For the average user who enters your website you effectively have only a few seconds to convince them that your site and its content are worthy of them staying, otherwise they’re long gone! When it comes to designing an attractive and well functioning website, many web publishers have ignored the fact that their sites have no style, are difficult to navigate, and in some cases are too busy with apps popping up on the screen. The question is, have you fully tested your website for functionality? Is your site simple to navigate, and what sets your design and content apart from others? Here we’re going to look at some of the do’s and don’ts of web publishing, what affects they can have on user interest, and how making the right choices with your design can help to excel your online goals.
Web Publisher Fail #1:
Your website Looks like Every Other Site on The Web!
It sucks when people look at your site and simply yawn. Why not do something different that sets you apart from the competition? That’s exactly what I did with this site! I created a design that’s different from any other on the web, its colorful, with a mix of retro and modern elements, such as embedded fonts and double borders in CSS; not to mention how I made it simple for my audience to focus on a given pages subject, by only including a light background on the article section of pages themselves.
A good design can go a long way. Even if your site has high quality content, a boring construed looking interface will get you nowhere fast! On average, you can expect to have about 3 to 5 seconds total to catch someone’s immediate attention, or you just lost a prospective customer who won’t be back. If your website is nothing more than a white background with black text you aren’t exactly winning anyone over with your design. People naturally remember things that catch their attention as if it were hard coded into their brains. Having a design that stands out from the rest can draw real interest, and returning visitors.
Web Publisher Fail #2:
You Send Users on an Easter egg hunt to find what they're looking for!
Sure, drop down menus may save space, but they tend to be problematic and they often hide links, leaving users to hunt through your site in order to find the information they seek. Don’t turn your site into an Easter egg hunt! Drop down menus often close before a user can click a proper link, another reason not to use these. They can also cause problems with indexing and crawling depending on how they were implemented.
Almost every website in existence today uses buttons, my question is why? Buttons present a lot of problems not just to users of your site, but to search engine indexes as well. For one, search engines cannot read textual information stored on your images, period! You could use an “alt” tag, sure, but the “alt” tag is not a title, it’s an alternative description for an image, NOT a title for a link! You could use a title tag which would present a tool tip for all your buttons, but search engines generally would frown upon all those title tags being implemented, nonetheless it’s still an option.
Another problem buttons present is the fact they tend to have very small fonts that hamper usability among visually impaired users. Many older individuals and those who were born with visual impairments tend to have a hard time reading text on buttons. As I’ve stated in the past, throughout the years I worked as a tech support specialist this was the number one complaint among all my clients, both at the business and consumer levels.
What’s the solution? Text only links! You can make the text much larger without having to worry about the constraints of button sizes, and you save space because buttons hold very limited amounts of information, yet they can easily take up enormous amounts of space. Your visually impaired readers will also thank you for those larger font sizes since they’re simpler to read, and search engines can make better sense of your links, titles, and content with text based links, while search crawler abilities are heavily hampered with buttons.
A simple to navigate site is not only important, but an absolute must for any online publisher these days. Rather than make people hunt around for information, why not include an integrated search feature that is simple to find so that your sites visitors can find what they’re looking for on the fly? Notice we’ve implemented a search engine on every single page of pctechauthority that indexes the entire site. Some sites have their search engines hidden away under drop down menus, or use an icon to help direct users to their search features. Don’t do it! Place your search engine where people can find it anywhere on the site, without having to hunt around for it.
Web Publisher Fail #3:
You Don’t Create Cool or Useful Content!
It only takes me seconds from entering your site to determine if your content is crap or not, why should it be any different for anyone else? When someone is searching for an answer to a problem and your title claims to give the answer, then you better have one, and it better be good, otherwise you will seriously piss people off beyond belief! Not everyone is stupid, and people know when they are being jacked around. Many sites on the web are full of useless garbage that is hardly informative much less useful to anyone for any reason. If you are a professional within a given subject then focus on that subject, and leave the stuff you don’t know for someone else to write about. It only takes the average person a few seconds of reading to determine whether an article or tutorial is really going to be useful and informative or not.
