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