Website usability for beginners, part 1
When building your first website, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to navigate the site and find what they want, quickly and with minimal effort and time wasted.
And it’s not just for the obvious reason: that visitors will be more likely to convert if they find it easy to navigate your site. There’s another, equally important reason: A smartly laid out web page will also improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
“Usability and user experience are ‘second order’ influences on search engine ranking success,” according to SEOmoz.org. “They provide an indirect, but measurable benefit to a site’s external popularity, which the engines can then interpret as a signal of higher quality. This is called the ‘no one likes to link to a crummy site’ phenomenon.”
“Crafting a thoughtful, empathetic user experience can ensure that your site is perceived positively by those who visit, encouraging sharing, bookmarking, return visits and links – signals that trickle down to the search engines and contribute to high rankings.”
So then, let’s take a look at how to do just that. Here are five basic steps to creating a website that offers convenience and usability to your visitors:
Step 1: Website Layout. Your website layout is the most basic aspect of your marketing efforts. Unless you’ve got some really great reason to buck conventional trends here — and as a casino or poker affiliate, there aren’t too many reasons that come to mind — you should think long and hard about straying from a traditional layout.
Luckily, this step (as with many that follow) is more or less taken care of by WordPress sites. As we never tire of writing here at Casino Affiliate Programs, WordPress is the best, most efficient, least expensive way for beginners to launch high-quality sites. And WordPress gives you an automatic basic layout structure. You can change it if you want to, but it’s not advised.
After all, customers expect a basic structure — main info on the home page, then another page for your blog, another page for About Us, etc. If you deny them that structure, you make them work a lot harder to find what they’re looking for. And, like most Internet users, they’re generally not going to be inclined to put that extra work into browsing your site when other, easier sites exist by the hundreds.
Step 2: Titles. It’s hard to mess this one up, but, surprisingly, many beginners still do.
Always have an appropriate, and direct title to each page, particularly your more important pages. As we’ve discussed in the past, this is essential for SEO — using your main keywords in your title is one of the SEO’s most sacred rules. But it’s also essential to let your visitors know where they are. So, title every page, and make sure the title is simple, clear, and understandable.
If you’re building your site from scratch, the title must be entered manually, between the <title> and </title> tag. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll just have to enter the title where indicated based on your SEO plugin. (We recommend All in One SEO or WordPress SEO.)
Step 3. Build a Solid Sitemap. Some things never go out of style. Just the same as ten years ago, today’s online marketers need to offer their visitors (and search engines) a navigable sitemap to best ensure that users will find what they’re looking for.
A sitemap is just what it sounds like: A list of pages available to visitors or search engines letting them know exactly where everything is.
Building a sitemap isn’t that hard, if you use the right tools. For example, Google, Yahoo, and MSN jointly maintain a protocol (or best practices) regarding sitemaps that can be accessed by webmasters at sitemaps.org. That site offers a very helpful rundown of what you need to do to create an effective sitemap.
“Using the Sitemap protocol does not guarantee that web pages are included in search engines, but provides hints for web crawlers to do a better job of crawling your site,” the site says. Check it out here.
Step 4: Header Links. Like most sites today, your site will probably utilize pre-designed headers at the tops of certain pages as an attractive way of letting visitors know where they are. That’s a good idea — but don’t forget to make those headers linkable.
“Linking the logo or headers gives reader an easy option to get back to homepage easily,” advises Desizn Tech. “If your image or logo is inside an image tag just wrap it with a link tag.”
The result is that users and search engines will, on each page of your site, have an easy path back to the home page, increasing usability and navigability and generally making your site more satisfying to spend time with.
Step 5: Link Appearance. Perhaps the most minor of these five beginner’s steps, but still essential in its own right, is link appearance.
This may arguably be a function of design as much as site layout. But it’s still important: If a link exists, make sure the visitors know it’s a link. When they hover their mouse over a link, it should chance colors, or size, or signal somehow to your visitors that it’s a link to another page.
In conclusion …
We’ll add more advanced metrics to this list in a future installment. In the meantime, we’d like to know what you think, and what your own experience has been. Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts on the basics of website usability for beginners.