User experience, usually shortened to UX, is a hot topic in today’s digital world. It’s especially important in the inbound marketing model.
If you’re hoping to be discovered by your customers rather than jumping in front of them, you’ll need to make sure they know how to use your site once they find it.
The goal of UX is to focus your web presence on the needs of your customers, so here are a few tips to do just that.
The Three-Click Rule
The aptly named “three-click rule” says that a visitor to your site should never need more than three clicks — on menus, links, or section headers — to get where they need to go. More than that, the thinking goes, and the user will lose interest or get frustrated and go somewhere else instead.
People are rethinking this rule recently, but the basic idea stands: don’t hide stuff behind too many layers. More clicking is fine if it’s intuitive and feels like it’s going somewhere, but basic stuff like contact info shouldn’t be hidden.
Users on Amazon clicking through Departments, Electronics, Computer Components, and Motherboards aren’t frustrated by the progression, because it’s clear that they’re making progress toward what they’re looking for.
Think Like a User
In order to make sure your users have the best possible experience, you have to put yourself in their shoes. To do that, follow the principle Steve Krug used to title his e-book: Don’t Make Me Think.
Krug explains that your users are not paying as close attention as you did as you did when you built your site. They don’t read, they skim.
It should be immediately obvious to a user what a page is for, and where it fits in your sitemap. It should be obvious to them what’s clickable and what’s not, and it should be easy to tell where to find basic stuff like navigation, contact info, and social media pages.
Make sure the back button works! This seems obvious, but some sites’ back buttons just take users along the winding trail of links they already navigated, instead of up to higher levels of the site. If users get lost, they need an easy way to start over, and the back button is the perfect tool.
On that note, the home button is important too. Any user who’s just browsing, or who gets deep into the belly of your site, needs an easy way to get back to the top level. Your home button isn’t just a chance to plug your logo, it’s a crucial element of the user experience.
Finally, don’t change too much, too fast. Users are habitual — they get used to using your site a certain way. It’s easy to roll out a big update that you think improves the usability of your site, but if you move things around too much, users will just be confused.
The Basics of Headers
Headers are the first thing your customer sees on a given landing page, so they’re important to get just right.
First of all, you should have a persistent header that follows the user throughout the site, and sometimes even down the page. Being able to find the major navigation buttons, regardless of where the user might be, is extremely helpful.
Below that are the unique headers for each page. These are a great opportunity to be creative, incorporating the colors, graphics, and typefaces of your brand identity, but they have to be useful too.
Headers need to catch the eye. If they’re text-only, that means large fonts and warm colors. If they’re graphics, they should be simple and obvious. And in either case, the meaning of the header should be clear and concise. Don’t get too clever with your copy; if the user doesn’t know what they’re looking at, they’ll just move on.
Of course, no one agrees 100% on the perfect way to build a website. Books could be written (and plenty have been) on the subject of UX, and we’re not going to solve every argument in this blog post.
As long as you keep in mind that the basic idea is to make sure your website is laid out and organized in such a way that your users can navigate it as easily as possible, these tips are a great place to start!