Is your website ready for the holiday season? Do you sell products online? Are you sure your site is user friendly and persuasive?
The objective of this checklist is to provide you with assistance in making sure your website is ready to generate revenue. Each item is intended to support your online marketing investment by increasing the overall usability for everyone who visits your site. User experience design is most often considered an afterthought. Truly successful websites include usability, user experience and customer experience design as part of their business requirements and plans for their online presence.
Remember – Every page is a “landing page”.
1. Help your website visitors make good decisions. Many people don’t know what they want. Help them make choices or browse longer. Most visitors just need a little extra incentive to make a purchase.
2. Use models of all shapes, ages and sizes for clothing sites. The images you select may turn away potential customers. For example, Victoria’s Secret neglects curvy women, plus size and women over 27 years old.
3. Choose crisp, clear images. Find ways to show the size of products. It is difficult to determine the size of a bird feeder, humidifier or compost bin without either reading a description or viewing a comparison picture. Provide close up details of craftsmanship. Show tread. Provide step by step images of custom work.
4. Online shoppers are unable to touch materials used for clothing, crafts, furniture, etc. Therefore, write product descriptions that describe every detail, including how it feels when touched, worn, and used.
5. Add real life use cases to promote sales. Technical sites with gadgets often forget that how we use devices is important to know. Can your products be used in the rain and snow? What is the average life span of a battery, roofing tile, light bulb? If a light bulb lasts 7 years, it is worth paying a little bit more for it.
6. Some people will not order online with a credit card. They will, however, use their PayPal account. Increase conversions by providing alternative payment methods.
7. Does your navigation inspire clicks? Be descriptive. Add categories. Men’s what? Plus size what? Absolutely avoid mystery links that don’t specify exactly where you are taking visitors. They don’t have time.
8. Look at how Amazon does their site search in the header. Visitors can search the site or by category or with keywords. Auto-complete functionality is also helpful. Your website has to function as the salesperson who is guiding a customer by making suggestions.
9. Add related topics, related items, favorites, testimonials, customer ratings, etc. to product pages.
10. Provide a newsletter with coupon codes, special deals, limited time specials, etc. Never require a phone number for a free newsletter.
11. Offer functions such as wish and favorites lists. Add a way to “Pin” items. This not only acts as a way to add to a personal wish list but advertises your products to others.
12. Membership has its benefits. Provide personalization and perks to increase the number of return customers and visits. Etsy and Amazon are examples that track customer orders and browsing history, which helps visitors with remembering and re-ordering.
13. Put vital information at the “point of action”. For example, place the return policy, shipping and warranties on the product page by inserting brief notes “No hassle returns” and “Free shipping”.
14. Provide examples for how your items are used and then place the call to action button nearby so that it can be ordered with ease. Consider a podcast along with visual and text stories.
15. Always provide navigation that communicates “sense of place” for your visitors, such as where they are, where they came from and where to go next. If a link is intended to take a visitor off the website, provide a warning in the link label that they are about to leave the site.
16. Answer questions at the point of action, point of sale, and inside landing pages. The moment you force a visitor to go hunt for information is the click of death for revenue.
17. Add content. Your products and services will not sell themselves. Describe features in image captions. What are the benefits, how to care for it (think fabric), etc. Add bullet points or tabbed menus for benefits, features, ingredients, comparisons, etc.
18. Create confidence by thinking of every possible concern a guest could have and respond to it with your site. How many days are left to ship? Can you rush it? Answer these questions within the content or product descriptions instead of a FAQ.
19. Provide proof of expertise and skills if you sell services and certain products like crafts online. This might be in the form of awards, customer feedback, ratings, interviews, and video demonstrations.
20. Place your specials, offers, products and promotions on the top half of every landing page and the homepage.
21. Replace your sliders with smaller images. Studies indicate that most sliders do not convert. Replace them with one or two static images, with a killer offer and big juicy call to action button. Reference: Carousels Don’t Convert
22. Update the Title and Meta description. Add a value proposition in the Meta description of each product page. Insert a trigger word such as “Free”, “Award winning”, “Top Rated” into the Title tag. The goal is to stand out in search engine results pages.
