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Imagewerks Marketing Website Must-Haves Usability

21 Website Must-Haves: Usability

Posted by Molly Geipel on August 8, 2017 at 10:19 AM

When a new visitor lands on your homepage, it’s not time to celebrate just yet. The next step is to keep them there. Don’t let your site get the electronic ding dong ditch. Use these five tips to lower your bounce rate, and keep your website sticky.


In part one of our four-part, 21 Website Must-Haves series, we discussed strategies to optimize discovery. In part two, we’re taking a look at usability, or how user-friendly a website is. We’ll outline the core components of usability and offer tips for creating a great user experience that will turn your website into a visitor magnet.


The average website bounce rate ranges from 40-60%. That means that about half of the visitors who land on your homepage leave without venturing any further into your site. And for the most part, once they leave they never come back.


A high bounce rate usually means poor usability. To lower your bounce rate, you’ll want to make improvements to your user experience that increase your website’s “stickiness.”


Here are five components of usability that may be affecting your bounce rate, along with tips for how to improve them.


1. Credibility

When a visitor first lands on your homepage, they’re making split-second judgements about your site’s credibility that will determine whether they stick around to learn more or bounce right back to Google to seek a more credible site.


Your mother might have taught you not to judge based on appearances, but that advice tends to go out the window on the internet. According to a Stanford University study, aesthetics (the look and feel of a website) outweigh more substantive factors such as a privacy policy, awards, or certifications when visitors assess a website’s credibility.


While design is not the only thing that matters to web visitors, it is the first test of a website’s credibility and it’s essential that you pass. Consider carefully the layout and contents of your homepage in order to make a powerful initial impact. The key is to communicate the essential facts and benefits of your business without overwhelming viewers with too much text.


Include the following homepage elements to make the best first impression:

• A concise mission statement that answers who, what, where, how, and why. 

• Supporting images that convey who you are and what you do.

• Key differentiators that set your business apart from the competition. 

• Social proof that proves to visitors that you’re tried and true. 

• A prominent CTA for visitors who come to your site seeking to take action


2.  Visual Design

The layout and design of your website will make or break the success of your website. Not only does design affect a visitor’s first impression of your business, determining whether they think you’re trustworthy or not, but design is also responsible for how a visitor interacts with your site once they’ve decided to stick around.


Good web design facilitates a good user experience. If your website is easy to navigate and easy on the eyes, visitors will enjoy clicking around the site and will spend more time exploring what you have to offer.


Bad web design that is cumbersome to navigate or unappealing to look at will frustrate, exhaust, and repel visitors. Whether it takes a few seconds or a couple minutes, bad web design will cause visitors to bail on you and your services.


As you design the layout and visual appearance of your website, keep the following principles of good web design in mind:


• Color: Use color to establish brand, appeal to your audience, and draw attention to important page elements. Color can bring hierarchy and order to your designs.

• Imagery: Communicate visually using photos and graphics to illustrate key messages. The right images speak volumes and set your tone instantly.

• White Space: Just as important as visuals is the white space on a web page. It guides the eye and highlights key information.

• Layout: Create a clear navigation structure and break up copy using section headers, bulleted lists, and text blocks. Always make your content super skimable.


• Typography: Your site must be legible. Use fonts, sizes, and colors that are easy to read. Keep font changes to a minimum. Establish a style and stick with it.


• Consistency: Don’t get carried away with design options. Consistency is more user-friendly than variety. A chaotic design will only distract from your message.


3. Navigation

So it’s not the sexiest element of good web design, but having a clear, intuitive navigational structure for your website is one of the most essential things you can do to provide a great user experience.


Don’t believe us? In a 2011 HubSpot survey, 76% of respondents said that the most important element in web design is ease of finding information. A lot has changed on the internet since then, but our desire to find information quickly and easily? Still the same.


More recent data reports that for 50% of internet users, the first thing they look for after landing on a new web page is the navigation menu. If visitors can’t immediately find what they’re looking for on your site, they will not keep searching. They will give up and leave. So make the navigation easy to find and easy to understand.


Characteristics of an easy-to-use navigational structure include:

• Menu in the header

• Simple navigational structure

• Navigation included in site footer

• Breadcrumbs on every page so visitors can retrace their steps

• Search box positioned near the top of page

• Navigation is no more than three levels deep

• Links embedded within copy point to other relevant pages


4. Responsiveness

Over half of all web traffic now takes place on a mobile device – 56% to be exact. Additionally, Google reports that 61% of users will not return to a website they had trouble accessing on mobile, and 40% end up on a competitor’s site instead. Having a responsive website doesn’t give you a competitive edge so much as it just keeps you in the running.

There’s no way around it. If your website is going to be successful, it must be responsive and mobile-friendly. Responsive website design allows a web page to load and format correctly across all devices. When designing your website, hire a programmer who can create a responsive design, or choose a web design platform that offers responsive templates (most do).

Responsive web design should include the following design elements:

Simple menus: Mobile screens have small browsing windows, so limit your drop down options to what will fit on the screen without scrolling.


Short forms: The same short and sweet principle applies to forms. It’s difficult to fill out a long form on a mobile device and no one will bother trying. Limit fields to essential information only.


Prominent CTA: Even more than desktop browsers, mobile users often go to websites with a single-minded purpose. Make CTAs clear and visible.


One-Click Contact: 64% of mobile visitors want to see contact information on the homepage. Provide a one-click contact button in your header. 


Thumb Friendly: Mobile browsers to using thumbs and pointer fingers to navigate. Make your buttons finger friendly. Avoid pinch and zoom navigation.

Finally, TEST. Before launching your responsive website, test it on multiple mobile devices of different sizes and manufacturers. What works on one device may or may not work on all.


5. Accessibility 

Accessibility is not typically top of mind when designing a website, but it should be. Designing an accessible website means eliminating design barriers that would prevent users with visual, hearing, cognitive, or motor impairments from navigating and interacting with your website.

Accessible web design is particularly important for organizations operating within the senior living and healthcare industries, but it will soon become relevant for all organizations.


The Department of Justice is working on regulations that will require websites to comply with Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires that places of public accommodation and/or commercial enterprise be accessible to the disabled.

These regulations are still in the works, but companies would do well to start implementing accessible web design now to be ready when the time comes. The basic principles of accessible web design include: easy-to-read text, color contrast, image alternatives, clear content hierarchy, and accessible UX design.

Don’t alienate clients in these sensitive demographics. To learn more about the important elements of accessible web design, download our Web Accessibility Checklist.

Check back next week for part three of our 21 Website Must-Haves series. We’ll be discussing how to use inbound marketing best practices to increase engagement on your website and convert leads into customers.

Gotta have all 21 Must-Haves right now?

Download our free e-book, 21 Website Must-Haves, and get all 21 tips instantly!


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Topics: Web Design, website design, website performance, organic search, 21 Website Must-Haves

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