It is easy to get a web site online now, but businesses have to compete even harder for the attention of visitors. One of the best ways to gain an competitive advantage is to improve your web site’s usability. Here are a few easy ways:
1. Use a standard layout
One of the best ways to improve the usability of your website is to use a standard layout. A web site layout separates the web sites into several related components. The most common components are the header, menu, content section, and footer. You should also have your web site name or logo on the very top of this header and link it to the web site’s homepage. This will provide the structure that your visitors can rely on to find the major sections quickly.
2. Make navigation easy
Like the layout, the navigation of a website should be standardized and remain consistent throughout the website. If you have a very large site, break your navigation down to categories. You should also include a link to your homepage, typically called “Home”. The key is to make your navigation easy to figure out. Once visitors learn how pages are related they will be encouraged to explore different areas.
3. Make your content easy to skim
When a business first creates a web site, they try to save time by blindly copying text from their documents and placing it online. What they don’t know is that most visitors will skim your content and not read all of the text on a page. Like the narrow columns in newspapers, web pages should be broken up so the reader has a chance to rest. The easiest way to do this is to add headings, sub-headings, and lists for the different sections of your content. This will help your visitors find the information quicker.
4. Let your links stand out
I see many web sites make the color of their links the same as the text color. This makes it hard to tell the difference between a link and normal text. If you highlight links in a different color, your visitors can quickly scan the entire page to find what they are looking for. If you are not sure how to highlight a link, just use the standard of blue text with a underline. Your visitors will know that they are links.
5. Use standardized technology
There is always new technology coming out to improve web sites but you have to be careful about putting it on your business web site. Remember the goal of your web site is to attract visitors and turn them into customers. You don’t want to exclude customers from your website because of technology choices. Keep in mind that many more people are accessing the web using portable devices like a cell phone or PDA and these devices only have the most basic web browsing features. If not, you might want to consider redesigning those areas to make them more accessible. If you must use some new technology, make sure to offer a version for people without the technology.
These tips only scratch the surface of what you can do to make your website more usable to your visitors. If you think you need to improve your usability of your website, your visitors are probably thinking the same. Contact your web designer to help you restructure your web site and turn more visitors into customers.