What good is a website if visitors have trouble using it? An unusable website can kill your online presence and cost you customers. Here are 11 tips for improving the usability of your site.
- Use easy-to-understand navigation—I have a simple rule when it comes to web design: Don’t make site visitors think. Your navigation should clearly describe the pages so visitors can find what they’re looking for easily.
- Place navigation along the top or left— Web users are creatures of habit. They’ve come to expect to use the internet in a certain way. One of the things they’ve come to expect is that your site navigation will be placed either along the top of the page or down the left-hand side. Don’t change this up, as you’ll confuse them and cause them to abandon your site.
- Have a benefit-driven headline on each page—The headline is usually the first thing a new visitor sees when landing on your website. Each page needs to have a benefit-driven headline that hooks the reader and forces him to keep reading. It needs to let the reader know what’s in it for him, and it should also encapsulate the main message of the page.
- Ditch the huge banners—There’s a new trend in web design where websites have these huge banners along the top of the page. The banner takes up almost all of the space above the fold, making visitors scroll to get to the content. Banners are fine, but make sure they’re sized appropriately.
- Put the most important information above the fold—Web users spend about 80% of their time looking at information above the fold of the page…information they don’t have to scroll down to see. This means it’s important that you feature your most important information above the fold of your website so you can be sure your visitors see it.
- Get rid of the distractions—There’s something to be said for, “less is more.” Having too much on a page can overwhelm visitors, making it difficult for their eyes to focus on your main message. Take a step back and look at your website. Is there anything that can be eliminated?
- Limit or eliminate the use of Flash—Not only is Flash bad for SEO, but it also slows loading time and creates viewing issues for some users. If you insist on using Flash, do so sparingly. Don’t build your entire site in Flash.
- Optimize your website for the right keywords—Traffic isn’t your goal. Quality traffic is your goal. And to attract quality traffic, you have to make sure you’re targeting the right keywords that bring in buyers. Never guess what you think the right search phrases are. Do your research by using a good keyword suggestion tool.
- Use images that enhance the message—Another trend in web design is to use stock photos. We’ve all seen them: the smiling family, the businessmen shaking hands, etc. The problem with stock photos is they rarely enhance the message, and they mostly just take up space. Images should add to your message. They should be more than placeholders.
- Make sure your website loads quickly—Loading speed is important because web users are more impatient than ever before. If your site isn’t accessible as soon as they click your link, they’ll back out immediately.
- Format content so it’s easy to scan—Online users don’t actually read content word-for-word. Instead, they scan over it quickly, looking to get the gist of the page. To make your content easier to scan, you should format it with short paragraphs, subheads, bullet points, and bolded phrases throughout.
Does your website meet all 11 points on this list?
Make no mistake. We’re in a new era. Thanks to social media, the consumer-company relationship has been totally turned on its head. In this new era, companies can no longer get by simply by shouting one-way messages at customers. And no longer do companies hold all the power while consumers struggle to get their voices heard.
Nope, today’s customer can be heard loud and clear. The customer’s voice can be heard everywhere, including review websites, blogs, YouTube videos, Tweets, Facebook updates, and other social media outlets. And companies have to pay attention because social media is changing the way customers do business. It’s influencing the entire buying process. If they don’t pay attention, they risk losing customers and getting upstaged by their once small and powerless competition.
The most obvious way that social media has changed consumer behavior is just by giving customers a bigger voice than they’ve ever had before. In a new study by Euro RSCG, 31.5% of U.S. social media users said they feel empowered to do things they’ve always wanted to do and 20% have lashed out against brands and companies online. In short, customers feel empowered to say the things they’ve always wanted to say but never had the outlet to do so. In short, the anonymity and safety provided by social media lets customers feel more confident in expressing their true feelings about the brands they interact with.
And all this noise does have an effect. According to a study performed by OTX Research, about 2/3 of customers use the information they find through social media to influence their buying decisions. 67% of customers are likely to pass this information on to others, and over 60% trust information they find through social media more than traditional advertisements.
In other words, customers are using social media outlets to research companies before doing business with them. So, if you run a company and the social media space is filled with a bunch of negative information about your brand, you’re probably losing a lot of customers.
How Companies Can Create a Strong Social Media Presence
Clearly, customers are being influenced by social media. And if you want them to be influenced positively to do business with your company, you need to build a strong social media presence. No, that doesn’t mean spamming a bunch of people to build your followers list. It also doesn’t mean going hot on Digg or ReddIt once or twice.
Building a strong social media presence requires consistency. It requires actually engaging with your target demographic, building relationships that help you earn their trust and their business. And it requires having actual goals and strategy for your social media campaign.
What kind of goals should you set for your social media campaign?
- Improve search engine rankings
- Increase brand awareness
- Increase positive brand mentions online
- Improve overall customer service and satisfaction ratings
- Earn more sales
Once you’ve set your goals, you have to track your results. That’s pretty easy because you now have something to measure up against. For example, if you want to earn more sales through social media marketing, you can track your sales before and after your campaign. If you aren’t getting more sales, then maybe things aren’t working according to plan.
Of course, social media marketing does take time. You can’t scrap everything after just a few days without getting results. Social media marketing takes months. Consumers won’t alter their behavior overnight. So, you need to give your social media marketing efforts time to start working. But if after a reasonable period of time you aren’t seeing results, maybe it’s time to change your strategy.
What do you think? Does social media influence your buying behavior?