Life moves fast. Your days are busy, and by the time the sun sets you’re pretty damn near to exhausted. Finding time to read for leisure can be a challenge. Sometimes, it can feel like an impossible task. But, it isn’t. Almost five years ago, I wrote a post here called Audio Books Are Not […]
Have you ever wondered why some websites make you want to stay and browse while others call for pressing ‘back’ button right away? Is it the design, right colors, the wording? Researchers think that website usability is the factor responsible for keeping your visitors engaged. How your website satisfies their expectations reflects in a bounce rate and conversion level.
You see, we are so accustomed to particular website structure that we automatically head to certain parts of the site expecting similar content: logo in the top left corner, navigation at the top, contact link in the footer and so on. If the content we expect is not there, we feel confused. That is one of factors that might affect your site’s usability.
How can you improve your website usability? Experts recommend few simple tips, which we analyze below:
1. Be brief and to the point
Online readers are not known for their patience. They have a short attention span – they probably sit by the computer, watching a Countdown and waiting for a pizza to bake. If you don’t grab their attention immediately, they will go elsewhere with a touch of a ‘back’ button.
Readers skim the articles to find what they need as soon as possible. They read headlines, bold text and image captions. According to Jakob Nielsen in his study, usability can be increased 58% by cutting half of the words on a webpage. Shorter articles increase readability, same as shorter sentences and words. How can you use it:
- Get to the point quickly
- Remove excessive information
- Use common words and phrases
- Avoid long paragraphs and sentences
- Use numerals for numbers – instead of spelling them out (100 instead of a hundred)
- Test your writing with Bausch-Kincaid readability tool (part of each Word document)
2. Use headings
Yes, these bold phrases within content not only shine like beacons telling your reader what each paragraph is about, they also optimize your text for search engines.
Don’t change headings font with text editor – use H tags instead (H1 – H2 – H3). They will have better value for Google. Make sure to use them in the right order too.
According to Nielsen, we read in chunks, following F-shaped pattern. We skim from left to right skipping a lot of text in between. Therefore, when writing content, include key information in the top left corner of each page.Other things to remember:
- Break lengthy paragraphs into blocks, one with separate heading
- Include main keywords within headings
- Use H tags instead of text editor
3. Make your page skimmable
Jakob Nielsen proved that online readers skim the content looking for useful information. Making the process easy for them will not only improve your website usability by 47%, but also help you connect with the customers and build rapport. How to do it:
- Make first words count. Users read first few words in headings and text instead of full paragraph
- Include important information at the top of the page
- Write target keywords within the first paragraph
4. Use bullet points
According to ClickTale eye-tracking study, users are drawn to bullet points and text formatting (italics and bold text). These can speed up the reading by highlighting most important information.How can you use it:
- Break up your paragraphs with bullet points (list facts, ingredients, names etc.)
- Highlight key information in bold and italics
5. Don’t be afraid of white space
Many web designers are concerned about using white space, but don’t be tempted to fill every part of your website with text and banners. Online, less is more.
We want peace and order when browsing; too many elements asking for attention can scare us away. Use margins and space between paragraphs liberally to increase usability.Other things to try:
- Use comfortable space between words, letters and paragraphs
- Add generous margins on both sides of paragraphs
- Stop using wide layouts
- Use CSS instead of tables when designing content
6. Add strong visuals
This is a wonderful way to break up the text and add interest to your page. People are naturally drawn to images – just check your Twitter stream. You tend to scroll down the news feed and stop by a great image, often skipping the text.
It’s the same on your website. Add interesting and relevant images to enhance your user experience. Avoid stock photos though; study shows readers ignore them. Why not create your own graphics using Canva.com? How to use images effectively:
- Include pictures relevant to your content and each paragraph
- Add descriptive captions
- Avoid stock photos
- Design your own graphics
Mike emailed me this morning asking for a FREE website critique. He found my post in Shopify strategy Facebook group. In his email he also mentioned dilemma he’s facing – common to all businesses starting out.
Should he specialize and have a narrow niche or sell bit of everything – to everybody?
Now, that is a very good question. Also as old as trade itself. You see, as soon as you open a shop you want to sell as much as possible, so selling bit of everything is tempting. Washing powder along hair scrunchies and DIY tools. It is best to cater for everybody, right?
Well, that’s actually wrong.
You see, as soon as you get customers looking for hair scrunchies, you realize that they might be looking for a different shade, texture and grip of the scrunchies to what you have. You might be selling black and white, but what if they want red or blue? Striped or sparkly? You lose more customers than you might realize.
Pick a narrow nichE
Let’s assume you decided to focus on hair scrunchies alone. You order 156 different kinds, from beaded ones, to feathered, slim, trimmed and over the top. Guess what? You will not only increase your chance of selling to the people looking for hair scrunchies, but also to other people shopping for any hair accessories. They will fall in love with your offering and add scrunchies to their collection – even if they have never used one before. Grannies will come to shop for gifts for their granddaughters as they know you have the biggest selection of scrunchies in town. Can you see where it’s going?
Focus, especially when selling online, is the best way to differentiate yourself from the competition – and big brands. You do not want to compete on the price alone. By the end of the day, there will always be someone selling cheaper than you. But specializing in one narrow niche will bring you an online success you’re after.
Lauren from Gift Bag Lab loved styling her website just like she did with her gift packages. Use beautiful font in delicate pale grey color along her striking photos. Unfortunately that was costing her sales. Why?
While the website looked stunning, it lacked usability. You see, the font Lauren used, while beautiful, was difficult to read. It was very small, elaborate and in pale shade against white background. Customers, while loving the photos and the idea of building the gifts in their Design Lab, were a bit lost while reading the content.
Personal style can kill your sales
It is a common issue when designing websites. I’ve been guilty of that myself. You see, when you are starting out in business, you take big proud in your store and want to make it the way you like – and that’s understandable. If you like purple shade, you want to have purple shelves against purple wall paper, finished with purple rug. But guess what, you will lose a big chunk of customers who actually prefer green – or orange – and hate purple!
That’s why you have to think of your customers first when building a business. What do they like? What colors work best to trigger positive emotions? What they value the most from the businesses? If done right, you will be speaking their language getting the response you are after.
Follow universal rules
Coming back to Lauren, when writing her copy, we opted to change the font to Verdana, considered the most readable. We darkened it few tones to stand out more and used smaller icons on extra pages so they don’t overwhelm the text.
The tone of voice on all extra pages was informative and to the point – letting customers find necessary info within 1 click. Lauren didn’t have a shipping page, therefore we created it including all delivery options available.
If you are about to open your first store, remember, don’t design it the way you like it. Create a universal palette, with all predicted ingredients in the right places: clickable logo, top and bottom navigation, hyperlinked email address etc. If you are not sure if your site is user friendly, give us a shout and we will give you a FREE website critique!
Do you practice positive affirmations? If not, then start today.
That’s the most powerful weapon we can use to change our lives. My favorite exercise is a mirror talk. Yes, I tell myself each morning – and basically each time I pass the mirror – I’m the best / a millionaire / talented / slim / popular / getting younger – and these things somehow are coming true.
Not all at once and not straight away, but I certainly can notice things happening in my life that take me in a direction towards these goals. I have been practicing positive affirmations for over a year now, my life is changed quite a lot in that time, and I know there’s still a long way to ge before I achieve my goals – but I’m closer today than I was yesterday – and that’s the most important thing.
Believe – You ARE Awesome!