April 25, 2013

Four Proven Tips for Improving Your Site's Usability

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You’ve put a ton of effort and resources into creating content for your website that reflects just what you want to say to your current and potential customers. But if that website doesn’t make it easy for visitors to soak in its message, all will be for naught. Here are four tried and true tips to keep in mind:

1. Choose colors and fonts wisely. If people have to strain to read the words because the font color blends into the background, or the color palette is unattractive, they aren’t likely to stick around for long. A hard-to-read, too-cutesy font is another turn-off. (And we don’t have to tell you that something like Comic Sans is just a no.)

2. Aim for a quick loading time. Attention spans are at an all-time low in this era of instant gratification. If your website doesn’t load quickly, people will move on — even a one-second delay adds up to a 7 percent loss in conversions, the Aberdeen Research Group found. Online shoppers now expect pages to load in two seconds, says a Forrester Consulting study, and a page response time that increases from two seconds to 10 seconds results in page abandonment rates increasing by 38 percent, according to Gomez. (Read about these stats and more in the whitepaper “Why Web Performance Matters: Is Your Site Driving Customers Away?” from Gomez, the Web performance division of Compuware.)

3. Watch for strange formatting and broken links. Sometimes apostrophes turn into question marks, one enter space becomes 10 or the italics don’t hold. Give your site a thorough read-through every once in a while to make sure issues like this haven’t cropped up. Check the links periodically, too (or install a plug-in that does this), to prevent visitors from the frustration of clicking on a dead link.

4. Put what matters most “above the fold.” In website terms, this means having the information you most want to convey in the area that’s viewable immediately upon opening the page, without scrolling. People spend 80 percent of their time looking there, according to research from Nielsen Norman Group, which works in the user experience field.

This last tip is a controversial one, we know — but it's still worth considering. Ultimately, of course, the best way to get visitors to keep looking is to have a layout that encourages scanning, and engaging content up top that leads them to believe continuing on the page will be worth their while.

Mario Medina

Mario is the Creative Director of madison/miles media. He has a wife, two kids, a dog, a fish (but it might be dead — hard to tell) and an unhealthy obsession with Batman.