Questions to consider to make a website friendly for your users
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.