If I enter a site and am presented with an uninformative article or content, you can make a sure bet I will never be back! Besides that, if people like your content, they will share it like crazy!
Either way it goes, if people don’t like your site, than neither will the major search giants either. If your site has a high bounce rate, and users are leaving your site seconds after entering it, this is a clear signal to search engines that your site is being ignored by its visitors, so why should they return it in search results if no one wants to see it anyways? Bounce rate is related mainly to how many pages on your site the average visitor views. Those who view only one page and leave, are considered to have "Bounced!" The lower your bounce rate, the more likely you are to have a very high ranking site in organic search results.
You can check your bounce rates and other visitor stats using Google Analytics, or with free info provided by Alexa.com. Alexa provides information such as the percentage of user’s who came to your site from organic search results, bounce rate (how many visits consist of a single page view), average amount of time users spend on your site overall, on a given webpage, as well as the total number of page views per visitor. If your bounce rate is high then you definitely need to start doing some investigating to find out why. Our bounce rates for this site fluctuate wildly, and this is partly due to the fact we have a large social media presence.
Time on site is another metric that helps to show how engaged users are with your content. Some sites can still rank even with a high bounce rate, simply because their time on site metrics show users are staying engaged. If your sites users are hanging out longer, and viewing more pages, then expect to rank a bit higher over your competitors who exhibit lower engagement levels than you do.
Also, look at your social analytics for clues as to how engaged your visitors are. If you have social sharing buttons already implemented on your site, then login to your social analytics application to check and see your recent and long term shares and other metrics. If people aren't sharing, then your content isn't up to par with your readers, and its probably time to give your blog's content a serious overhaul.
Web Publisher Fail #4:
Your site is too busy and doesn’t focus on a given topic!
Don’t end up like mashable where people enter your site and are met with hundreds of links and articles pointing to hundreds of unrelated subjects. Stick to a single subject, or a set of closely related subjects. Notice everything on this website is somehow related to information technology in some form or another, and is flowing with articles and tutorials encompassing a multitude of web based technologies. The only part that really differs is the games section, which happened to work out as an added bonus to users who happen to enjoy them. But having a site with articles about penguins on one page, social media training on another, or even kayaking on yet another, is clearly a bad idea. People like to be able to quickly comprehend what the point of your site is upon first entering it. I can’t count how many sites I’ve visited over the years in which I couldn’t pin point in a quick manner what the point of their site actually was, with Mashable being one of those.
Besides, search engines are more likely to return content to users from sites that exhibit an assortment of information surrounding a given subject. If you were searching for something on the web, which would be better, a site like Mashable that has tons of unrelated articles posted everywhere, or a site that focuses on the subject you were actually searching for?
When users enter a page, they expect to be met with a single underlying subject, not 50 pinned images and links to unrelated garbage! This does nothing but confuse users, effectively breaking their overall focus. Again, we focus the users attention here by using a lighter background on the article sections themselves, and darker backgrounds on the lesser important areas. You do want people to read your content right?
Another thing to consider is that people don’t particularly like being bombarded with pop-ups upon entering a website. Pop-ups are nothing but annoying and they tend to hammer the users browser with a ton of scripts, causing pages to load slowly, and forcing users to wait for all that stuff to load. The same goes for apps as well. Today people are taking advantage of content management system capabilities such as Wordpress to develop their sites since no design skills are required to use it. Unfortunately they are also loading down their Wordpress sites with too many plugins, which just adds more stop rendering scripts to web pages, slowing things even further. The more crap you dump into your site the worse! Keep it simple. Wordpress sites tend to be heavy on the code and definitely will load slower than a static website, so caution should be taken when deciding what to implement in your website, and what not to implement.
Less apps and popups mean a faster loading website, happier visitors, and more brownie points with search engines, since site speed is definitely factor in determining the value of your site to users within search results. Just get that first impression right, and its smooth sailing from there!