When you’re planning a new website it’s easy to get caught up in making it “look nice” and forget about how your customers will interact with the site. Equally, it’s also very common to see companies trying to second guess how their customers will act, without properly researching or understanding how people really behave on a website. There are two main steps to improving your website experience for your customers, which I’ll explore in this two-part blog series.
Step 1: Understand and apply the “ground rules”
There are certain rules of the web that we can apply to any website, whether it’s a new site or an existing site, to improve the user’s experience overall.
Rule 1: Visual cues
Users expect a number of visual cues. For example, there are certain ways of making it clear that some text is “clickable”. You can make it look like a button, underline it, make it a different colour. If it stands out from the rest of your paragraph, then users know that means they can click it.
Also, you should provide the user feedback where you can. When they click a button does it subtly change to let them know it’s clicked? If something’s loading is there a “spinner” to let them know something’s going on?
Rule 2: “Above the fold” is a bit of a myth
One unexpected example of user behaviour that I find particularly interesting is the tendency of users to scroll down when they first visit a page. When you’re designing a website a lot of companies will talk about what’s “above the fold” – all the content you can see on an average desktop computer without scrolling. This is a flawed approach for 2 reasons:
Desktops are becoming less commonly used and the “fold” might be somewhere different on everyone’s various different devices
Users tend to scroll down, and spend very little of their time looking at the very top of the page. If you spend all of your time worrying about exactly what the website looks like the moment a customer lands on the page, then you’re not actually looking at what most of your customers will.
While we do pay attention to what’s likely to be on the user’s screen when they first land, we shouldn’t ever be worried that they “won’t see” content that’s below that imaginary “fold” – particularly the content that’s just below the fold, that’s actually one of the best places to put important information.
Rule 3: Be consistent
Avoid trying to get too clever and confusing your user. Users should never have to try to figure out whether two different words or actions mean the same thing. A good example of this is in a checkout process, you should keep the “proceed” button looking consistent throughout so it’s always clear how to move to the next step of the checkout. Also, make sure you avoid placing an identical-looking link on more than one page which does different things depending on where you are on the site.
Rule 4: Always have a goal
Finally, make sure you know what the primary goal of each page on your website is. It may be the same goal for every page on your website. In fact, for a small business website that’s very typical – you want people to contact you. Keep that goal in mind and make sure that you encourage potential customers to move towards it.
Understanding the basic ground rules is a great start when you’re working on a new website. But what if you have a website and you want to make some improvements? In part 2 of this article I’ll look at techniques you can use to understand specifically how your customers interact with your website.
If you want to see how we turn our user behaviour know-how into results for your business, why not get in touch about your new website project?
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