How to improve the usability of your website
As we mentioned in our last post, attention to the user experience (UX) is essential for today’s business website. So the big question is: how can you improve the usability and user experience of your website?
The first step is research
Research is a crucial part of UX, and the foundation of creating a beautifully interactive website. It helps you understand your customers and provides insight into their needs and what they expect from your website. This is turn helps to pre-empt any problems they may face by designing every interaction and mapping their navigation experience.
Conducting research is often best left to UX experts, as their results will be independent, objective and turned into recommendations for information architecture and website design that you can incorporate immediately. However, whether you hire UX researchers or try doing it yourself, these are some types of usability research:
1. Interviews and workshops: Gathering people from your target audience and asking questions can glean some very useful results and provide insight into their needs and expectations.
2. Develop user profiles: Bringing your team together and profiling your target users is an effective method that can help focus your team on the needs of your users.
3. Contextual user testing: By far the best way to research your users is to watch real members of your target group actually interacting with your site. Ask them to complete tasks that most visitors to your site would expect to accomplish quickly and watch them carefully to see how easily they achieve those tasks. (For more information on testing protocol, you can check out Steve Krug’s book Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems.)
Secondly, turn the research into action
Once the research is completed, the results must be turned into actionable points that improve the design of your website and the experience of your users. Where were the problem areas that your users found difficult to hurdle? At what points did your users get stuck or frustrated? These are some obvious areas to start improving your website design.
Whilst improving the design of your website, keep some key points in mind to optimise your site’s usability:
- Be sure to address the key questions of your users quickly
- Make navigating your site easy and intuitive through the menus, sub-menus and hyperlinks throughout the site
- Keep to simple basic rules that Internet users can become accustomed to, like using familiar terms like ‘home’ and ‘shopping cart’ as well as placing navigation bars at the same location throughout the website
How do you think your site’s usability could be improved?