You want visitors to come back to your site.
And in most cases they don’t.
But, what if I could show you a quick series of tweaks that you can make to your blogs layout which would fix the problem?
Does it sound too good to be true?
I used to think so too until I started making these exact small tweaks.
Soon after, more visitors were sticking around for longer and they were coming back.
The insanely simple secret to improving your blogs user experience
Your visitors aren’t coming back because they’re too distracted.
There is too much going on!
And, when you have too many distractions, you can effectively kill user experience along with your conversions.
There are some blogs that I never go back to because the user experience is so bad, I’m sure you have experienced these types of blogs before.
This quote says it all:
When a visitor lands on your blog, you need to make it clear what you want them to do.
Be crystal clear.
Below I am going to talk you through some popular elements that you will find on blogs, which ones you should get rid of and why.
Social media widgets: a quick way to send visitors to other sites
Facebook like boxes, G+ widgets and Twitter widgets may appear like they’re a good thing.
After all, it’s easier to get a like than get someone to handover their email address.
But, the reality is that it’s not a good thing.
You are just sending traffic away from your site.
And when we spend so long trying to get traffic from social networks, what’s the point of sending it back?
The argument for building your social following is all well and good.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be building a following but there is something you should be doing instead:
Growing your email list.
When you start adding social media widgets to your sidebar, you are drawing the attention away from your opt-in forms.
But, we need a social media following don’t we?
We do, but there are better ways to build a following.
And most importantly, Facebook’s organic reach is heading towards 0 [source] as well as engagement dropping for a lot of pages.
Some brands have invested millions of dollars into building a huge fan base on Facebook only to end up deleting their entire Facebook page like Eat24.
Interestingly, Eat24 also cited that after closing their Facebook page, email opens increased by a huge margin.
Sure, you can get some good results if you have a solid sales funnel and some cash but the smart thing to do is to grow your email list.
Don’t build a house on rented land.
Even if you fall out with your email provider, you can always export your list to a CSV.
That’s yours; nobody can take it away from you.
The bottom line is: don’t actively try to send traffic back to social networks, it just distracts your visitors from completing the action you want them to (e.g. signing up to your list or buying a product). If you still want to make sure your readers can find your social accounts, add them to your footer.
Social media fan counters: Is negative social proof impacting your results?
In a nutshell, this social proof thing can be explained by this quote:
“People see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it.”- Robert CialdiniCLICK TO TWEET
The problem is that when the numbers are low, it can have the opposite effect.
That tells your visitors that nobody else is listening to what you have to say, so why should they?
If you have the numbers, then this can work well.
This example from Digital Photography School just screams “lots of people read our stuff, you should too!”
Consider whether you really want to display a social media fan counter at all.
The truth is that when faced with too many options, people often make the choice to choose none of the options.
It’s called the paradox of choice.
To put it into perspective, have you sat down in a restaurant and looked at the menu only to be faced with so much choice that you don’t know what to choose?
The bottom line is: if a social media fan counter cannot provide you with any significant benefit (e.g. trust and social proof) then consider removing it.
That badge: Does it really mean anything?
On my journey surfing through the web, I see a lot of different badges.
These can range from blog directory badges, author badges to awards from influential websites.
Websites urge you to add these badges to your blog like some sort of badge of honour.
The truth is that most of these are just a waste of time.
You need to ask yourself how easy it is for someone to get that badge.
For example, the ‘Top 10 Social Media Blog’ badges from Social Media Examiner.
This can only be displayed by a limited number of bloggers and you’ve got to be doing some seriously awesome stuff to get one.
So, it makes sense for Francisco Rosales from Social Mouths to display these:
This has a purpose – to increase trust and leverage social proof.
And the results are publically posted over at Social Media Examiner.
But, if you were to display an author badge for EzineArticles.com or a badge for a blog directory, you may be wasting your time.
They have no function or purpose.
And more to the point, they’re easy for anyone to display.
The bottom line is: don’t display any badge of honour if anyone could get it and the more difficult to get, the better.
The sidebar: Does your blog really need one?
This is an element that not everyone will need to remove.
I’m seeing more and more blogs completely remove their sidebar.
As a user, I prefer reading a blog post without a sidebar.
This can help you put the focus back on your content which is great from a user experience point of view.
On the downside it can make it difficult for users to find their way around your website, especially because it means saying good bye to ‘recent posts’ widgets and ‘popular posts’ widgets.
It’s also worth considering that some themes for WordPress have full width templates that can be used, but studies have shown that people are put off by reading longer sentences. Derk Halpern talks more about this here.
If removing your sidebar is something you aren’t ready for, you could try it on particular posts/pages.
The bottom line is: removing your sidebar isn’t for everyone but it’s worth testing to see the impact it can have on things like your bounce rate. Also, consider collecting qualitative feedback by other means. It may be that removing the sidebar is beneficial to particular blog posts/pages.
Your main navigation: Is it overwhelming your readers?
This comes back to the paradox of choice.
If your navigation menu has a crazy number of different menu items, it can get very confusing for your readers.
The easiest way to handle this is to limit the number of options.
I like the simplicity of the navigation on Gregory Ciotti’s blog; SparringMind.com:
By removing unnecessary menu items you can help to funnel visitors to key pages.
For example, YuppieChef removed a secondary navigation menu and increased sign ups by 100%.
Taking it a step further
Another tactic I like is putting together a start page which can be a nice way of helping out your readers and showing them everything you have to offer.
Despite this, you need to think carefully before you remove menu items.
Pat Flynn learned this the hard way when he removed a key element that caused a huge drop in podcast plays.
The bottom line: ask yourself how important certain navigation elements are and remove those which don’t need to be there. In some cases you will still need to keep navigation elements, but moving them to your footer will make them accessible while putting the focus on key pages.
Validate and test your design changes
Before you make any changes, you should test your existing design.
Then you can compare your results to see what has improved.
This is because, with all the best will in the world, best practice is not always the answer.
It’s a great start, but it can only get you so far.
It’s worth getting goal tracking setup in Google Analytics first, check this guide to find out how.
After that, try using a heatmap tool like Crazy Egg to identify where your visitors are clicking (or where they’re not clicking).
A great example of how to validate design changes by using tools like Crazy Egg can be found in this post by Brian Dean.
Your key takeaways
Look at every element on your blog and ask yourself if it really needs to be there.
If so, what value is it adding for users or how is it helping you to accomplish your own goals?
Each element on your blog must have a purpose.
Think about your own goals but don’t focus so much on it that you ruin the user experience and make your visitors want to run instantly hit the X button.
Your next steps
Here are your next steps:
- Identify your key conversion goals – these are actions you want your visitors to complete (e.g. signing up to your email list).
- Look at each element on your blog and evaluate its worth based on the key takeaways above.
- If you haven’t already, read this post on growing your email list conversions by over 700%.
Over to you
There will always be a balancing act between user experience and conversions. It’s definitely a challenge to get the best of both worlds.
What are your thoughts?