Category: Blog

Is Your Website User Friendly?

Questions to consider to make a website friendly for your users

Banner-with-clearcut-logo and text: is your website user-friendly?
Is Your Website User-Friendly

 

When building a website, we all tend to focus on content and functionality, and that’s great! On the other hand, we can’t let functionality come at the expense of the experience of our users. If users leave your site feeling confused or frustrated, that will resonate with them, and that’s not how you want to be remembered. Every now and then, it’s important to audit our sites and make sure that they work from the user’s perspective, the way we think it should work from ours.

Now I know auditing our sites is never very fun, or at least it isn’t for me, but it’s a vital step to make sure that our users are leaving our sites both feeling great, and having done what we intended them to do while visiting.

Do you have any broken links?

Broken links that lead to dead pages, old content, pages with removed images, or just outright don’t do anything when you click them, arer your worst enemy in user experience.

It’s easy to end up with broken links on most sites, things change and update, content becomes irrelevant and is removed, and we all miss some of the links that lead to that content.

My recommendation is to make a checklist, something you go over every time you remove content or pages from your site, that helps you keep track of all the parts. This list is something you should make when you set up the content to start, what assets did you use, where did you put them, etc. If this isn’t something you’ve done from the start of your website process, fear not! Audit for broken links now, and start fresh.

Is your content up to date?

Content is the most important thing to your users, it’s why people come to your site, and why people stay or return. Content can be anything from articles to photos and videos, to products in your store. Make sure that content that dates your site, is removed at the appropriate time. For example, if you have a sale, make sure that sale banners and markers on your products are all removed the day the sale ends. Nothing is more frustrating to a potential buyer than clicking a sale banner and finding a page with no products on the other side.

If you want to have evergreen content that remains on your site indefinitely, make sure not to include references to dates or events that will clue users into the age of the content.

This is also a good place to look at the back end of your site. Do you upload versions of banners/photos/articles etc.? If so, you can keep your site tidier for yourself, and faster for your users by deleting superfluous copies of files once the project is complete and posted.

Are all your keys and certificates still valid?

All websites have keys and certificates that they use to function. Many of these you set up and forget when you build your website. However, things like google maps keys, RECAPTCHA keys, and others, frequently expire or age-out and need to be updated. If these certificates expire, it can result in broken maps, inability for users to log in, and many other issues that you may not notice immediately. Try to keep a list of certificates like this that your site uses, and when they expire. If you work with a web developer, ask them to give you a list of functions that require time-limited certificates and their expiration dates.

How does your site work for mobile and tablet users?

It’s now a reality for most websites that more than half their users visit the site via mobile device. Another approximately 15% of users will visit from tablet devices.

In truth, many templates for websites now come out of the box being compatible to these devices. However, we cannot trust that once our content and functions have been added to the site, that there will be no errors with viewing on smaller screens. Content flexes and reshapes our websites, and both while we’re building them, and when we add new content, we need to make sure that every user sees the content exactly as they’re intended to.

This can become especially important if you have advertising on your website. Many templates make themselves mobile-friendly by moving sidebar content to below the main content segment. If all of your ads are placed in the sidebar, they may only be displaying at the bottom of your site!

How does your site work for users with slower internet speeds?

We all like to do cool, interactive, polished things with our websites, but the reality in North America, and around the world, is that many places still only have access to mobile or modem internet connections. Perhaps you don’t have a global audience, and may not know that outside cities, there are still many people who do not have access to the internet speeds most of us in the web world are familiar with.

When it comes to serving these people, we need to consider optimization key. There’s no need to have that cover photo be 5000 pixels wide just because that’s what the graphic designer gave you. Make sure that all your images are at 72dpi, and that you’ve optimized any video and audio content for the web. In some cases this may be as simple as embedding something from YouTube rather than hosting it yourself. YouTube already has quality and speed options that the user can control, for example.

You can also use online tools like https://gtmetrix.com/ and https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ to analyze the speed of your website, and where you can make improvements. You don’t have to make a simple, boring site, but we can be intentional about where we spend resources to keep the experience smooth for everyone.

Does your user need to login? If they do, where does your site send them once they have?

This can be a simple consideration, but if your user needs to log in, make sure you know where the site redirects to once they do. Where you want this to be will depend on what you want users to do. Are they signing in to purchase something? They should be led to the main store. Are they signing in after already clicking into a product? They should be returned to that product rather than a main page. This applies to all sorts of login needs, but make sure there’s no pause in action or need to find their place once a user has signed in.

