Take a second, and think of your favorite website to visit or use. Often, the best sites almost seem to sense what you need or want next. Does your own website offer that kind of strong user experience?
If you’re not sure, don’t worry. Making a top-notch first impression with your site isn’t as difficult as you might expect. There are a few key principles for optimizing your site for usability, which can set you on the right path quickly.
In this post, we’ll talk a little more about what usability is and why it matters. Then we’ll explore seven best practices for improving your website visitors’ experience. Let’s get to work!
What Is Site Usability?
Usability is part of a larger concept referred to as User Experience (UX). UX describes what it’s like for a visitor to use your website, including how it makes them feel and what impressions they’re left with.
As for usability, it refers to how easy and intuitive your website is to use. This has an effect on its UX, since a simple-to-use site with clear navigation offers a superior experience. Ideally, visitors will be able to navigate your site with ease, and find what they need quickly.
Importance of Usability for Your WP Site
Designing for usability requires you to prioritize the human UX. Glitches, speed bumps, or barriers to navigation can send a potential reader or customer quickly over to a competitor’s site. Naturally, this is something you’ll want to avoid.
On the other hand, there’s a strong connection between usability and success. Well-thought-out and tested user experiences can increase traffic, social sharing, and even conversions. If you want to not only attract visitors but keep them coming back time and time again, it’s vital to spend time optimizing your site for usability.
User Experience Best Practices for WordPress
Improving your site’s usability requires taking a number of factors into account. If a user immediately runs into a problem of any kind on your site, they aren’t likely to stick around.
Understanding why a visitor ‘bounces’ off your site is important to developing an effective usability strategy. Simply put, there’s an expectation from visitors that your site will work well. To help you make that happen, let’s go over seven best practices for optimizing your site.
1. Keep It Simple
Good usability design typically works to remove barriers between your site’s visitors and its goals. In other words, it’s best to keep things simple. Your visitors are busy people, and the demand for their attention is high. If you have their eyes on your site, you’ll need to take advantage of that opportunity quickly.
In general, this usability principle involves avoiding complexity in any part of your site. If your site has a reputation for being able to deliver without causing frustration or extraneous clicks, it’s more likely to gain repeat visits and loyalty over time.
The ‘keep it simple’ mantra has proven successful for many products and business models over time. When applied to user experience, it can boost your site’s success as well.
2. Design for Accessibility
The Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a global initiative created to provide a standardized approach to developing accessible web content. Its goal is to provide a common level of access to web content for people with disabilities.
Using WordPress’ accessibility tools and staying up-to-date on WCAG requirements in your area are key steps towards a better UX. Usability and accessibility go hand-in-hand in many ways. An accessible website follows sound UX principles and creates a better experience for all users, not just those with disabilities.
3. Create Mobile-Friendly Content
If your average user can’t access your site’s menu from their mobile phone, because it was designed for desktops and it’s just out of reach of their thumb, that’s a problem. Shopping trends tell us that lots of consumers now shop primarily in places like the bathroom, the bed, the car, and the office.
When you pair that information with the fact that one in five Americans now considers themselves to be ‘mobile only’ internet users, creating mobile-friendly content as a part of your usability strategy is crucial. Fortunately, many modern WordPress themes and plugins are built on the concept of responsive design, and adapt to the platform being used to view content.
It’s still important to keep devices and platforms in mind while building your site. However, this makes it easier to remain attentive to the usability needs of audiences across all major platforms.
4. Maintain Excellent Performance
Long gone are the days when ‘normal’ site loading times enabled you to make a cup of coffee while you waited. Now, 47% of consumers say that they expect pages to load in two seconds or less, and 40% report that they abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load
For this reason, it’s vital to keep your site running at top speed if you want it to be usable. Thoughtful design can help ensure that your site performs well. Plus, you can use site speed tools to assess where the slowdowns are happening, and strategize about how to improve this aspect of usability.
5. Ensure That Your Content Is Concise and Focused
Considering everything we’ve discussed so far, it’s clear that designing for today’s web users can be challenging. The average viewer spends only 5.59 seconds consuming the content of a web site. Plus, even the most intelligent readers are looking for clear and concise content that is searchable and cuts out the jargon.
That’s good news for content creators concerned about usability. You can skip the thesaurus, and aim to make good use of your online real estate by using bulleted lists, to-the-point phrasing, and so on. It’s also smart to implement a tried-and-true F-shaped design pattern, to make sure readers see the most important content first. Implementing these techniques will show your visitors that they can depend on your site for concise information that’s easy to find.
6. Aim for Efficient Navigation and a Clear Site Layout
Have you ever searched for a delicious-looking online recipe to cook, but after what feels like an eternity of scrolling, you bail out and order pizza in about three clicks? Human psychology says that the more clicks are required to get something, the less likely we are to complete the task.
Creating a clear sitemap and focusing on strong web navigation can help you avoid this major usability pitfall. Not being able to find what we want on a website is a pretty big turn-off in the consumer/product relationship. Therefore, menus should be easy to find, let visitors know where they are, and avoid focusing on flashy innovations or clever gimmicks.
7. Strive for an Error-Free Site
If you’ve never received an email from a retired high school English teacher outlining the mistakes on your web site, consider yourself lucky. While some complaints may seem pedantic, these kinds of errors can create a major UX breakdown.
If your site has dead links, misspelled words, or content so out of date that it shows up on a ‘Throwback Thursday’ post, visitors will likely notice. This can degrade your site’s credibility. Developing a content schedule and planning ahead for site maintenance, quality assurance, and processing user feedback can enhance usability and keep your audience coming back.
Improve your Site’s Experience With WP Engine
Usability and UX are partners in a process that works to maximize online experiences. By adhering closely to the principles we’ve discussed, you can ensure that your site is easy to use and leaves a strong impression on its visitors.
Of course, you’ll need some quality resources if you want to optimize your WordPress website. Here at WP Engine, we can help you create an excellent experience for your site’s visitors. Check out our plans, and get ready to take your site to the next level!