site and remember that the way you view your organizational structure is generally not the same as how your user experience will be.
Recent research has pointed out that generally users read web pages in an f-shaped pattern so your website usability techniques should also follow that pattern.
It’s not surprising that the first paragraph on a web page is the one part that is read the most. Though web users have now developed the attention span akin to a goldfish it is also true we have become conditioned to receiving masses of information in byte-sized pieces.
It makes sense therefore, to put in all the important information of your website on the left hand side. For example the site logo and primary navigation should be placed there.
Flexible Search Function
Although I firmly believe navigation usability is more important than search facility, you should never underestimate the value a large clean search box, or if more complex a website boxes that allow for detailed filtering. This is because if users cannot find what they are looking for quickly, they will quit the website or hopefully use the search facility. This is why it is so important because you do not want your hard earned visitors to leave quickly, particularly in an e-commerce site.
With large e-commerce websites it is an excellent feature to include search filters to include such things as Price, Colour, Size, Brand and 1-5* Reviews. All of these factors not only prove extremely valuable to users but also have a beneficial effect of SEO.
The good appearance of the content is also extremely valuable. Writing for the Web is a different technique. It is important to balance images, graphics and content in the right way. This balance depends a great deal upon your target too. A huge swathe of text and nothing to break it up will have users bouncing your website in a split second, even if your content is utterly fantastic. Bounce rate is a killer in SEO as it looks like it has no value and will hold back you rankings big time.
Content should be always be clean, precise and well formatted with plenty of white space, relevant images and clear informative headings in H2 or H3 header style.
Even if your page or post has masses of content and you know that Google likes big articles, be prepared to split the content over a couple of pages to make the navigation easier and minimise scrolling.
It also becomes harder as the page goes on to hold the users attention. Splitting the article can do that quite effectively and still meet the minimum content requirements of the search engines.
Images Inside Good Content
We know “Content is King” but in this analogy then image usage is certainly “Queen”.
Although images were briefly mentioned in the previous section, they are so important to the look, feel and usability of any website it deserves its own section.
Images play an absolutely vital role in giving content life. It can also give a route where users can flit through a page quickly and still understand its message. Pictures are also far more effective than text at conveying a message, providing of course it has relevance to the text.
Quite simply, text is boring on its own, necessary but it looks boring and a mass of text fills people with horror. Images and colourful pictures can give the impact needed to a web page and remember websites are essentially visual creatures and not text books. They need to look interesting as well as be interesting.
Videos to Enhance Content
The time span spent on a web page rarely exceed 15 – 20 seconds and if it does not grab attention quickly even less than that.
In order to keep users where you want them there must be something to grab their attention. Obviously you need good content and images as mentioned in the previous 2 sections, but another great way is to embed an interesting video on a page (not every page though) as this can hold attention really well and encourage a longer time spent on the page.
This is excellent for SEO as time on page is an important factor in rankings. With YouTube it is so easy to find and pick a suitable video as most of them have an embed code making it easy and legal.
Fast Loading Web Pages
Apart from being captivated by the wonders of your imagery and beautiful prose, your page also needs to load quickly enough to meet the impatience web users have. Just how quickly will users leave a web page if it takes what seems a lifetime to load?
Because of the importance on this fact Google have worked this factor into their ranking algorithm. They believe faster sites mean happy users.
This pretty much sums up the 7 main factors that make for a better site for users. Of course it does not in itself mean more users will come, but the Search engines are very aware of the factors that exist in these above sections and in time good usability can improve your rankings. Not on their own however, but in conjunction with good keyword selection and usage, social media linking and back-links all great for SEO.