6 ways to freshen up your site for spring

Website usability. If you’re doing anything digital — from ecommerce to website development to online marketing — you’ve probably heard the phrase. But what does it mean, really?

Usability means two things

1. Does your site look and feel professional?

2. Does your site make it as easy as possible for visitors to find what they want?

The first question is a split-second decision that all people make (very, very quickly) when they land on a site. The second is about moving visitors exactly where you want them so they can buy from your site as smoothly as possible.

It’s time to clean up for spring

And since spring has officially arrived, what better time is there to declutter your site and get back to usability basics?

So without further ado, here are 6 tips to get your usability game sharp. It’s all about making things fast, easy to understand, and professional:

1. Web design standards are your friend

No matter where you go, when you’re driving and you see a red, octagonal sign, it means STOP — even if it’s written in another language! That’s because stop sign design standards have been adopted worldwide.

Something similar is true about web design standards. They help people figure out where to go on websites, even if they’ve never been there before. (That’s why logos are almost always in the top left, and sign in buttons and CTAs are in the top right.)

Plus, conforming to the same standards used by huge companies like Zappos makes it seem like your company is as trustworthy and professional as the big boys.

Take a look at this handy list of web design standards. See how many you’re conforming to. If you’re missing out on any of the big ones, consider making changes.

2. Break it up

Users should be able to scan a page and know exactly what to do there — even if it’s in a foreign language. Check out the screenshot of Yahoo! Japan below. Even if you don’t read Japanese, you don’t need to guess where the nav bar is, or where to search.

Not only are they conforming to design standards in terms of location, the search box and nav bar are broken out into their own elements, making it easier for visitors to identify them.

Yahoo JPN

3. Can you click it? Leave no room for doubt.

Confusion is the enemy of usability. That’s why visitors should never have to guess what part of your site is clickable.

If they do, they’re just wasting valuable mental energy that they should be expending on one thing: deciding whether or not they want to buy what you’re selling. Remove the guesswork and make it as easy as possible for them.

Check out Everlane’s page:

Everlane

They’ve reduced the clickable elements to the bare minimum. This type of downsizing is especially important on mobile, where it’s easy to tap the screen of your phone and accidentally be sent somewhere you didn’t mean to go.

4. Ditch the distractions

Answer the following question: why are your users here? Are you a nonprofit trying to educate people? A retailer trying to sell a product? A content site hoping for eyeballs and page views?

Your site, especially your homepage, should answer that question, and it should do it concisely.

Get rid of excess CTAs, exclamation points, overly bright colors, the ultra-detailed copy, and any animations (seriously — people hate this). Focus it down to the core message and stick with it.

A great example of this practice is the homepage of Brooklinen, a bedding and sheets company:

Brooklinen

It’s not cluttered, the copy is clean and direct, and you know exactly what you need to do to buy sheets. They don’t tell you anything more than a value prop (these are the best sheets ever) and a CTA (shop classic collection).

5. Write like they’re skimming

People on your site aren’t going to read every single line of copy. No matter how good, or funny, or beautiful your prose is, it ain’t happening. Nothing you can do will change this. So adapt to the circumstances. Write the way they’re reading.

Don’t write too much.

Just the key bits.

And avoid huge paragraphs.

(You probably got all that, but had a harder time with the first paragraph, didn’t you?)

You get the idea.

6. Make sure everything works

All of the above should help guide you to a better performing site, but none of that matters if you have common errors that cause users to run into dead ends.

404 errors, missing images, and broken links harm your usability in two ways: they make you look unprofessional, and they make it harder for visitors to get where they want to go.

It can be a pain, not to mention hugely time-consuming, to track down all of your errors, which is why we prefer tools that do the job for you (like Website Diagnostics, available for McAfee SECURE Certification Pro users).

Don’t skip out on this step — it’s the easiest one to do!

Wrapping up

We know that’s a good deal to take in, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Do it in chunks. Conform to web design standards, then look at your clickable items, then your copy. And once you do that, your site will be looking lean and clean, just in time for spring!