Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ease of use for your users should come first...

Even if it means it takes a bit of work on your end.

Yeah I know it's been ages since my last post, but when you are a busy marketeer sometimes personal blogging takes the backseat. With that said on to my topic.

One of my biggest pet peeves is a site that is hard to navigate. If I can't get what I need within 3-5 clicks I feel like I am wasting my time. In a world where everyone is trying to get things done quickly and efficiently you can not afford to have a website that is hard to use. Being a designer I understand the need to have a website that is well designed, but if your design makes your site hard to use then your site is worthless.

Here are my top 5 tips that will improve your users experience on your site

1. Have a good Navigation Structure
Your nav bar is how your user moves through your site. Take the time to make sure that your navigation scheme is orginized which makes for fast travel through your site If your website is large you might want to consider putting like items into sections and having a sub nav.

2. Develop a Sitemap
Other than assisting in the area of SEO, your sitemap is a place that users turn to when they need to find something in a hurry or when they get lost. Organize the links in a way that's easy to follow.

3. Make it easy to get back home
I know this seems like a no brainer, but I still run across sites that make it hard to get back to the homepage. I don't think just making your logo a link back to the homepage is enough. Also at the very least sdd a link in your nav that goes back to the homepage. You might want to consider adding a breadcrumb trail to your site. Breadcrumbs are becoming more popular they help the user understand the hierarchy of your website. It also gives them a way to jump up to higher levels of your site.

4. Allow the user to search for what they want.
This is a big one for larger sites, but consider adding an internal search feature on your site. This will give the user another tool to find what they are looking for. Adding a search bar is not hard, and very inexpensive. Sites like google will allow you to have a search bar on your site in minutes by just adding a bit of code that they provide to your website.

5. Ask for feedback
Just like a car it's always good to fine tune your website. Have some outside users go though and QC your websites navigation and usability. Give them a list a things to find and see if it takes them more then 2 clicks to find it. Take their feed back and use it to improve your process.

Freebie! Make a custom 404 page
I couldn't cut the list down to 5 so you get one for free. No one likes getting the ever so hated "page not found" page. To fix that create a custom 404 page. Have your 404 page redirect to the sitemap, or provide a group of common links. This way you will help those users that get a bad link or try to access an old page find their way.

I know there are many more areas that I could cover, but I feel that those are some of the major points. If you have those points covered you know that your users will have a good experience on your site, and be able to find what they need with ease.


Catfish said...

A keyword focused Internet Architecture is essential for both usability and search engine optimization. Going forward, more and more metrics for SEO will be developed to measure positive user experience. Focusing on users not only helps with your conversion rate but will also benefit your SEO in the long run. Nice article.