Is Your Website User Friendly?

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Search engine optimization is an extremely important factor in web development, after all you want people to be able to find your website and chances are the way that they will search for you will be with a search engine such as Google or Yahoo. But once the user has found your website, are they able to navigate and perform the necessary actions to get what they are looking for? If not, you website is a huge waste of time. Here’s a checklist to follow to assure that you have a user friendly website:

User Friendly Design

Without a design that is user friendly your visitors may cringe at the sight of the website and you don’t want that to happen—do you? Make sure that your website design is user friendly by assuring that there is consistency throughout the site and that your website design quickly answers the user question, “Where am I and is this what I was looking for?” Remember, if those questions are not answered within the first few seconds of a visitor landing on your site there is a high chance that the user will back away from your site and may never return—you just lost a potential customer!

User Friendly Navigation

Navigation is of utmost importance in creating a user friendly website. If the user can’t figure out where to go or where they have already been in your site they will get confused, irritated and ultimately leave the site in search of something that is “easier” to navigate. Make sure that your site gives the user what they are looking for—an easy to navigate site that provides them with understandable links to appropriate content and items of interest to them.

It’s also important that your website navigation incorporates a home page link inside the main navigation so that the user can always find their way back to the main homepage of the website without having to use the back button. While research shows that users will look for a button or widget that specifically says “HOME” it is also advisable to make the site logo link back to the home page as well as some users will look for such a navigational feature.

User Friendly Content

Content is KING! We hear this over and over again but how can you assure that your content is user friendly? Content that is clear and simple yet informing to the user is what your visitors are looking for. When you write content for your website always make sure that you keep both the visitor and the search engines in mind. Make sure that the content on your site is of the best quality.

Users like to be able to quickly scan a website and see if it relates to what they are looking for. Visitors don’t come to a website to read an entire book of content before finding what they are looking for, they want to scan the content and quickly make a decision as to whether they want to read more or not. Make sure that you make your content user friendly by formatting the content so that a user can easily scan it and get an idea of what the page is about, the key points of the page and the most important information. You can do this by using headings, titles, and bold text that brings attention to the important aspects of the content.

For the search engines, user friendly content includes the addition of alt text and title attributes for all images. Never place text inside an image because a search engine cannot read the image. If you must have text in the image make sure that the text is also included in the alt text or title information related to that image.

User Friendly Feedback Options

Your visitors will want you to know how they feel about your site, your products or your services. Make sure that you let your visitors know that you value their opinions by providing ways for the user to contact you. Forms are the most common way to provide for a user to contact you about services, products or to state their opinion. Make sure that your feedback forms are short and concise and easy to fill out for the user. A user friendly form will not have required fields that may be difficult for some users to fill out such as the address or telephone number fields.

Complete contact information should be included in an easy to find place or throughout your website so that your visitors can easily contact you. If you have a physical street address, post it! If you have a telephone contact number, post it! In most cases the user will contact you via email but make sure that you have offered multiple ways of contact so that you are supporting the user preferences of those who do not prefer email.

Still Not Sure if Your Site is User Friendly?

Test the site on real people. You may think that the site is giving off exactly the appeal that you desire and that the user can easily do or find what they need but the only real way to know for sure is to try it out. There are many different types of usability testing which can help you to determine if the visitors to your site are happy with the site, understand the site and will plan on returning. The sad truth is that visitors who come to a site and experience an unfriendly atmosphere are not likely to return in the future…not ever. It’s important to do proper usability testing early on in order to prevent the possibility of damaging your online presence from the start.

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