If you have a shop component, how does it work, have you done a transaction yourself?

When asking your users to purchase something on your site, you need to know that the process is both accessible and smooth. It’s not enough to just check your settings, when we expect users to trust us with their purchasing information, we need to know the exact process they are going through when they spend money with us. Are all their options for payment clear and understandable? Is anything in the purchase form in the wrong place? Do all of our menus work as intended? If you’re integrating with PayPal etc., is that transition smooth? Go through the process yourself, make a once cent test product and experience what your user experiences!

 

User experience is an ongoing project on all websites, don’t let users run into issues and complain before you find the problems! Keep your content fresh, and ultimately just make sure you know what your site looks like for a user, and you’ll have happy, satisfied, and returning users.

Filed under: Articles, Blog, Feature, PostTagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 key factors to consider when building your website

5 key factors to consider when building your website

Are you planning to build a professional website for your business, online store or personal brand?

This post breaks the process in to 5 chunks that you can plan separately to help direct the course your project.
You have probably heard many times how important a professional website is for your brand, on the other hand, researching “how to build a website” can lead to a healthy dose of information overload. This breakdown helps you categorize all that new information you are learning.

If you’ve done any preliminary research, you have discovered some of these advantages to owning your own website.

  • It lends credibility to your brand
  • Makes you easy to find and contact
  • Helps you engage directly with customers and your audience
  • Enables you to automate your marketing.

 

What’s my domain name and where should I host?

Your domain name is your digital address. This is the first step to getting the ever-important online presence. Follow this rule to choose a domain name, make it short and simple, because it is then easy to share and remember.

Your host sets up a web server for you, think of this as a computer on the internet that stores all the information used by your website. Your host provides the space and resources you need, like a landlord, to easily communicate and be reached online. These resources include storage space, email capability, some even provide backup and security management. It is the basic infrastructure that supports your website.

Hosting services usually provide you with an option for purchasing your domain name.
You can find a list of good hosting services in this review: https://www.hostingadvice.com/reviews/

Additional details to remember:

a. A hosting service sells domain names that easily connect with their own plans even though you can connect pre-owned domains to new hosting plans. If you already own a domain name, find out if it will connect well with your new host
b. Hosting services optimize for certain technologies For example, Bluehost has hosting plans will improve the chances of a great web building experience while using WordPress.
c. As with the domain names, if you are already using an email service like GSuite or Zoho mail, make sure your host supports integration.
d. To receive payments directly through your website, include an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate in your hosting package. For more information on SSL, read our post that explains it in detail.

What kind of content will I produce?

Think about the information you want provide to visitors. Is it mainly text, are you planning a blog, will it be images or videos? This information varies depending on the purpose of the website. If you plan to market a product/service or compel your visitor to do something, consider hiring a copy writer. If you need to sell or rent properties, hire a professional photographer or videographer.

What information do I need to collect?

Think about all the information you require from your users. This could be their contact information, their project information and budget or as simple as answers to a survey. To collect information of any sort from your users in a safe and responsible manner, you will require a privacy policy. This explains to your visitors, what information you collect, how you use it, how you secure it and how you share it (if you do).

What functions do I absolutely need?

A website is a powerful tool which, like any good tool, is most effective when designed to perform a specific task because it is focused towards resolving a singular issue. Determine the core purpose for your website. This helps to control the process and channel your resources when building your web project. In this step you want to consider all the ways your visitors might use your site and how it should help you serve them. Will they register for a service, book an appointment or just buy a product? More complicated functions include things like geolocation and cart tracking.

What is my brand identity?

Your design works with your content to send a message about your brand. You can design your website by drawing influences from your industry, target audience, and content. Decide what the colors, styles, fonts and backgrounds should be. This could be determined by details like your industry, audience or personal preference.

This is a simple approach to planning your next website project. It is a broad overview but a great starting point if you are stuck. These are the questions that I have found need to be answered when building a website. The answers can be very different depending on the size and complexity of your project. Whether you plan to do it yourself, use a web builder, or a professional, answering these 5 questions will make it an overall easier process. There are many services online that will help you build and manage a professional website. Not all services that handle these different aspects of a website work well together.

At Clear Cut Communications, we are professional website designers, developers and all-round technology enthusiasts, we understand every step of the process and enjoy fitting the pieces together. Whether you want to be involved in the build process or just want an elegant and efficient website within your time-frame, we would help to create a digital home for your brand that brings you results.

Contact us today to get started!

