What are the best practices for optimized website design and user experience? How can you design an attractive, user-friendly website that maximizes your ability to be found in the Search Engine Results Pages and drives conversions? Read our expert tips for optimized design and user experience, compelling aesthetic design, website architecture, usability and more.
Search is becoming ever so popular, as we have seen a great migration from tradition media to internet search. The numbers are in and people have shifted their buying habits and research to the online medium in droves. There are an abundance of websites to choose from when conducting a search. Yes, we’ve said it many times, it is very important to have your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy and your Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategy in place to make sure you show up, but, if that’s all you do, you’ve only gotten your customer to your doorstep. What are you doing in order to get a prospect to then come in, take a look around, and feel excited and comfortable enough to actually buy something, or want more information about your product or service?
If you haven’t given thought to what prospects do once they get to your website, or if you are using analytics and aren’t sure why your bounce rate is so high, I would look at the obvious question… what pages are you sending your prospects to? I would then most certainly conduct testing of the landing pages your prospects arrive at on your site (or your doorstep). You want to make sure that your landing pages are attractive and give your prospects a clear call to action so that you aren’t missing your chance to show them what you have to offer!
Google AdWords has a very nice feature, called Website Optimizer and through this tool, you can very conveniently conduct a controlled test of your landing page’s effectiveness. Google Analytics has a great reporting functionality that works in conjunction with the Optimizer tool in order to run reporting and analyze which pages are performing better. What good is a test without analysis? You may be pleasantly surprised what you perceive is effective and what your prospects are actually reacting to! Since they are the ones that buy your product, let them help you determine what they want from you when they visit your site.
There are various approaches to testing landing pages, whether you decide to conduct an A/B comparison, or if you want to conduct a multivariate test in which you test various layouts of the same page. Whatever type of test you decide, do your research first. There are a multitude of articles that you can find that give advice. Make sure you plan ahead, test out pages that are popular enough to be visited (or your test will take an unreasonably long time to conduct), run the test long enough to capture adequate data, and of course, make necessary changes to the website.
Like anything else in marketing, conduct tests often, because buying habits and trends come and go. Conducting a test once satisfactorily doesn’t mean it will continue to be effective in the future.
I would like to state the purpose of this post at the beginning: to urge people to start thinking more objectively and less emotionally about designing a website.
Some readers may find this information a good review of business logic and others may welcome my post as something valuable to start thinking about.
I often hear people use the words, ‘I like’ when speaking about a website. One of my design instructors at Florida Atlantic University would stop us in the middle of our sentences if we said ‘I like.’ We would have sessions in which we had to defend our work or others’ work, and using ‘I like’ just wouldn’t cut it for my instructor. For a few weeks, I would struggle with this, asking myself, ‘what’s wrong with having an opinion?’ I was so annoyed, as were most of my classmates, but I thought that I must not be seeing something.
So, what was my instructor’s objective? The idea is that design decisions should be based on as much research and evidence as can be obtained. Designing around your own emotions and preconceived ideas can misdirect and harm your efforts and negatively affect ROI. I finally understood.
Here’s a common scenario:
Client: Our website’s banner should be blue.
Design team: Why should it be blue?
Client: I like blue.
Design team: Why do you like blue?
Client: Blue has a sense of calmness.
Design team: (Tries to convince client that they might need to spend more time in researching what would work best for the client’s website.)
Client: (Client downplays suggestions in hopes of launching the site as soon as possible.)
Design team: OK. We are suggesting a side navigation for all your internal pages.
Client: We were thinking to use a top navigation with light text on a dark background (reverse type).
Design team: OK. Why is that?
Client: We surfed a few sites previously and were amazed at how soothing reverse type can make a web site. (Client provides a few reference sites.)
Design team: Yes, those sites do have a soothing sense about them. We believe these sites’ content makes them more soothing, rather than the reverse type.
Client: OK, well we like how the site’s use of reverse type adds to its attractiveness.
The client knew what their goals were for their site and may have even brought in market research to help define these goals, but they didn’t know quite how to get there.
Here’s another example: A site’s goal is to be a resource for teachers wanting to teach basic color theory to children.
Because the site is about color, there’s color everywhere, but it’s used ineffectively. The site includes the use of colors that clash when overlapped. Being primarily an education site, the educator (parent or otherwise) would probably be the first demographic that should be targeted by the design. However, what could easily end up happening is that these educators only remain on the site for a short period of time and quickly return to their Google search results page. Their use of color didn’t work for the site’s objectives.
Moral: After knowing what your site objectives are, use scientific research to attain your objectives. The nerds have done the testing for you, and you can use their results to employ efficient methods to realize your goals. It’s worth the effort.
I cannot count the number of times a client has said those exact words to me. Truth be told, if you want to maintain a long term presence online, it is absolutely essential that SEO be an ongoing process of adding new, search engine friendly content. Here are just a few of the many reasons why SEO should never remain stagnant.
SEO is a very dynamic industry; hence what was most valued as important in the eyes of the search engines one year ago, is no longer as important today. Google Page Rank, for example, is still deemed to be an integral part of a site’s natural positioning, however, is no longer the most mission critical factor. Today, the implementation of a Link Building Strategy is considered to be crucial in improving natural search. The engines (especially Google) are heavily weighing their organic results on how many relevant links a site has, as well as the manner in which these links are obtained.
Your competition is likely doing everything they can to surpass you online. Think of it this way: if you’ve ever hired (or even thought about hiring) an SEO agency to optimize your site, you are in a competitive industry and should deduce that your competition is doing the same. Your web site should be viewed as a work in progress; the more new and optimized content your site has, the more information the search engine spiders have to crawl. Think Blogs, Social Media, etc.
The search engines, specifically Google, Yahoo and MSN, like it when you play by the rules. Sure, there are a variety of ways to trick or fool the engines to gain better rankings in the short term. Rest assured, these tactics will catch up with you and could eventually lead to your site getting banned from the engines. We, at MoreVisibility, always adhere to a best practices approach, follow the rules set forth by each engine and advise our clients’ to do the same.