Making your site more user-friendly could mean the difference between profit and loss with many of today’s e-commerce websites. Improving a sites usability is often overlooked and in my opinion it is one of the most crucial points to the long term success of any business planning to make an impact on the online market. By reducing the amount of thinking evolved for a visitor to use your site you greatly increase the probability that it will result in a sale.
This becomes more important if your target market heavily contains customers form the baby boomer generation. Many of the people in this generation are so accustomed to the traditional way of looking for products in a department store that they can very easily get lost or disorientated if a site is not structured to be easy to navigate.
Below are some tips to quickly help you make your site more user-friendly.
Keeping content to a minimum:
Though for SEO purposes it is very important to have large amounts of content on your site this need to be placed in an area that does not obstruct the user ability to navigate the sites main pages. A small amount of content prominently displayed on the home page that quickly and effectively explains what your site does is all that is necessary though it is also very important to put a more details description and any other relevant information lower down on the page only accessible to those who seek it.
Giving the user a sense of where they are:
This is probably the most important aspect of site usability. Often site users find it difficult to get a bearing on where they currently are on your site, how they got to where they are and how to go back the way they came. This would largely contribute to the fact that 40% of all clicks online are the back button as most sites do not have a clear navigation for someone to navigate back to the previous page. This can all be overcome with the implementation of two very basic design changes that I would highly suggest any site lacking them consider.
1. Having coloured navigation tabs! In the main navigation of a site it is important to have the tabs that change colour to relate to the current page that the visitor is on. For instance when I go to the contact us page the “contact us” button should change to a different colour (usually a lighter one). It is even a good idea to have the home page tab a different colour when the person first arrives on your site. This is the most obvious way for you to give people an understanding of where they are yet it almost always overlooked. It is also wise to have the same colour change occur with sub navigation.
2. Bread crumbs! The use of breadcrumbs is a very simply way to give people the ability to backwards navigate through your site and at the same time give them an understanding of where they are currently positioned on your site. There are vast amounts of information about the different types and methods of implementing bread crumbs on the net, a simply Google search will attain for you enough information to keep you busy for a month.
Clearly stating your sites purpose on the home page so that it is unmistakably identifiable.
Though you may think that your site does this effectively you will never know for sure until you ask someone outside of your business or industry. I find many websites on first sight seem to imply they evolve something completely different from what they actually do.
Design your pages to resemble the form page of news paper.
By making your sites headings and content similar to that of a news paper you are again utilising the site visitor’s familiarity with their local news paper. By using heading fonts that are sized relative to the importance of the articles, your site users will feel like they have been visiting your site for years. Using teaser text where possible while giving users a feeling of familiarity will also enable you to fit more headings on a page catering to people with different interests.