In our ever connected, “always-on” world, have you ever stopped to wonder what it takes to keep someone satisfied and engaged with your brand online? And in particular your website? When we look at how long an average user spends on a web page, business owners and marketers are faced with a window of opportunity of roughly 15 seconds to provide a visitor with what they’re looking for. Add to that a dwindling digital attention span – around 8 seconds – and it quickly becomes clear why having a user friendly website can be a make or break a business’ digital marketing strategy.
Why is Usability Make or Break?
Websites in essence are a communication tool used to align business goals with user or customer goals. In order to align these two elements, you have to understand who your target audience is, what their goals are and the psychology behind their interactions with your website. What will it take for them to move from being uncertain with your brand/service/product to being certain?
With a multitude of messages from a multitude of devices bombarding users daily, website usability design plays a key role in keeping your users engaged with your content and ultimately ensuring they get the information necessary to make a decision regarding your brand.
With this in mind, we’ve put together the following starter pack of considerations to help businesses assess how user friendly a website is and whether there’s room for improvement:
1) Is your navigation simple? Just like in a physical space, a user should feel as though they know where they are while navigating your website and are intuitively aware of how they can find the information they’re looking for. Using familiar and consistent navigation methods (e.g. menus, sub menus and call-to-action buttons) allows the user to get from one page to the next with ease. Also, consider how your content and pages are structured. Information should be organised in a logical way that makes sense to your target audience. If it’s not clear how to navigate your site or why a page is located where it is, then your navigation may need a rethink.
2) Can users easily scan your content? Users scan content more than they read it. Regardless of the quality of your written copy, users naturally scan pages and will stop to read information only when deemed relevant to them. It should therefore be easy for users to find the specific information they are looking for. This can be achieved by arranging information under relevant headings, ensuring the content gets straight to the point and by using a consistent hierarchy whereby the most important information is positioned where it will be seen first.
3) Is it visually appealing and representative of your brand? We should never underestimate the importance of visuals. The old adage “a picture paints a thousand words” remains true even in website strategy. Visuals help to reinforce the identity of your brand and ultimately play a role in a forming perceptions of your business. Used strategically, images can also help guide the user as they navigate your site.
4) Is it fast? Don’t make your users wait. In this day and age, pages must load quickly and should be viewable on all primary devices and browsers. The longer a user has to wait, the more likely they are to leave the site. It’s that simple.
5) Are the next steps always clear? If your website visitors aren’t guided towards an end goal, there’s a higher chance they may not reach it. Consequently, there needs to be a clear path and a variety of mediums for your users to initiate interactions with the website, and ultimately your business. You might ask them to sign up to a newsletter, make an enquiry, add an item to cart or check out. Whatever your conversion goals are, ensure there are clear and prominent call-to-action elements that are relevant to the customer’s journey, encouraging them to begin the process of interaction with your business.
As you can see, website usability draws on a variety of components that contribute towards creating a positive experience for your website visitors. Positive website experiences contribute towards a visitor’s engagement with the information they’re consuming and the actions they’re taking, which ultimately can make or break a customer acquisition or repeat online interaction. For this reason, websites need to be designed and built with usability and engagement as key considerations to help visitors progress towards reaching the desired end goal – whatever it may be.
While not comprehensive, the above considerations provide a starting point when assessing the usability of your website and highlighting opportunities for future improvements.