Building a User-Friendly Website
Building your company’s website is only half the battle. The other half is actually attracting traffic and encouraging repeat visits to your site, whatever its purpose.
You can spend as much money as you like on creating what you perceive to be the perfect website but if no one else agrees with you then all your efforts (and all that cash) were for nothing. Here are some tips for creating a user-friendly website.
Determine Your Site’s Purpose — Are you trying to entertain, inform or sell? The overall design of your site should be tailored to its main purpose. If you do not have a clear understanding of what it is you are trying to achieve how can you expect that your visitors will?
Plan Your Site with the Visitors' Needs in Mind, Not Your Own — Take into consideration how your future visitors will use your site, their motivations for using it and the reason why they should ever return.
Site navigation should be simple and easy to understand. Links should be named so that they are concise and self-explanatory and the most important information should be the most prominent. The overall design should be consistent from page to page; you do not want you visitors wondering if they have accidentally navigated to another site when they begin to click through.
Encourage Interaction — Give your visitors as many ways as possible to contact you and encourage them to provide you with the feedback you need to endure that your website is as user friendly as it can possibly be.
This also provides you with a great opportunity to build an opt in email list that you can use for marketing purposes off site, especially if you offer the visitor something of use to them in return for that information. Newsletters, e-books, special reports and discount coupons can all work very well.
Support Your Visitors — Reassure your visitors by providing help pages, FAQs and a site map. If a website is too confusing or difficult to understand they will leave as quickly as they arrived, probably never to return. Security is a big concern for internet users, especially if you are asking them to buy something, so the fact that your site is secure should be prominently displayed and you must ensure that it is.
Go for Visual Appeal But Keep It Simple — Your website’s design should be clean and simple. Flashy animated graphics may impress but your visitors will become annoyed by waiting for a flash animation to load before they can actually get to the information they are looking for. Flash presentations also discourage search bots, the other very important visitors that you need to attract.
Speed Matters — In the era of the high speed internet connection a visitor’s patience is measurable in milliseconds. Keep page sizes reasonable so that they load quickly and efficiently. Check on a regular basis that all the links on your site are working, as there is little that frustrates an internet user more than trying to navigate to a page that does not exist.
Keep Your Content Fresh — If you build a website and then fail to update and refresh it on a regular basis, you will lose both human and search engine traffic. Having a site filled with outdated or irrelevant material simply makes you look inefficient and disinterested in your visitor’s needs. From a search prospective new content triggers repeat visits from those busy little bots, something that no website can ever get enough of.