Web Usability: 12 Must-Read Tips
Making your site work for users is the key to achieving your conversion goals.
That means looking after the principles of web usability: availability and accessibility, clarity, learnability, credibility and relevancy. Here are 12 tips from recent articles on web usability to help you nail this important conversion tactic.
1. Tweak Everything
In How Website Usability Affects Conversion – 7 Real-Life Examples Sezgin Hergül of TechWyse shares seven case studies highlighting the impact of user personas, navigation structure, goal completion and more on usability and conversions.
Key takeaway: Test continuously while implementing CRO tweaks to keep your site useful for users while gaining maximum conversions
2. Identify Your Audience, Improve Design
Kim Krause Berg highlights How to Increase Web Site Conversions with Persuasive Design. This presentation makes the link between the items that users are looking for (credible information, accessibility and so on) and designing your site to avoid confusion. It shows the importance of identifying your audience, giving examples of how less usable sites can decrease conversions.
Key takeaway: SEO and usability work together to create persuasive design that works for users AND conversion goals.
3. Keep it Simple
Usability: Do you want the data or the conversion?, asks John Hewitt, explaining that many companies ask for a lot of information, because they want the data, but that can make the site less user-friendly and turn people off. He gives the example of people who visit a restaurant site and just want a coupon, rather than having to fill in multiple information fields.
Key takeaway: Sometimes less is more; decide which information is really important and just ask for that.
4. Know Your Devices
In Smartphones vs. Tablets: Forrester Reveals the Differences, Sarah Etter of Monetate points out the difference between the two types of devices. She points out that tablets convert at more than twice the rate of smartphones, and there are differences in where and when people use each kind of device. User experience optimization that doesn’t take account of platform differences won’t just annoy readers, but will reduce conversions.
Key takeaway: “Companies should work to deliver device-specific experiences to visitors in order to maximize the likelihood that they will purchase.”
5. Think Long Term
In Conversion Optimization vs User Experience Optimization, Google’s Cemal Buyukgokcesu explains the danger of doing short term conversion optimization rather than looking after user experience (UX). A UX-focused approach makes your site more sustainable over the long term. Users look for efficient and effortless experiences, otherwise they go elsewhere, he says.
Key takeaway: Users are powerful, so optimize user experience first.
6. Test to Fix Mobile UX
In Why Doesn’t Mobile Convert?, User Testing presents theories about poor mobile conversions and shows how these match up against the results of its testing. Findings include the fact that mobile user experience can be poor and that some conversions just aren’t tracked, even if they happen. The article gives 10 tips on how to improve mobile user experience and conversions.
Key takeaway: Don’t rely on assumptions; use testing to optimize mobile UX and improve conversions.
7. Find Usability Errors to Improve SEO
In How Site Usability Affects SEO, Mercedes Rodriguez of Simpleview talks about what the people who use your site expect when they visit it. She says people have hardcoded beliefs about website behavior and if your site doesn’t deliver, you may pay the price in terms of high bounce rate and poor reputation. She suggests you pay attention to analytics and use heat mapping (CrazyEgg agrees) to identify potential usability trouble spots.
Key takeaway: Create your site for users and use SEO to make it more visible; targeting SEO alone won’t be enough.
8. Make Your Site Accessible
Related to that, Vanessa Petersen discusses 3 Ways to Improve Usability for Better SEO on Web Usability Talk. She highlights the fact that making sites accessible can increase audience reach and prominence in search results. That’s why looking after content and site architecture (key usability issues) as well as building trust via links and social signals (key SEO metrics) can help your web presence overall.
Key takeaway: Use the usability best practices in this article to improve SEO and increase conversions as a result.
9. Ask the Right Questions
Claudia of Pixel77 outlines 10 Easy Steps to Test the Usability of Your Website. The article shows the importance of web usability testing and says asking the right questions, knowing the audience, basing your tests on actual user behavior, customizing tasks, using user interviews and other techniques can help you get an overview of your site’s usability.
Key takeaway: Get testing right and you will create a web experience that users enjoy and want to return to or share with others.
10. Write it Right
On Business2Community, Chris Glithero asks What’s the Link Between Exceptional Copywriting and Good Usability? He says copywriting can help improve usability by creating descriptive titles and sub-headers, breaking up paragraphs, making content scannable and more.
Key takeaway: Interesting, accurate and clear writing improve site usability and accessibility.
11. Test on a Budget
Do Your Own Usability Testing — in 5 Smart (Cheap!) Steps advises Chris Nodder on Lynda.com. Chris shows how to find real users of your site , give them a task that really tests usability, figure out what you need to fix and track the results.
Key takeaway: Usability testing improves customer satisfaction so it pays to invest in it.
12. Use Responsive Design
Check out How Hanson Dodge Creative Proved Their Design Is Successful With UsabilityTools. This case study tracks the change from a website with serious usability problems to one with a responsive design. The new design also incorporated menu changes. User testing focused on usage scenarios and assigned tasks, looking at ease of completion and time to complete. The test results proved that the concept worked and informed some final design tweaks.
Key takeaway: User testing resulted in helping the client’s customers to find specialized products via improved navigation and menu labeling.
These tips provide a good starting point for measuring the impact of usability on conversions. Here are a few usability testing tools you can use. And don’t forget, assume nothing, as this tongue-in-cheek post from Peep Laja of ConversionXLsuggests.