Abby Wilson

13th August 2020 by Abby Wilson

4 Website Usability Tips You Can Use Today

I was browsing through websites for some design inspiration a few months back and I came across a beautiful website that had one HUGE issue. I could not for the life of me find the menu button! I bet you can’t find it right away either …

glow website maintenance, example of website with no menu

It’s not where it “should” be – at the top left or right corner of the page. It’s randomly left of center at the bottom of the page and it’s tiny!! If you’re wondering what does website usability mean, this is it. 

If this web developer had done website usability testing, they would’ve realized that HIDING the menu bar isn’t a smart move.

Website usability is a measure of how easy it is for people to achieve a certain goal – in this case navigate through your website. It’s a component of UX design that’s critical for delivering great experiences. 

Websites that aren’t easy to use hurt conversion rates. About 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience

So let’s get into 4 website usability tips that will help you deliver positive user experiences.

1. Who’s Visiting Your Website?

First thing’s first, your website needs to revolve around the user – your Ideal Customer Avatar. A user profile of your ideal customer. 

Now what you don’t want to do is create an ICA that’s the average of your whole target market. You want to create a profile of someone that could literally BE in your market. 

It’s time to get personal.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Income
  • Profession
  • Blogs they follow
  • Who they trust
  • Brands they love
  • What keeps them up at night
  • What’s their dream solution to the problem you solve

The foundation for improving website usability is to know not just who’s going to be on your website in the first place, but, why they’re on your website. You can’t serve a stranger as well as you can serve a friend. 

Case in point, when I go to my best friend’s house for dinner she has my favorite brand of ice cream ready for dessert. Understanding your users is vital to building a website that THEY find user-obsessed. 

The goal here is to really get inside your buyers’ heads. You want to answer questions like what stresses them out and what frustrates them about current solutions they’ve tried. Which brings us to tip 2. 

2. Improve Usability by Anticipating People’s Needs

Choice paralysis kills website usability. Just think about how long it takes you to pick ONE meal from The Cheesecake Factory Menu. A menu with TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY items.

hillary clinton gif about hard choices

When it comes to web design, less is more. I see websites where it seems like the business didn’t want to forget any detail on the site, so they threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Ya know. Just in case. 

You want to find that sweet spot between plenty of information and choice paralysis.

Enter user stories.

Take your customer profiles and develop a story around their needs. A good user story has 3 parts.

glow website maintenance, graphic of typical website user thought process
  • As a (person in a particular role)
  • I want to (do/know something)
  • So that I can achieve my goal of (X)

Create stories for every stage in the buyer journey from awareness to consideration to decision-making. Collect your stories and develop features and content around them.

If you have clear, distinct market segments, develop a landing page for each of their use cases. This way you can make your site user-friendly to each market you serve. 

Webflow does a great job of this by breaking up their customers in to three categories. They even add an extra page for customers who use Webflow for a specific function.

screenshot of webflow cms

3. A Confused Mind Always Says No – Familiar UI Design Is A Must

When I first switched from a PC to a Mac everything felt like it was in the WRONG place. Why is the button to close a window on the left side of the screen and not the right? Why doesn’t a window take up the full page when you open it? Why does the touchpad do so many things?

glow website maintenance, confused woman asking why

I eventually got used to it but the new UI was a hurdle for me. For weeks, like a Windows nerd I kept going to the right side of the page to close an application.

It’s not a coincidence that we can go from Apple Music to Spotify to Amazon Music to Tidal, and still know how to find the perfect playlist to study to. These platforms follow a familiar UI design that people recognize. 

So when it comes to optimizing for website usability, there’s no need to act brand new. Put the menu bar at the top of the website, preferably on the right side of the page. Use familiar icons in familiar places.

Visual hierarchy is key when helping the user on their journey. Take for example, IT Intelligence’s header.

example of positioning of key elements on website header

The size and positioning of elements guides the user from the main focal point – a woman’s face on the left – to the bold statement We’re Humans & IT Experts. 

In smaller font there’s the value proposition. Underneath it, white calls to action stand out against the pale blue background. Intuitive navigation is at the top of the page towards the right. It features a familiar nav menu icon and a bright blue call to action. The headline compliments the photo of the woman to the left. 

You don’t have to explicitly tell people where to look and what to do next on your website. A few tools you can use to establish visual hierarchy are 

  • Font 
  • Size
  • Positioning
  • White Space
  • Contrast
  • Color

If you’re not clear with the visual hierarchy, people could get frustrated and leave your site with a bad taste in their mouth. 

4. Make Sure Your Website Is User-Friendly With Website Usability Testing

I remember when I launched my first website for a client. I had a friend look at it on his phone. When he got to the blog section, he kept clicking the thumbnail images expecting them to be a link to the article. They weren’t links. They were just images…….oops.

As soon as I got home I turned those images into links. I learned two things that day. First. Always make thumbnail images links! Second. You have to watch people use your website.

If there’s one rule that everyone involved with redesigning a website should take as gospel, it’s this. 

NEVER assume your user thinks the same way you do. 

So even if you follow all the tips listed above, it’s not enough. You need to implement user testing.

glow website maintenance, website usability testing process graphic

Every proper test has a hypothesis. Something like, if people want to buy, then they’ll immediately click the CTA in the header. The reality might be that they look at a few pages before making the decision. Or they might click the CTA in the nav bar. 

But one does not simply test their website. Choose specific elements and hypothesize how people will interact with them. 

Once you’ve decided what to test, find participants in your target market. So, while it was helpful for me to have my friend look at my website, the ideal situation is to test people similar to your ICA. 

Next, delegate clear tasks to your test participants. Don’t give any advice or tips. Just give neutral instructions and let them figure it out. 

Collect your results and analyze each individual participant. Was there any friction? Did they scroll right past the main features. Were they able to complete the task at all? 

Once you’ve compiled all of your data, it’s time to rinse and repeat. Make the necessary changes and see if there’s any noticeable improvement. Always be testing. 

Final Thoughts

Website usability can have a major effect on your conversion rates. It’s something that you have to constantly test and be aware of. 

Always ask for feedback and test any changes made to your site. 

With these 4 tips you’re well on your way to delivering amazing user experiences on a regular basis.

Abby Wilson

Abby Wilson is a Washington D.C. based business web designer and developer. She started Tailor Framed because of her frustration with many B2B business websites that lacked a clear strategy to increase conversions. She was first introduced to coding in college. With her research background she decided to combine her experience with problem solving and her knowledge of how to build and design websites to generate solutions for business problems. She specialises in helping companies whose websites have high traffic but low conversions.