Four key principles of good website usability
When a new visitor lands on your website, it’s not time to celebrate just yet. The next step is to keep them there but the fight for that second click isn’t easily won.
In fact, the average website bounce rate ranges from 44% to 66%. That means that about half of the people who land on a web page leave without venturing any further into the site. And, for the most part, once they leave they never come back.
Why do they choose to leave? There are lots of reasons but the most common ones are that either they didn’t find what they were looking for or they had a poor experience on the page they landed on.
You see, a pretty website is worthless if it’s not also designed around your prospective user. Good website usability helps your visitors to understand who you are, what you do, and why they should choose you over your competitors. It basically makes it easier to convert a visitor into a customer.
In this post, we’ll outline the four key principles of good website usability and offer tips for creating a great user experience that will turn your site into a cash magnet.
This is the core of good website usability.
If a visitor lands on a page on your site and sees a busy design with lots of images, a dozen different fonts and colours, five calls-to-action across that one page, that will distract, confuse and drive them away.
With so many elements screaming for attention, your visitors won’t know what to do or where to go next. So they’ll need more time to find what they’re looking for. A couple of clicks later they might even forget the reason why they came to your site in the first place. But the worst and most common scenario? They’ll give up and leave, never to come back.
Here’s the thing: every visitor comes to your site with a goal in mind. Some may want to buy a product or service or sign up for a free trial while others are looking to learn more about your business. Whatever their goals, it’s your site’s job to help them reach those goals quickly and easily.
So, how can you do that? How can you ensure your site’s design is clear and usable?
Keep it simple. There’s this quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery that says: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Applied to web design, this means that you should focus on those important elements that can help visitors achieve their goals and eliminate the rest. Because the rest are distractions that’ll prevent visitors from doing what they came to your site to do or what you want them to do.
Stick to what people already know. The truth is users don’t really care about design. What they do care about is getting things done as quickly and as hassle-free as possible. In other words, they enjoy a familiar design where they know or can quickly find their way around and do what they came to your site to do. So, don’t get too creative and make visitors jump through hoops to contact you, ask a question, learn about your products or services, or sign up for a free trial.
Be consistent. Don’t get carried away with design options. Consistency across the entire website is more user-friendly than variety. A chaotic design with lots of fonts, sizes and colours or different layouts for each page will only distract visitors from your message. In our free course on Designing and building your website you’ll find a section that explains how to choose the right images, fonts and colours for your site.
Guide them through your site using clear, intuitive navigation. Users want a few key things from navigation: knowledge of where they are on the site, the next step they need to take to complete an action (whether it’s to buy a product, sign up for a newsletter or get in touch with you) and a way to go back (or to the homepage). The easier it is for people to do these things, the quicker they’ll complete their desired action and the more likely they are to come back.
Use this menu design checklist to make sure your menus do their job at helping users navigate through your site.
Availability and accessibility
If people try to visit your website and it doesn’t work, then whatever time and resources you’ve spent attracting them to your site are wasted. Because a site that doesn’t work is a site that’s driving customers away and losing revenue.
So what does it mean to have a website that’s available and accessible? It means:
Keeping it consistently up and running. For that to happen, you should invest in fast and reliable hosting so visitors are always able to access and load your site. Why not try the 123 Reg website hosting that over a million sites use and trust?
Fixing all broken links. Nothing drives visitors away and straight to your competitors like dead links. So make sure you check all the links on your site to ensure they work properly. Read our article to find out what broken links are and how to find and fix them so your visitors never hit that back button again.
Making it responsive, if you haven’t already. Your visitors are no longer using just their PCs or laptops to access your site, but smartphones and tablets too. Make sure that no matter what devices they’re using to get on your site, they’ll always have a great experience. This post walks you through the best ways to ensure your site is fully mobile optimised.
Enabling users with visual, hearing, cognitive, or motor impairments to navigate and interact with your website. Don’t alienate prospects in these demographics. Instead, follow the basic principles of accessible web design which include: easy-to-read text, colour contrast, image alternatives, clear content hierarchy, and accessible user experience design.
Relevancy is also a key factor to good website usability. Because no matter how clear and easy to use your website is, if the content isn’t relevant to your prospects, they’ll still leave.
But having irrelevant content won’t just harm users’ experience on your site and drive them away. It can also affect your rankings. When you have lots of visitors who hit the back button soon after they land on your site, that tells Google that they didn’t find what they were looking for. So next time users run a similar search, your site might not show up amongst the top results.
On the other hand, if your content is relevant to your visitor as well as well-structured and easy to read and understand, then they’ll spend more time on your site, visiting other pages as well. More time on the site tells Google that your visitors are enjoying your content and that they find it interesting, which means that other people should discover it too. As a result, you’ll get higher visibility in the search results.
So, how can you ensure you site stays relevant?
First, you need to take the time to define who your prospects are, which keywords they’re using to search for your business, and what they’re looking for when visiting your website. Only by doing this kind of research will you be able to create content that’s relevant for your visitors.
The following resources include lots of information and advice that can come in handy when doing your research:
- Why buyer personas are important and how to create yours
- A beginner’s guide to keyword research
- Our free unlimited access course on Blog and Content Marketing that’ll teach you how to write content for your website
When a visitor lands on your site for the first time, they’re making a split-second judgement about your business’ credibility to decide whether they should stick around to learn more or hit the back button to find a more credible site.
So if your content is low-quality or irrelevant to their search, if the site takes too long to load or if your design is chaotic, then you won’t stand a chance at gaining their trust.
To ensure visitors find your site trustworthy, make sure your contact information, like phone number and email address, is visible. In your Contact page, provide all your contact details and a physical address, if you have it.
To help build your site’s credibility further we also recommend displaying customer testimonials as well as links to review sites like Google, Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor or TrustPilot and to your social media accounts.
The most important thing you need to understand about usability is that it’s not about your website but about your prospects. So whether you’re getting started with building your site, or are thinking about redesigning it, it’s critical that you keep your visitors in mind. This means designing your site so that users find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.
If you’re looking for more ways to improve your site’s usability, you can always carry out tests to get ideas on how to further simplify your site. You can learn more about the different kinds of usability testing, how they can help you improve your website, and how to go about carrying out your own tests from our guide.