Filed under: BlogTagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s talk about acronyms


A computer with flowers, magazines, and a phone
Acronyms might be your best friend, but I’d like to remind you that they aren’t the best friend of everyone.

Oxford Dictionaries define acronyms as words formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as they are spelled, not as separate letters. Examples of common acronyms in Canada include the CBC, AIDS, and RCMP.

If your reader doesn’t know your acronyms, they are likely missing out on your message(s). If your reader doesn’t understand your message, you might be alienating your reader.

I’d like to encourage you to reduce the number of acronyms you use in your written and verbal communication. This will help your audience know they can depend on you to share information that is easy to understand.

You may work at an organization with a lengthy name and you may be thinking something along the lines of “but our name is too long to spell out every time.”

If your organization has a long name, I suggest that you avoid acronyms by using something similar to the following examples:

Canadian Public Health Association                                 call it “The Association”

National Institute for the Blind                                           call it “The Institute”

The National Public Health Centre                                     call it “The Centre”

If you are going to follow this guideline, it is a good practice to first introduce the name of your organization in full at the beginning of your communication, and let the audience know what you will be calling it after the first mention. So if I’m going to write about the Canadian Public Health Association (“The Association”), I add those brackets and quotations marks after the full name. This tells the reader that I’m calling it the Association for the rest of the document.

If I were writing a speech, I would write something like, “I am pleased to present at the Canadian Public Health Association’s annual conference. For the rest of my speech, I’ll refer to the organization simply as ‘The Association.’”

If you are determined to use acronyms in your writing, I encourage you to follow these guidelines:

  • Spell out your acronym at the first mention—for example, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Once you spell out the acronym, follow it with brackets that define the acronym: for example, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
  • Be consistent throughout the rest of your document with using your chosen acronym—don’t switch between CBC and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Use all capital letters for your acronym–for example, don’t write Cbc
  • Do not add punctuation to your acronym (don’t write C.B.C., write CBC)

For further learning about acronyms:

 

Filed under: BlogTagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A social media book for strategic thinkers

Book review:

Financial Times Guides: Social Media Strategy: Boost Your Business, Manage Risk and Develop Your Personal Brand (2018) by Martin Thomas

By Melanie Ferris

Strategic thinkers rejoice! This is the social media book for you. While many social media books look at why people should be using social media, this book asks: How can people get better at social media?

The cover of Social Media Strategy by Martin Thomas
The cover of Social Media Strategy by Martin Thomas

Boost Your Business is useful for anyone working in any organization that is going to be in the public eye. As the author says, “just about every company, charity, community group and public sector organization has some form of media presence.”

Thomas asserts that since social media is no longer a passing fad, it’s best to just take it seriously. He explains, “Social media is emerging as a powerful leadership tool in the hands of a generation of leaders.”

While social media use abounds, the author explains that most organizations lack robust systems and processes OR the resources to make the most of social media and minimize its risks. He does a great job of helping the reader think about ways that plans can help to minimize and proactively address the risks that come with using social media.

This four-part book includes tips/direction for:

  • Developing a successful social media strategy
  • Harnessing the power of social media to boost your business
  • Managing risks and measuring performance
  • Developing your personal profile and leadership skills

The author provides examples of different types of social media. The two pages of examples is an extensive list that gives the reader a clear understanding of just how widespread social media is. Some examples of popular social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Youtube. There are many other lesser-known platforms such as Trello, Slack, Periscope, ClassDojo, Slideshare, Glassdoor, and more.

With the sheer volume of social media platforms, the author explains that it’s important for organizations to “focus your attention on those social media channels where your stakeholders are spending the majority of their time or the channels that have the greatest influence on their behaviour and attitudes.”

One way to determine which social media platforms are most suitable for your organization is by doing a survey with your customers/users. Page 11 of the book provides 5 questions to ask your customers/users and suggests you repeat the survey on a yearly basis.

One important lesson the reader will get from this book is that you should use strategic planning when undertaking social media activities. The planning process includes:

  • Defining objectives
  • Measuring success
  • Creating an operating system
  • Developing a program of activity
  • Ensuring management safeguards are put in place to anticipate and litigate problems and handle crisis

The book walks you through all the steps for using strategic planning in your social media activities. It addresses common misconceptions about social media and contains great diagrams to help you plan, do, check, and be. One common misconception, for example, is that the youngest person in a company might be the person best equipped to handle social media management. The author provides plenty of explanation about why this may not be the case.

