6 Ways to Ensure the Website You’re Building Is User-Friendly
Drawing repeat website visitors, fostering those relationships, and generating leads online doesn’t require some kind of secret SEO magic — it just takes a site that treats users well and gives them the experience they desire.
With finite attention spans and limited patience for information foraging, today’s website visitors want content presented in a simple, user-friendly, and focused manner. To prevent visitors from bouncing to another content source, your site must deliver a seamless user experience whether you’re starting a blog for your brand or designing a high-budget corporate website.
Building this level of engagement and trust translates into real profit: Harvard Business Review published a study showing that a mere 5 percent increase in customer retention provides an ROI of at least 25 percent.
Identifying and Constructing an Effective User Experience
It’s so difficult to gauge how user-friendly a site actually is from the back end that some brands wind up building online properties they themselves wouldn’t even use. Quantifying the user-friendliness of a site is difficult, but it can be done.
Focus on the following six areas to ensure a high level of engagement with your site’s visitors:
1. Enable Fast and Effective Search
Thanks to Google, Bing, Siri, and the like, users are conditioned to expect impeccable search results with minimal effort. Surfacing content for visitors looking for specific topics on a large site is critical.
There’s a good chance your visitor arrived at your site as the result of a Google search, so be prepared to continue that experience and help them find exactly what they’re looking for on your site. Consider what users are likely seeking and how they may search for it on your site. Also, consider any alternate terms they may be using to search. Remember that certain words have different meanings in different regions of the country and world.
2. Structure for Intelligent Content
Intelligent content is structurally rich, reusable, and adaptable. By ensuring your website designs and back-end CMS systems support intelligent content, the content can be easily (often automatically) distributed through multiple channels with one publication.
All web content should be categorized and tagged to ensure easy searching from anywhere within any page of the site. Search criteria should be laid out in an efficient manner on the back end so it can be presented to users seamlessly on the front end.
Semantically organizing content in this way makes it automatically discoverable through contextual search and recommendation engines. And enabling social media sharing increases visibility that helps drive organic search traffic.
3. Provide Tools for Business Development
Thought leadership is a common marketing strategy these days. So much so that B2B (Business to business) websites are increasingly helping visitors manage extensive libraries of thought leadership content while maximizing their user experience and brand engagement.
Nurture leads, and encourage your users to interact with personalization and organizational tools. Present infographics and highlights from annual reports and other key publications as brand experiences — leverage interactive platforms to further engage users with your content, promote collaboration, and include calls to action and other tools to drive business development.
4. Implement an Inclusive Design
Both the web and app iterations of your site should work on every device and be accessible to people of all abilities. Government websites are now obligated to meet defined levels of accessibility, and this requirement is gradually being extended to private business. Required or not, every web developer should strive to design sites that are friendly to users with impairments in vision, hearing, motor skills, etc.
More and more tools are becoming available for testing sites for accessibility. If possible, involve advocates from these communities in user testing. Invite them to test the site to evaluate how well your conceptual solutions meet their needs for key activities. Research how different devices execute accessibility features, and keep these options in mind during the concept design and project management phases.
5. Design for Privacy
Privacy issues have come to the forefront for websites in both Europe and the United States in recent years. Privacy by Design principals dictate that website designs consider privacy restrictions from the start to ensure the user experience isn’t hampered by security-related limitations.
After finally gaining a large user base, the last thing you need is to destroy it by having your site exploited. You’ll lose user respect and Google ranking, and you could possibly be fined. Privacy considerations include asking permission before collecting or using visitor information, informing users of changes or breaches, and requiring they opt in to receive notifications via text or email.
6. Optimize for Mobile
We should already know this is a fundamental requirement for any modern website, but it’s worth mentioning again. Mobile optimization is about more than just checking the “responsive web design” box. It entails actually thinking through what your audience is looking for on your website and delivering it to every device consistently — desktop, tablet, and mobile.
Check your traffic data, and design your site to accommodate the devices accessing it. Design with small screen resolutions in mind, and plan the proximity of navigational elements to ensure a smooth experience regardless of input method. Check and recheck your site on every real-life device possible to see exactly what it looks like from a user’s perspective.
The best web experiences are the result of many iterative steps to optimize the experience and develop a sustainable online audience. In the end, if you don’t like using your own website, others probably won’t, either. Keep browsing the web to see how other sites like yours function, and determine where you can provide value online to extend your brand into the digital space.