Is your website efficient and user-friendly?

There are various factors that distinguish a successful website from one doomed to reside in a dark, lonely corner of the internet. The usability of your website is one of the most important factors that make or break your site. User-centric design has become the standard approach for successful and profit-focused web design. After all, if users can’t use a feature, it might as well not exist. 

Usability? Cool, that's when you make sites easier...

In web developer lingo, the term “usability” refers to the methods used for improving ease-of-use during the design process.  In plain English, it means that if a website is difficult to use, chances are people leave the site in droves. If your homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people often leave the site. If users get lost on a website, they’ll probably get frustrated and leave. If a website’s information is hard to read or doesn’t answer users’ key questions, they leave your site and find one with more relevant information. Are you starting to see the pattern here?  Today’s web users are sophisticated and they know that there are plenty of other websites available to fulfill their needs. Leaving an unfulfilling website is the first line of defense when someone encounters the slightest difficulty.

How do we implement ‘usability’ to lead to better, more effective design and simplify the process of digesting information on a website? One simple method is to examine data from usability tests and use that data to design and develop a better, more user-friendly version of the site.  What the heck is a usability test? Keep reading to learn more!

Usability Testing: How well does your website fare when put to the test?

1)  Follow the F-Shaped Pattern

Jakob Nielson has shown through eye-tracking studies that people have a tendency to scan web pages in an F-shaped pattern, starting by looking at the top navigation and text, moving down, and scanning again like so:

Jakob Nielson F-Shaped pattern

The colors represent how long a test subject looked at a certain spot for. The darker spots mean that they looked at those areas for longer periods of time. You can see a good pattern for the average user. Take what you can learn from this information when you design your web page.[/caption]

People like browsing webpages as efficiently as possible. They want to find critical information as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately for you, even if you have great products, if your site is not optimal, with too much text and few efficient paths for finding the “gold” on your site, then most users will throw in the towel within seconds and move on to your competitor.

Use these tips to your advantage!

Almost all people (who read languages with a left to right orientation) look to the left for important information. As you can see with the F-shaped pattern, the most tracking is on the left-hand side and in the middle of the page.  Maximize this concept by putting the most compelling information on the left-hand side and in the middle of the page.

2) Keep content on your site efficient.

Unless you’re offering long articles or white papers, most visitors are on your site to fulfill a need and take an action, not to wade through paragraphs of text. Don’t fill your page with a lot of unnecessary text. The average user only reads about 28% of a web page, so be concise! Make sure your content is well organized and that important points pop out with bullet point lists, and/or bold text.

You can have some introductory text as well, but keep it short and to the point. This isn’t always easy to do, but it should be well thought out. What makes your store and your story are unique. Avoid having welcome text, no one cares about a website saying, “Welcome to my site, I hope you enjoy our unique stuff.” People will most likely ignore it without a thought and it may also undermine your perceived professionalism.

3) Small details matter!

There is a great article on how the littlest things can impact your website in a big way. A usability study was conducted when a multi-million dollar company had just launched a new site. The company wasn’t getting the results they expected from the web launch, so they brought a usability expert in to find the problem. By looking at the site, this expert discovered that on the cart there were three buttons. Login, Checkout, and Register. In order to buy something the customer was required to register, and therein lay the problem.

It turns out that no one wanted to register in order to buy their product. People hate the extra step and are always suspicious when they register because they think it’s a marketing ploy, and they believe that they will get bombarded by spam from the company. The only change they made on the site was, instead of requiring you to register, they changed it so you had the option to register, but it was no longer required. Because of this tiny change, the companies profits skyrocketed, to the tune of an extra $300,000,000 a year. This really shows the impact of what little change can do to a website in a big way.

Richard Parr
by Richard Parr
Posted: December 6, 2017

4) Whitespace is Good!

It’s amazing what a little whitespace can do. Just look at Apple’s marketing designs, they are all made up of mostly whitespace! This simplistic approach is great: it keeps people focused on what the important details, and doesn’t overwhelm them with too much information. If you have a website, or a box that is packed full of information, where all space is filled with words or pictures, the potential customer will most likely not even glance at your product, because their visual sense will be overwhelmed and they won’t know where to look.

In a study of margins conducted by Barbra Chaparro, J. Ryan Baker, A. Dawn Shaikh, Spring Hull, and Laurie Brady, they discovered that people reading with no whitespace actually read the material a lot faster. This is because the sentences were much closer together, so it took less eye movement to move on to the next sentence. The downside of this is with greater speed, there was a result of reduced comprehension. People reading without margins remembered very little of what they just read. On the other hand, if margins are included, people read much slower, but retain a lot more of the information.

The takeaway:  you must include margins! Think efficiently. Cut long descriptions, draw attention to most critical highlights you want users to know. Statistics show that the average user won’t read half of the page (so thank you for reading this far), so cut wordy sentences, and focus their attention by having plenty of white space.

5) Don’t put all your marbles in the homepage!

The homepage is not as important as it once was. With search engine optimization, chances are a lot of people won’t even get to your homepage. They will google a product or article, and get taken directly to the page of what they want. The most important part of the page, is the navigation. Without good navigation, you will have a confusing site that will repel visitors quickly. Even with an amazing homepage, bad navigation will most certainly lose a lot of potential customers. For websites today, all of your pages are equally important.

Bottom line: If you want a great site, you’ve got to test it for usability and optimize accordingly.  Not sure if your website is efficient or user-friendly?  Call Executionists today to schedule a free site evaluation and find out!