“My primary purpose in writing this book is to encourage you to think, to analyse, to plan, to ask questions before embarking on any social media initiative or making any significant investments.” explains Thomas.

I think he did a great job as I personally felt more excited about my own social media initiatives after reading his book. I also feel more equipped to work with leaders and Boards of Directors to help them learn more about how and why they should play an integral part of any social media strategy connected to their organization.

Diagram showing social media tips for leaders
The author shares these social media tips for leaders

The only downside to the book was that the book was published in the United Kingdom, so some examples or case studies may not be relevant to people living outside of the UK. The author provides suggested action steps and case studies throughout the book, which makes it a very user-friendly book except for some minor editing/formatting issues. I would have recommended that this book go through one final edit to clean up the text and formatting a little more, but it’s still worth a read.

If you pick up the book, be sure to let me know what you think! You can contact me here.

Filed under: BlogTagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Things to consider when planning a website

 

Planning to build a website for your business, campaign, or personal use? there are many factors to consider. This post breaks the process in to 5 questions, that when answered properly, will help direct your project.

How many times how important a website is for your business, campaign, brand, and even career? But researching “how to build a website” can lead to a healthy dose of information overload. This breakdown helps you organize all that information into questions that serve you and your project team.

A little bit of research, will reveal the pros of having your own website, which include;

  • giving your brand online credibility
  • making your service or product easy to find
  • helping you engage better with customers
  • automating your marketing
  • and many more.

 

This is a simple approach to planning your next website project. It is a broad overview but a great starting point if you are stuck. These are the questions that I have found need to be answered when building a website. The answers can be very different depending on the size and complexity of your project.

Whether you plan to build your website from scratch, use a web builder, or hire a professional, answering these 5 questions will make the entire process easier.

What’s my domain name and where should I host?

Your domain name is an easy and readable digital address. Having one is an important and strategic step to improving your online presence. When choosing a domain name, the main rule to follow is it should not be long and complex. Your host sets up a web server for you, think of this as a computer on the internet that stores all the information used by your website. Your host also provides the resources you will need to use and manage the server. These resources include storage space, email servers to direct your email traffic, backup and security tools and configuration access. It is the infrastructure that supports your website. Hosting services usually provide you with options for getting your domain name also. You can find a list of good hosting services in this review: https://www.hostingadvice.com/reviews/. Things to consider;

  1. Domain names with a unique end AKA top level domain (i.e. www.myname.live, www.sun.guru, www.beesknees.tech) may not be supported by a service you plan to use.
  2. Some hosting services are optimized for certain technologies (e.g Bluehost & WordPress). Mixing and matching these improve your chances of having a great web building experience.
  3. If you are already using an email service like GSuite or Zoho mail, make sure your host supports integration.
  4. If you plan to get paid through your website, include an SSL certificate in your hosting package.

What kind of content will I produce?

Think about the information you want provide to visitors. Is it mainly text, are you planning a blog, will it be images or videos? This information varies depending on the purpose of the website. If you plan to market a product/service or compel your visitor to do something, consider hiring a copy writer. If you need to sell or rent properties, hire a professional photographer or videographer.

What information do I need to collect?

Think about all the information you require from your users. This could be their contact information, their project information and budget or as simple as answers to a survey. Whenever you collect information of any sort from your users, you will require a privacy policy. This explains to your visitors, what information you collect, how you use it, how you secure it and how you share it (if you do).

What tasks do I need it to perform?

A website is a tool and like all tools is best when it is designed to perform specific tasks. Determine the core purpose for your website. This helps to control the process and channel your resources when building your web project. In this step you want to consider all the ways your visitors might use your site and how it should help you serve them. Will they register for a service, book and appointment or just buy a product? More complicated functions include things like geolocation and cart tracking.

What is my brand identity?

Is your online identity going to be professional, simple, bold or colourful? Your design works with your content to send a message about your brand. Your website design is influenced by your industry, target audience and your content. Decide what the colours, styles, fonts and backgrounds should be. This could be determined by details like your industry, audience or personal preference.

Conclusion

There are many services online that will help you build and manage a professional website. Not all services that handle these different aspects of a website work well together. That is why I encourage consultation with a web professional as much as possible when beginning. Remember, a website once built can always be improved and refined to serve your needs more efficiently and drive the metric that matters most. If you have questions about planning your website project, contact me by any of the following means:

Twitter: @niyi_adewole

LinkedIn: Matthew Adewole

Email: niyi_adewole@clearcutcomms.ca

Filed under: BlogTagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,