One of the most essential elements to creating a successful website is making it as easy as possible for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
If a visitor doesn’t find it easy and intuitive to navigate your site, they’re not going to spend too much time looking. Not when there are so many competing sites out there likely to provide a much friendlier user experience.
Sure, your site visitors are much more likely to convert if it’s easy to navigate your website. But there’s more to it than that. A well laid-out web page is also much better for your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts than a sloppy or difficult to understand website.
That’s because not only your site visitors but search engines themselves respond better to a well laid out site.
When you create a site that’s easy for the visitor to use, you make a pleasurable experience out of a potentially frustrating one. Doing so “can ensure that your site is perceived positively by those who visit, encouraging sharing, bookmarking, return visits and links — signals that trickle down to the search engines and contribute to high rankings,” says SEOmoz.org.
With that in mind, here are four essential ideas behind building a site that offers maximum usability and is therefore more likely to convert visitors.
1: Site Layout. What’s more important than your site design and layout? It’s unavoidable—all your visitors must experience it to get what they want from your site. That makes it the most important aspect of your site-building experience.
Progress has been made in creating the most user-friendly possible website, and there’s been a noticeable trend over recent years to focus on a simpler layout. And unless you have a great reason to buck that trend, you’re certainly best off following it.
And, as with most other elements of online marketing, this one is a lot easier than it used to be. Most hosting companies give you the choice to instantly make use of one of hundreds of pre-designed WordPress sits, free of charge. So you can literally browse hundreds of potential designs and find the one you like best, all in a matter of minutes.
2: Page Titles. Always title each and every page with a clear title that describes as accurately and briefly what users can expect to find on that page.
Again, this is an aspect that can more or less be handled automatically by WordPress, which gives each page a title that’s automatic and relates to the content the page contains.
But you can also adjust that WordPress setting to give your pages different title and URLs. So, make sure to add a title to every page, and make sure that title is basic, clear, and intuitive.
3. Your Sitemap. You need a sitemap for users to easily find the deeper or older pages they might want to take a look at. And more importantly, you need a sitemap to let search engines know how to look at your site, too.
Luckily, the search engines themselves offer guidelines on how to build a sitemap that’s in tune with their methods of spidering websites. And building one of those maps is pretty easy, and, again, is automatically rendered with most WordPress sites.
Access the official protocol for Google, Yahoo, and MSN search engine sitemaps here.
4: Link Appearance. This one has less obvious impact on your visitors’ user experience, but it’s still often the most important.
Whenever a link exists on any of your content — whether it’s a word link in a blog post or a navigation menu on the site itself—it’s important to make sure your users know it’s there. When a mouse hovers over the link, it should chance size or color, or underline the phrase, or indicated in another way to your visitors that it’s a hyperlink.
Just the start
As you can imagine, these are basic design elements that should be considered before you start building your site. Next week, we’ll spend some time exploring the more advanced ideas behind website usability.
In the meantime, is there anything important that we’ve left off the list? Do you have good or bad experience with one of these elements? We love to read your feedback; sound off in the comments and let us know what you think.