What’s more important than SEO? User experience. All the SEO work in the world won’t do you any good if users come to your site and then leave in frustration. What would cause someone to leave your site in frustration? That answer, of course, is going to vary from person to person, but there are common threads and simple principles that will help you make sure your site meets as many users’ needs as possible.
One simple problem that could cause users to leave your site is the inability to find the information they’re looking for. Fortunately this problem is an easy one to solve with a bit of organization!
So What Are Your Users Looking For?
The best possible way to answer this question: ask them! Post on Facebook, ask about it on your blog, make a survey on Survey Monkey, get some feedback! Ask people what they’re looking for when they visit your site, and if they were able to intuitively find that information.
Keep in mind that many users are probably looking for simple, basic information, and that simple, basic information should always be easy to find. If you own a retail store and a user can’t easily find your store hours, they’re going to be frustrated. If you’re a plumber and they can’t easily find your phone number? Frustrated.
These are no-brainers, though – of course when someone visits your website you want them to know where you are, when you’re open, how to contact you. However, there may be other information that’s important to your users that’s harder to find than you realize, which is why it’s important to ask them!
Organization! Organization! Organization!
Making important information easy to find does not mean putting everything on the Home page and bombarding your users with too much information all at once. The more content your site has (and the more content the better, both for your users and your SEO!) the more important it becomes to put some thought into laying that information out in a way that makes sense. Resist the temptation to put everything important on the front page, or to link everything directly on the front page. A cluttered website is much more difficult to navigate than one with a clean layout. Don’t be afraid that people will miss something if it’s nested in a drop-down menu. People expect to have to browse categories on a content-rich page – just look at amazon.com!
Give your users credit for intelligence. If you have a medical practice and someone visits your website looking for downloadable forms, they’re likely to know that those forms won’t be on the front page. If you have a menu category titled “Patient Information” and, under that, a drop-down menu item titled “Patient Forms,” most users will be able to find it. Putting a button titled “Patient Forms” on your main page isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but if you’ve already got a lot of items on that page then an unnecessary button is just adding to the clutter factor of your site.
Clean, Uncluttered and Content Rich? It IS Doable!
Your responsibility is to make certain that the information on your site is laid out intuitively. Take a look over the menu structure of your site. When you first put your site together, did you take time to plan your pages and categories, and how to lay them out so that they would make sense? For example, your main navigation menu probably has some basic categories like About Us, Products, Services, etc. If your site is content rich, you probably have drop-down items under some of those main categories. If a user is coming to your site looking for a particular kind of information, have you made it easy for that information to be found?
If you’re a visual person, drawing out your site’s structure, flowchart style, might be helpful. You also want to make sure that every page’s title is descriptive of what can be found there. “Policies & Forms” is much more helpful than “More Information.” If organizing information isn’t your strong suit, enlist some help! Ask the most Hermione Granger-ish person you know to look at the layout with you, and then – again – ask your users for their feedback.
Making a website that meets your users’ needs doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require some thought and planning. Don’t get so wrapped up in the visuals of your site and the SEO concerns that you forget to give your users what they’re looking for!