Have you got plans to give your website a redesign? That’s great news.
But before you begin calling the shots on matters of branding, layout and on-page content, take a step back. Here, we’re sharing 5 key ingredients that form the recipe for success when it comes to site usability.
Don’t be fooled into thinking best-practice website design is all about the aesthetic. Sure, it helps to have an attractive site, but the ultimate goal is to ensure users can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.
This sounds simple on paper, but the reality is it can be a complex process that incorporates a variety of user-centric factors.
In this post, we’re here to help you combine all of the right ingredients to strike that perfect balance of aesthetics, usability and functionality. The end result will be a user-friendly website that promotes positive user experiences, driving traffic and conversions.
Ultimately, a website needs to be easy to use, otherwise visitors will be unable to find what they’re looking for, and may become frustrated and leave the site without converting.
This all sounds pretty basic, but data shows that 70% of online businesses don’t succeed because of bad website usability.
Think of usability like the roux base (butter and flour) for a classic white sauce. Without it, your sauce - or in this case, your website - will be thin, bland and hard to stomach.
Along with rigorous user testing - ideally from an objective third-party - the below factors are key to maximising your site’s usability:
- Sitemap and information architecture: plan out your website’s pages and how they logically interlink and interact with one another. Map out how a user will get quickly and easily from A to B, for example from your homepage to a specific product page
- Customer journey flow: for each page, create a design wireframe that allows you to visualise and prioritise different elements of the design form and functionality. From informing content placement to anticipating user behaviour, this process will help you to focus on what’s important and design a user-friendly website
- Navigation tools: in order to guide users seamlessly through their onsite customer journey, you need to provide them with a variety of tools. These should include a top-level navigation bar at the top of every page, a back button, page breadcrumbs that allow users to go back to previous stages in their journey, an AI chatbot and a search bar
Why this is important: given that online users’ expectations are higher than ever while their attention spans are lower, having the right base in place will help you to exploit this very short window of opportunity to impress visitors on your site. Even with a steady stream of traffic, if your site performs poorly in the usability stakes, you’ll turn users off and damage conversion rates as a result.
Next up is a sizable serving of high-quality content.
With a robust site outline in place, you’re ready to start planning and adding to this structure with lashings of useful and engaging content.
Effective websites are all about high-quality, relevant content that engages and informs, and resolves user search queries. So, any content you incorporate, be that text or multimedia, should add value to the user’s experience.
As a starting point, always include these integral content pages in your recipe:
- Home: your homepage provides users with a succinct overview of your brand and products or services, and acts as a gateway to their customer journey
- About us: offer insights into your brand’s history, values, mission and any accreditations that legitimise your brand and build user trust
- Case studies (if applicable): show users what you can do with real-life testimonials and case studies, which could take the form of reviews for ecommerce brands
- Contact us: make it easy for users to reach you with a dedicated contact page
- Blog: blogs offer the perfect platform to engage and inform users with content that demonstrate your expertise, authority and trustworthiness to establish your website as a valuable industry resource
In addition to your core pages, look to ensure all core service or product category pages have high-quality, easy-to-read, value-adding content to engage and educate users. All of this will contribute to providing users with the information they need to conclude their search.
And don’t forget to include a relevant, persuasive call-to-action on each page - and not only with regards to direct sales. The user journey offers plenty of micro conversion opportunities, such as newsletter signups, contact form submissions and content downloads - all of which indicate a user is engaged on your website.
Why this is important: content is king. While not a direct ranking factor, high-quality, valuable content does tick Google’s E-A-T (expertise, authority and trustworthiness) boxes. This is important for building brand awareness, trust and authority, as well as improving organic visibility, which we’ll cover in more detail later.
Beyond actual functionality, your website also needs to be visually attractive to users.
So, whatever products or services you’re offering, make sure your website is mouth-watering to look at.
This means addressing important design elements like:
- Branding: from logo and messaging placement to font size and colour, make sure your entire site is consistently branded and follows uniform protocol across each page
- Visual assets: include high-quality imagery, video and other multimedia assets to bolster engagement and the visual appeal of your site. But be mindful of sizing and balance to ensure imagery doesn’t negatively impact page speed and make pages feel busy or overcrowded
- Interstitials: avoid harming the user experience with intrusive interstitials, also known as popup ads on pages. These can negatively affect how content is viewed and frustrate less patient users
Why this is important: paying close attention to the aesthetics of your site results in a more professional and appealing outcome. Visually engaging websites enjoy better user engagement while earning that all-important brand trust.
A beautiful, easy-to-use website is next to useless if no-one’s able to find it.
This is where search engine optimisation (SEO) comes into play. Making sure your site is SEO-friendly and naturally optimised for relevant search terms is crucial to maximising organic visibility.
There are 3 disciplines of SEO that all feed into this process:
- On-page: from category and product pages to your blog and homepage, on-page SEO focuses on optimising content pages for the relevant topics - and specific queries - users are searching online. This isn’t about adding in as many keywords as possible, but more of a subtle peppering of relevant keywords within topically driven on-page copy
- Technical: this typically includes behind-the-scenes technical elements to help improve site visibility, such as site indexing, fixing broken links, reducing image sizes and much more
- Off-page: SEO strategies also include off-page techniques that can help to send the right trust signals to search engines for authority and relevance. These typically include backlinks from relevant, reputable sites via digital PR, third-party content features and social media marketing
Why this is important: in competitive online marketplaces, brands need to make sure they don’t get left behind. Supporting your website with a robust SEO strategy from the start will help you reap the rewards as early as possible and ensure your website remains visible for relevant search terms.
The final key ingredient here is user interaction - after all, what’s the point in baking a delicious cake if there’s no one there to eat it?
All of the above ingredients are designed to optimise the user experience and, ultimately, encourage users to interact with the site.
The key with this stage is to clearly outline what your interaction objectives are and recognise that they may need to be different for specific areas of the site. Carefully test layouts, imagery and content to establish which tactics best drive the interactions needed to help you achieve your business goals.
For instance, your layout, content and calls-to-action will likely be focused on sale conversions on product pages, while the efficacy of your homepage may be measured by a softer micro conversion - like newsletter signups or contact page visits.
Why this is important: you need users to take action while they’re on your website. Having clearly defined goals as to what success looks like, as well as targeted strategies to drive the right kind of engagement, will ensure your site is primed to meet your business objectives.
Combining the above elements will give you the ingredients for a powerful online platform that attracts visitors and helps them find what they’re searching for quickly and easily. This is a winning recipe for producing a user-friendly website that generates better engagement, greater trust and more cost-effective conversions.
Cohesive, effective websites require expert input from design, development, SEO and content marketing teams throughout their lifetime.
If you lack the time, resources or manpower to take this on, don’t fret.
Get in touch with the Land Digital team today and discover how our team of designers, developers and marketers can help you create and market a best-practice website that works for users, and your business.