When it comes to your website, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the user experience. After all, you want people to use your site, right? If you don’t make your site user friendly, no one will want to use it. It doesn’t matter how amazing your content is. To prevent people from leaving your site frustrated, here are 13 ways to improve the user friendliness of your site:
1. Go Easy on the Eyes
No one wants to stay on a site that has tons of bright colors, dizzying patterns, or small text. While design is important, usability is just as, if not more, important. After all, if people can’t use your site, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is. Try to keep things simple. A busy design does nothing but hurt the eye. Choose colors with high contrast. I personally would keep background colors light and keep darker colors for text, but the opposite can work if done correctly. Your site’s design should not distract a visitor from your content. It should emphasize the content, not take away from it.
2. Indicate Action
If you want people to take action on your site, it’s important that you clue them in that there’s an action to take. Links should stand out among a sea of text and when hovered over, there should be a change in style, whether that’s via the color, the font weight, or an underline. Likewise, changing the cursor to a pointer is a nice addition as well. The same goes for buttons.
3. Clean Up Navigation
Your site likely has a bunch of pages, but do you need to list them all in your menu? No, probably not. Only list your most important pages in your menu and try to limit them. Remember: the goal is to make navigation easy. While you might think that giving users a ton of links would be helpful, that’s not the case. Having a limited number of items in your menu keeps things simple, which in turns makes your site more user friendly.
If your site is huge, think about your most important pages and define a hierarchy. Limit the amount of first level pages, then use drop down menus to allow for more options. You can also create secondary menus on inner pages that will help your readers navigate within a certain section.
Also, when setting up your menus, be sure to keep the language simple and straightforward. While having cutesy phrases might seem fun, they might not be as obvious to others. The whole goal of navigation is to help people navigate your site. If your navigation just confuses people, then it’s not really doing it’s job now is it?
4. Tell Readers Where to Start
The moment readers land on your site, do they know what to do? Odds are your site is filled with great content, and while that’s awesome, to someone landing on your site for the first time, it can be a bit overwhelming.
That’s where a start here page comes in. The goal of this page is to show readers what your site is all about by showcasing your best content as well as any other content that will help them make the most of your site. Readers should be able to land on your start page, briefly learn what your blog or business is about, and be directed to the best content geared for beginners.
5. Give Your Site Some Breathing Room
Real estate on a site is limited, so you might want to use up every available spot with content, buttons, ads, and all the other clutter that comes with a website. This is where I tell you that way of thinking is wrong. Your eyes need someplace to rest on the screen. If your eyes are constantly assaulted with graphics and text, they can’t do that now, can they?
Go over every element on your site and ask yourself if it is really necessary. Delete anything that isn’t serving a purpose. Once that’s done, look at your design. Is there space between your posts and sidebar? Are your paragraphs right on top of one another? Does your content touch the edges of the screen?
If so, your site needs some breathing room! In design we call this white space and no, the space doesn’t need to be white. White space is simply empty space. If you think your site is too cluttered, odds are it probably is.
6. Make Your Content Easy to Share
If you’re posting quality content, people will want to share it, but they might not necessarily go out of their way to do so. Adding social media sharing buttons to your posts is a great way to make sharing from your site user friendly. In addition to the standard sharing buttons, you can also add a Pin it button to your sites images, as well as incorporating pre-typed tweets via Click to Tweet.
7. Provide Contact Info
Are you easily accessible via your site? If not, you could be losing out on opportunities. Not to mention it makes you look unfriendly. Make sure you have a contact page setup that clearly lists your email address or use a contact form instead. If you have a physical place of business, provide an address as well as a phone number. And don’t forget to make this page easily accessible. Don’t bury it in some far off corner of your site. Link to it in your menu or footer, places where people will naturally look for that sort of info.
8. Look Great on Any Screen Size
According to one report, 60% of internet usage is mobile. If your site only looks good on large screens, then you’re not catering to the majority. It’s important for your website to adapt to any screen size so that no matter what device someone is using to access your site, you can guarantee that they’re having a great user experience.
How do you know if your site is mobile friendly? You can use a site such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. I also like StudioPress’ mobile responsive test. If your site isn’t mobile responsive, look for a new theme that is mobile friendly. If you’re set on your current theme and don’t want to change, you can install a mobile plugin, such as WPtouch, which displays your site using a mobile friendly theme. The only downside to a plugin like this, is that your visitors won’t be getting the same experience on mobile as they would a desktop.
9. Break Up Content
On the web, small chunks of content is king. Now that doesn’t mean all your posts should be short. Instead, think about breaking up your posts into smaller pieces. Have a long paragraph? Can it be broken up into two? And don’t forget the headings! When people first land on your post, they’ll skim it to see if it’s worth reading. Headings allow your readers to easily determine what content is covered in your post and whether it’s worth their time to read it or not. Similarly, use photos to break up your post, especially when a post is on the longer side.
10. Make Searching Easy
No matter how well you plan out your site, sometimes finding something specific isn’t easy. Because no matter how well you categorize your posts, who really wants to go back 20 pages trying to find what they’re looking for? That’s where a search box comes in. Adding a search box to your sidebar or menu is a great way to help your visitors find what they’re looking for. Just make sure that the search box is visible. Will visitors be able to find it if it’s buried in a sidebar covered with ads? Probably not. Placing it near the top of your site is important for visibility.
11. Keep it Speedy
People have short attention spans. Not to mention, we’re always on the go. No one is going to wait around for your site to load. Images should be sized to fit your theme. If your blog only displays images 800px wide, there is no reason to upload an image 3500px wide. And if your theme does allow for pretty large images, you can optimize them by using a site such as TinyPNG. Remember also that the more images that are on a page, the slower it will take to load. Add a more tag to your posts so that only the first 2 images are displayed on your blog page. Similarly, you can reduce the number of posts displayed at a given time.
12. Update Links
As a user, you know what’s annoying? Clicking on a link that doesn’t take me anywhere. Definitely not user friendly to say the least. And while some links will inevitably go dead at some point or another, it does’t mean that you have to accept it. Install the Broken Link Checker plugin and it’ll notify you of broken links (and images!).
13. Spell it Out
While something may be obvious to you, it’s always best to assume that it’s not. When displaying forms, make sure each of your fields is labeled. Use descriptions and tool tips where necessary. Provide instructions. If you require information in a certain format, explain. It never hurts to spell it out for people, that way they know exactly what they should provide, which means you’ll information exactly as you need it.
When it comes to making your site user friendly, keep it simple. Think about how someone would use your site and plan accordingly.
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What methods are you using to make your site user friendly?