9 Important Lessons We Can Learn About User Experience
In the following post I’m going to discuss 9 serious issues that can kill your conversions and put your websites readers backs up against the wall.
These are lessons that I picked up from an expert in web usability and user experience that goes by the name of Steve Krug who is the author of “Don’t Make Me Think”.
The user experience on your site can be the driving force behind your website or it can kill your site off before it’s even gotten off the ground.
No matter what the purpose of your website is; whether it’s to promote an affiliate product or you’re trying to sell a pair of shoes – you need to think about this and design your website accordingly.
You can use the user experience on your site for your benefit and work in elements that can encourage social sharing for example – this ties in very well with reader engagement.
Now, before I dive in to these lessons it’s important to remember that there is a lot more to launching a blog than meets the eye, instinctively most bloggers optimize their content to get maximum love from Google because it’s a huge traffic driver, but on the other hand we need to be writing and optimizing our content for users too otherwise we’ll lose our audience.
I do believe there is a happy medium between the two and that’s what you need to find but remember that if readers don’t have a great experience on your site then you can throw all the traffic in the world at it, and they’ll still think it sucks!
Let’s start thinking about the user experience!
Ready? Let’s dive in…
1. Make it difficult for people to get lost
I’ve seen some horrible websites where the navigation is so difficult that I give up even trying and on other sites the navigation is so great that I’ll read a bunch of pages or posts on the site.
Telling people where they are is a great way to do this, relating this to the real life world – if you’re in a big shopping mall that you’ve never been too before, you’re probably going to want to find out of those “you are here!” type signs right?!
I do, mostly because I don’t want to spend ages wandering around and the same can be said for websites.
Let people know where they are in the site.
Things like breadcrumbs are a great way of doing this –
Or telling people where to start –
Note – these examples are taken from WPKube.com, a great example of a website that’s built to be engaging and has a great user experience.
The most straight forward way to do this is to put all the information that users could need at their fingertips and use navigation menu’s for what they’re meant for – navigating.
2. Be clear about what you want users to do
Have you heard of something called the “paradox of choice”?
The paradox of choice is based on a study that came to the conclusion that if someone was to be faced with too many options then they can end up not making a decision or just go with what they’re comfortable with.
To put this into context, a restaurant around the corner from my office has an insane menu – every time I go there, I stare at the menu for 10 minutes, struggling to decide what I want to order.
I end up ordering the same thing every time because I’m paralysed by choice.
This translates very well in to the design of your blog, which is why I recommend outlining your goals and making sure the design and setup of your blog reflects that.
If you want me to sign up to your list, don’t throw so many advertisements at me that I don’t know where to look!
Keep it simple.
3. You’ve got to test if you want a good site
Don’t just think you can throw up a website and think that’s ok – well it may be to you, but you’re not fine with it just being “ok” are you?
You want it to be better than ok right? You want it to convert like crazy?!
This means testing headlines, opt-in forms, blog layouts and even the layouts of blog posts.
Sounds a bit like hard work right? But when was anything worth doing easy?
What about types of testing? You can go for regular split testing which is a straight forward favourite, or if you want to really ramp things up you can try using multivariate testing.
Don’t worry, it sounds complex but it’s not, it just means testing more than two variables.
A while ago I wrote an article on Pro Blogger about multivariate testing (the easy way), the post is pointed towards opt-in forms but it can be applied to a number of other parts of your site.
4. Make key information visible
Isn’t it annoying when you need to contact a site owner about something important, or something that would even benefit them and you there are no contact details?
I’ve even seen social media focused websites where it’s impossible to find the site owner or websites own Twitter profile – I guess I won’t be following them for more updates then!
In the world of ecommerce, this can translate into hidden pricing and delivery information – you know, the important stuff that helps us make a buying decision?!
5. Don’t make me wait!
We all hate waiting for web pages to load, right?!
What about annoying flash intro’s and stupid stuff like that? Yep, them too.
I know they’re not used much anymore, but I still see them – it’s not 1999 anymore, times have changed.
As strange as it sounds, I’d much rather be greeted by an opt-in gate than a flash intro.
6. Keep your site organised
There are not many things that are worse than this really, in terms of how damaging it can be.
If your site doesn’t look organised then it’s generally going too difficult to navigate or just find what you need.
How do you feel about a site when you can see that the editor or site owner blatantly doesn’t care about the quality of the site and its content? It’s not going to make you want to come back is it?
An unorganised and untidy website can also seriously hurt your perceived authority within your industry and will turn your readers away.
7. You can’t beat a good headline or tagline
It’s a fact, if your headline sucks then your posts aren’t going to get many clicks, shares and in turn links built to them.
They need to be descriptive and entice clicks, but also deliver on any promise that’s made – people have written entire ebooks on the subject, but to get a head start there is a comprehensive post about creating headlines on Moz.com.
If you make a promise your blog post doesn’t keep, you’ll only annoy your readers.
Taglines work in a different way and while they won’t entice visitors to click on a link to your site or something similar, they’re still very important.
A great example is right here –
Why is this a great example?
Visitors will hit the site and immediately know why the blog exists and how it can help them – there’s no guessing, although you could definitely guess what BlogPreneurs is all about, but that’s not what this is about because you need to make things easy for visitors and take guessing out of the equation.
8. Keep the noise down
Don’t you just hate it when you visit a site and there is simply too much going on, there’s not just one thing like too many ads above the fold or some annoying pop under ad – there’s just WAY too much going on.
Sites like this make my brain hurt.
Here’s an extreme example –
This is possibly one of the most extreme examples of “busy” sites that I could find and it’s the complete opposite of what we should be aiming for.
Although, Lings Cars is so crazy that it could potentially work and for no other reason than it’s so crazy that people tell their friends about it, share the site on social media and link out to it.
That’s not to say that you should do the same, because I’d imagine there to be a thin line between success and failure with sites as crazy as this.
So, keep it simple and minimal works well, although not so minimal that you’re wasting too much white space.
9. Write for speed readers
I picked this out especially because one of my bad habits is that I skim and speed read my way through some blog posts to pick out certain sections that grab my attention.
Don’t think that you’re going to be able to engage your audience and give them a good user experience by just a 1000 words of text in one block.
Space out your content and use headings and sub headings to mark out your content and you’ll be able to engage with speed readers easier and those that aren’t speed readers will be able to navigate your content better and digest it easier.
It’s also a great help if you come back to read part of the post later.
User experience is a huge subject, Steve Krug wrote a book about it and there have been plenty more written about it too.
If you start off with these important lessons and think about them while putting your blog together you’ll be ready to make sure you can make the most of your traffic and they will engage with you and your website easier.
Ultimately, a poor user experience hurts your readers and it hurts you on a deeper level because you’ll get fewer opportunities, whether this is offers of content or maybe someone that could potentially want to review a product or invite you to speak at an event.
You’ll still need all the other good stuff that gets your site ranked and sends traffic to your site, but when you have that and you follow these lessons, everything will fall into place and overall will help you become successful online.
Which user experience issues put you off websites the most? Or which things do you look outfor?
We’d love to hear in the comments.
Featured image by opensourceway
About Adam Connell
Adam is the founder of Blogging Wizard. Previously Operations Manager for a UK based marketing agency, Adam now helps others to become more successful online. Get more from Adam on Google+.