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.
One organization system that I have grown accustomed to on the Web is folders. This system, which can also be considered a navigation system, has been time-tested to prove its effectiveness in organizing of many types of information. By now, practically all computer users understand this organization model. When presented with a site for the first time that uses some variation of hierarchical folders, they would not have to think about how to use the system. We have recently seen a new navigation and organization system emerge out of the “Web 2.0” era: tagging. Is tagging a better model that the folder model? I think it depends on the situation. In some cases, they can be used to support each other.
To be honest, there were times that I found myself staying away from tagging, say, someone’s blog post or my own bookmarks because I didn’t feel like learning a new organization system or because I thought the content was already organized well and categorized in a place where I could remember how to get to it. Then I realized that there must be some reason to have a tagging system.
Here’s how I see it: organizing information using tags as opposed to filing in folders and subfolders is faster and takes less thought. This is an important feature in light of the fact that the amount of information is always increasing. So if you want a fast, efficient, though possibly not as precise organization system, using tagging. So we see that tagging isn’t merely a social media fad, but a social media tool.
Another benefit to tagging is that it can help you and others record what the popular or colloquial term for something is. This can help with your keyword research. This is a very simple and obvious example, but it helps to describe what I mean. If you write a blog post about Coca Cola, but a visitor comes along and adds “pop” to the list of tags, you can now source from the list of user-generated tags to support your keyword research. Some web applications (ecommerce and blogging) I’ve worked with even give the administrator the option to automatically include the tags as part of the meta keyword tag.
Even though tagging is a good social media tool, be aware that it’s also seen as a fad. Also, be leery about adding tagging or any fad “widget” to your site for the sole reason of wanting to match your competitor’s web site’s features or wanting to appear “with it.” Add these widgets after you have done some user experience research of your own and when you can give a good reason to add them to your site. Simplicity is key.
Press or news sections of a website should have a very specific goal. The main purpose is to give journalists and bloggers quick information about your company or website. If they can’t find what they are looking for they will leave. These people are typically very busy and have little time to waste searching your website for information. Make it simple for them, give them.
Your news section should feature information at a glance that can be taken and digested easily. Some of the most important aspects to include are the following:
– Recent News — Make sure you are saving your web clippings and posting your press releases. If you haven’t done this in a while, it is time to update. If the current information is months old, there is no reason for someone to inquire about what you are doing because it looks like you are doing nothing. Now might be the best time to start creating press releases.
– Leadership Bios — A short paragraph about each leader will suffice. Include some background information, schools attended, previous positions and years with the company. These people are at the forefront of your company, so people may want to contact them directly. If the leadership does not prefer to be contacted directly, provide information on the main contact person regarding interviews, statements etc.
– Downloadable Press Kit — This will make it super simple for the time constrained writer. In the press kit you should include, a current copy of your company newsletter, recent press releases, product/service information and anything else you might think would be beneficial. This is not something that is set in stone so; you can vary what goes in this.
– Links to your company blogs — Aside from press releases and news clippings, this should be the most current information regarding your company. If you make it easy for people to find and subscribe, they will continue to visit your blog and news section for more ideas to write about later on.
Whether the reasoning behind a redesign of your website is to increase the overall usability and functionality or just to update the look and feel of the site, this is an important time to bring search engine optimization (SEO) into the mix. Ensuring that your site is SEO friendly is critical in achieving high positions in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Below are just a few things to address during the redesign process that can impact the SEO friendliness of your newly designed website.
One of the first questions to ask yourself; will your new site be on the same domain? If possible, keep the same domain from the original site to the newly designed site. This is because the search engines place a lot of weight on the age of a domain. The older the domain, the more trust the search engines have with the particular website. Also, by keeping the same domain you will retain the inbound links to the site and these inbound links are an important component of good positions in the SEPRs. However, if it’s necessary to start with a brand new domain, note that there will likely be a drop in traffic until the new domain is established.
Take the time to do keyword research. This process can help with the architecture and navigation of the site as it can provide insight into the different ways people are searching for the information, products, or services that you offer. Keyword research will also help you to identify the best phrases to focus your optimization efforts. The key phrases that you thought were ideal to optimize pages of the site around may not be what people are actually using to search.
Make sure that the design allows for enough content on the pages and that you are writing the content for your visitor and not the search engines. Even though you should work the targeted keyword phrase throughout the content to help the search engines determine what the website or page is about, you do not want it to sound unnatural or as though you have written only for the search engines. Additionally, creating great content from the start will make your site more link-worthy, encouraging others to link to your site.
The anchor text of the links to internal pages on your site should be crawl-able by the search engines. Use descriptive anchor text to tell the visitors and search engines what the topic of that page they are about to visit is about. Quite often, the keyword for the destination page can be used in the anchor text.
Another (and maybe the most important) thing to take into consideration is how the old site will transition to the new site. If the URLs are changing, how will this be approached? As mentioned above, the best case scenario is for the URLs to remain the same, however, if they change due to a reorganization of sub-folders, moving to a different platform (such as from .php to .asp), a new naming convention is adopted, or for business reasons, you will need to develop an SEO friendly transition strategy. This strategy will vary site by site, but make sure that you have a strategy in place.