Not everyone has a big budget to hire website usability researchers to review their business site and see how functional it is for their users.  So, here are a few things you can do to make sure your website is easy to use for your visitors.  The next time you look at your website keep some of these questions in mind:

How does the content read on each page?

Is the text legible, large enough to read on a monitor or tablet?  Is there enough contrast between the color of the font and the background that it sits on?  While images and video are fun, text still drives the web, and text clarity is very important to the happiness of your users and the success of your website.

Is the information on your site easy to find?

The most important content on your site needs to be accessible in just one or two clicks of the mouse.  Anything buried 10 pages deep, might not see the light of anyone’s screen for days.  So, keep important information easy to find.

Where is your navigation?

Is the website’s navigation consistent in location, order and titles?  Much like the steering wheel in a car, navigation is normally at the top of things a user sees.  Good navigation helps users get to where they want to go, and can even help them figure out where they should go. Navigation that isn’t clear, is poorly organized, and overwhelms often gets in the way of users completing their task.

Can the visitor, and your potential clients, find your contact information?

Is it easy to find the name of your business, it’s phone number and address?  A good many searches and visits to your website are made simply because the customer wants your name, hours of operation, address or phone number.  If you have a physical business location, a good rule is to include these on every page of your website.  If you have multiple locations, make it very easy to navigate to each location page.

Does the visitor have a clear call to action?

Do they know what you want them to do with your website?  Subscribe to a newsletter, buy a product, call for information?  If users can’t figure out what you do, or why they should stay on your site, within 5 seconds, they’re going to leave.  If a visitor is only coming to your website for phone number or address, having a good call to action might be the key to a bigger sale.  Some good call to actions might include “big sale going on now”, “sign up for newsletter for 50% your next visit”, etc.  This is just one of many reasons to keep your website updated consistently.

Do your forms and signups only require essential information and provide helpful feedback?

If you want someone to subscribe to your newsletter, download your white paper, or sign up for your trial service, how much information do you really need? You might need an email address, maybe a name too. Keep it as simple as possible!  If you ask for too much information on forms, people won’t even try, which means you’ll never get a chance to wow them with what you’re offering.

Are animation, video, pop-ups and ads kept to a bare minimum throughout your site?

These four types of website content, although sometimes necessary, are often poorly used on the web.  Both animation and video can sometimes help illustrate a complex point, but make sure they are not set to auto play. Auto play not only increases the load time of a page (since the video and/or audio has to load), but will interfere with users who already know what they want to do. Animation, video and audio should be used for a specific purpose, not just to add a “wow” factor to a site.  “Wow” style media only distracts, and actually hinders your ability to give your users what they want.

Do your own testing.

For an inexpensive way to test your site’s usability, ask a co-worker, friend or spouse who has little to no experience working within the website to look at it. Ask them if they can find certain important information that you want your potential clients to find on the site.

Then ask them what they thought of the overall experience. Was it easy to find the information? Did they get stuck? This experiment can be very eye opening on how effective your site is in gaining potential clients.

We view each website project as a user would, so you can expect this kind of usable feedback from us when we design your web project.  – Jim