Usability Matters

August 29, 2013In Web4 Minutes

There is a general trend online towards responsive designs, faster load speeds, less and more efficient code for both design and function, as well as simpler user interfaces. All of this is centered on creating a better user experience and all of this amounts to creating websites that are more usable.

At one time, usability had given way to fancy designs and complex page layouts in an effort to differentiate one site from the rest of its competitors. As the internet has grown, users have grown impatient with slow load times, overwhelming designs on pages, and difficult sign-up or checkout processes.

They want an easy experience when looking for something online. They want sites that are easy to use and get them what they want without an endless number of steps and glacially slow load times.

Sites that are struggling with conversion, short visit times, and even search engine optimization should look at whether their sites are usable before changing anything else.

Here is how site owners can improve begin focusing on web usability to improve their businesses.

Implement Responsive Design

Sites that are not optimized for maximum usability on a range of devices are missing on a tremendous opportunity. Almost 20% of all web traffic takes place on mobile devices, with that number climbing each year since 2011.

Sites should be able to respond and display their pages in an easy to use way on smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. Responsive designs preserve branding and inbound links from other sites and they also tend to load faster than mobile dedicated sites.

Responsive designs also preserve the user experience as planned on the original design meant for desktop computers.

Streamline Code And Improve Page Speeds

There are several coding languages available for web development. The most common are HTML, PHP, and CSS, which combine to serve the arrangement of content on a page, what the page does, and how the page appears.

Other languages, primarily AJAX, are difficult for search engine bots to read and may not render properly in all browsers.

If a particular type of code, or even a specific line, is not necessary for a site to function or for a user to convert into a paying customer, they should be removed.

This, along with improved hosting, image compression, and loading tracking scripts at the bottom of the page can all improve page speeds.

Every second that passes increases the likelihood that a visitor will abandon the site and reduces the likelihood that if they do convert in some way, that they will return at a later date.

Using a content delivery network to serve content to users from servers close to their location will also improve page speeds.

Make It Easy For People To Sign-Up or Give You Money

People want to make opt-in for updates easily and to make purchases without filling in an endless stream of forms. The sign-up and checkout processes should only collect the minimum amount of critical information and nothing more.

The longer a person stays in the checkout or sign-up process, the more likely they are to change their mind or put off their action to another day.

Usability Matters More Than Most Think

A website with great services and products is not enough. Having a high degree of web usability is a must as the internet becomes a more competitive place. Innovative approaches to design must be coupled with tried and true methods to improve usability.

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