So you have a beautiful website. It’s aesthetically appealing; the color scheme is bright and attractive, the images stimulating and the navigation easy to use. It seems to have all the right ingredients, however, is your (beautiful) website getting the right message across to your visitors?
As part of my role as a Client Strategist at MoreVisibility, I work with a variety of clients from large corporations to small businesses, from Ecommerce to Lead Generation. I often look at their sites from a user’s perspective to provide tips to help them achieve better results. There are many sites I see on a daily basis that are quite amazing to look at, but lack the necessary components to get the visitor to the desired end result. Whether that end result is a completed transaction, online form, or request for more information, it is critical that your site speak correctly to your audience. What does that mean exactly? Here are a few examples:
If your site has Ecommerce functionality, more than likely your goal is for your visitors to make a purchase. You will want to ensure that it is almost effortless to find exactly what your customers are looking for and efficiently go through your shopping cart process; the less clicks to get there, the better. If someone is searching for a specific pair of shoes, send them to that page, rather than having to search around. Don’t make it mandatory to create an account; make it an option.
If your site is designed to generate leads, you should be looking to capture as much information from your searchers in an effort you are obtaining valuable leads. Having a clear call to action form on your site is the first step. The form page should be clean and concise with only the necessary information required. The form should be followed with a confirmation or Thank You page to signify that the form was filled out, information is on the way and/or a representative from your company will be in touch (it is helpful to notate the timeframe here. i.e. within 24 hours, etc)
Keep in mind that your website is a representation of you and your company! While it should obviously look beautiful, it is imperative that you get your correct message across simultaneously!
We are often asked to implement new navigation on sites that have poor optimized rankings. Many times, this is due to an image-based navigation, or a navigation structure that has been poorly designed.
While we understand that everyone wants an attractive and interesting site, a CSS, text-based navigation is a must-have for almost every website. It is your choice whether or not you want to give up looks for optimization, but in most cases, the text-based navigation looks just as good as an image-based one.
Here is the SEO difference. Image based navigations display all the ‘words’ of page names inside an image (a gif, jpg or png) and while that allows for a multitude of style options, the search spiders can not read your image. It only sees an image, and perhaps an alt tag. Text-based navigations, however, have the navigation (page names) in the code, so the spider reads it as plain language, and therefore, can follow links and index pages with better accuracy.
For a huge selection of menu code, and great design ideas, visit this CSS Showcase page.
The hardest parts of a website re-design or improvement are the aspects of the site that are not immediately visible. We can all form a quick opinion on the look and feel of a site, but critical aspects, like usability, navigation and user experience, are harder to assess. The way a visitor can and does move through a site shapes their experience on that site in a significant way. It is not enough to make a site clean, informative and aesthetically pleasing, the controls and navigation must be intuitive and clear as well. Page organization under category topics must be logical and functional. Once the user has found the desired information, they must be able to easily navigate back to the start, or onto related pages.
It is often difficult for designers and developers to assess the usability of a site, as they tend to be over-familiar with the design and the back-end, and have never been a true user of the site. When implementing a re-design or new navigation, have colleagues and associates test the site for these navigational and usability issues, and take their feedback seriously. Watch how they navigate through the menu, and how they use features of the site to find desired information. Then, if you must, give up some design high ground, and modify your structure to give your visitors the smoothest possible experience!