Am writing this article with the web designer and website owner in mind. You probably own a website, are planning to own one, or are a developer, this is my 2 cents about how a website should be. Any additions or criticism is highly recommended at the comments section.
When developing a website, you most probably want to put these ten points in mind for best results.
Ever gone to a self service cafe and are not sure whether you should sit and wait for service or go to the counter? Possibly because the arrangement of the place doesn’t guide you to the obvious? Thats how a user feels when they land on your website and cant tell what to do when they land on a page. You ought to make the website as usable as possible. Figure out the possible clients or website users you may have, their level of understanding and how they will best use your website. Which leads me to my second point, communication.
2. Communication-can a user understand the purpose of the site in 5 seconds?
Precisely! Just like i had mentioned in an earlier post about coca cola, your website should tell the user what you are about in a very short time. You reckon how impatient most of us are. Simply put, if you go to a spares shop and the first thing is ads about airtime and the latest coffee in the market, a certain percentage of us will go to the next shop, confused of course…are these guys for real? Sell your product, advertising should not be your most distinct feature, unless you are an online billboard.
3. Navigation- the things a user needs, are they accessible and easy to get?
Most of us search the website with a certain objective, like say you are searching for acommodation in Nairobi. What would you do if you landed on a page that talks about the history of Tom Mboya Street accomodation and many other stories, no guide as to how you can make a quick booking in a 5 star hotel cutting out all these details? I bet you would go to the next site you had in search results. Good, make it easy for your site user to know where to find and use the ketchup if they need it. 🙂
4. Speed- is the website easy to load, or takes ages?
You have a very well designed site, great graphics that would have the Virgin Atlantic site blushing (wait, they changed their site from a flash site last month to the new site, congratulations! Notice how easy it is to get what you want?) . Well, hope the point sails through, what happens to the user in a cyber cafe who doesnt have flash on the computer? I believe they were there for the flight booking, not dazzle in the great artwork. #fail. So this would have a great impact on page load time, you want the impatient user to meet their objective, and to come back again later.
5. Search- is your website reacheable via search engines using relevant keywords?
You got your website well designed, but apart from you, your designer and a certain amount of people close to you in your social media circle, nobody else knows of it. Unless you are a brand by yourself or a multinational website, you wanna optimize your site for search engines. In-fact around 70% of online sales come from search engine related traffic.
You wanna maximize this potential, there are many ways with which to optimize a website, will cover this in detail in another post. But just to let you in on the juice, they are use of good keywords related to your niche, using meta tags on your site code (not much impact though of late), good and relevant site description-this is very important as it is what people will see as excerpt below search results.
6. Compatibility- is your site compatible to the most widely used browsers?
Plainly put, make sure your user have the freedom they want when browsing, not see a disfigured page when they view your otherwise cute website on a different browser than the one you are used to. Try to ensure compatibility to the main browsers like Mozilla Firefox, internet explorer which has many versions, safari, Google chrome and opera.
7. Conversion- does your website guide users to the sales page if you are selling?
I like saying the main objective of having a website online is to sell! Period! You are either trying to sell, market or do some PR to a product, unless of-course you are a hobby blogger. Make the users feel tempted to go to the sales page, drive them there like they do when hunting gazelles and other animals in game parks, like a funnel.
8. Content- does your website have search engine friendly content that also appeals to your users?
Good content is twice better than a stunning website. Reasons are simple:
Search engines will use this when searching for specific words used in a search. You will even find this point number 8 when searching for something related to content. Of-course if you search now you wont as there’s millions of search results that will come above it, but you get the grip. 🙂
Your user will get a better understanding of what you want to put across to them, you may consider a text description or a graphical one, both work wonders.
9. Feedback- are your site users able to give feedback easily?
Do you have a good feedback system? I dont mean an “email the owner” hyperlink that leads you to use microsoft outlook, or a “reach us via this email address”. The downside to that is very few have configured their outlook for mail and fewer will copy the email address to their mail server to draft an email. Thats a total fail.
Give your users a good feedback form that is visibly available and easy to use. You may consider using a spam check for your safety, but make sure the contact form is there. You may also add value to it by guiding your users in feedback, like say, use dropdowns to select feedback type, e.g customer care, enquiry, etc.
If you want to get real time communication you may consider installing live chat or leave a number that a customer can use foe a hasty purchase or order.
10. Security-does your site assure security to your users(if transactions) or your data?
You want to make sure your customers believe in you. If you are selling online or have an online payment system its good to get SSL certification for the checkout page. This makes your site credible and users will trust you with their money more. You also need a well developed system that will ensure unscrupulous web users dont hack into your systems and compromise your site’s stability, or even forge a transaction.
Of-course i had to add a bonus, well not really a bonus here but a very critical element. Mobile use is on the escalation, and with statistics showing that Africa’s mobile uptake is higher than any part of the world, you wanna make sure these users access and transact on your website easily on their mobile phones. Smart phones are getting cheaper and today’s mobile user wants the maximum out of it. Do you want to be the statistics being maximized on?
Make your site visitors happy, they will recommend your site.