23. Review and spruce up your calls to action. Try changing colors for your buttons. Experiment and test color choices. Reference: The Science of Colors in Marketing
24. Navigation links are vital to your website. Without links, people would have no idea where you wish to go. Create momentum by adding action words to top level navigation such as “Explore Resources”, “Learn About Us”, and “Browse Services. Try including keywords and verbs, like “Learn about [my company name]”, “Browse Custom Furniture”, and “Explore Marketing Resources”.
25. Whenever possible, avoid stock photos. Choose “real life” pictures of products, or to help convey a mood, create desire or make an emotional connection with your customers.
26. Place a demonstration video into a page. However, do not set it to run automatically when the page loads. Allow site visitors to choose to watch it when they wish to. If it is used to sell a product, be sure you have a call to action button next to the video.
27. Review text content to be sure it is not too long and rambling. People scan rather than reading every word on a page. Shorten text, and chunk it up with smaller paragraphs and sub-headings.
28. Remove distractions from product landing pages. They know what they want, came to get it and your page must let them order it without any additional nonsense. Related items are okay. Advertisements are not.
29. Provide a site search near the page header or somewhere in the top half of every page for fast access.
30. If you have huge inventories, provide alternative search options such as A-Z search, drop down categories, search by brand, ratings, etc.
31. If you are out of stock on an item, provide a way to backorder it or show when it is available again. Provide a way for your customers to opt-in to receive an email when the product is re-stocked.
Several years ago the department store, Target, was sued because blind persons were unable to make purchases from their website. This was a wakeup call to ecommerce, and any website intending on being used by all people. Accessibility means that all people, no matter what their physical limitation may be, can use your website.
This means that your website should be designed for people who wear glasses and contacts, are color blind, or may have trouble with lighting and color contrasts. It means that people with injured hands, hand and body tremors and carpel tunnel that makes using a mouse impossible, can still use your website. It means that screen reader software will work, so that people can listen to your website to use it. Design for special needs includes handicapped persons, deaf, blind, those with diseases that cause shaking, and people who are ADD or ADHD and find it difficult to stay focused while reading.
32. Check color contrasts in your text. Use this free color contrast tool. Poor color contrasts in your text content make it difficult to see and read your web pages.
33. Place Alt attributes behind images. Every image should contain an alt attribute that describes the image. Place your company or website name in an alt attribute behind your logo. Never stuff keywords into alt attributes. Reference: Alt Attributes WCAG2.0
34. Be careful when using animation or moving sliders on webpages that contain text that you want your visitors to read. If you insist on a slider, do not put it on automatic. Give your visitors control by allowing them to start and stop the images. Reference: Animation for Attention and Comprehension
35. Avoid colored text on colored backgrounds unless you have tested it for color contrasts. Gray text is a fad. Use black, dark green or dark blue for reading.
36. Never use black for a link color if your text content, headings and sub-headings are also black.
Web site usability and information architecture are still my drug of choice.
Whenever I feel close to quitting, I find others who not only believe in the value of UX work, but explain its value better than I can.
UX is the New SEO
UX is the new way to optimize sites for search engines because Google said so. Yes, that benign search giant has decided that links are no longer as important as they once thought. Out of deep concern for its users that click on the search ads, Google has decided that user experience (UX) is a much better determinant of relevance. This left the entire SEO is gob-smacked and floundering, at least those that have not already stepped off the ledge are.
Google’s help is not really helping. As their search engine has gotten smarter with personalization and query revision, we’ve gotten dumber at searching.
From How do we solve the Enterprise UX skills gap?
Sommer used the example of abandoned shopping carts, which are not just a metric but may reflect an emotional breach of trust with a web site that bombards the user with additional offers and promotions, causing potential buyers to flee the scene.
Yen added the importance of facilitators/requirements gatherers who know how to ask the ‘why’ questions, determining the key parts of the user’s role versus ‘chores’ that are not core to the user’s role but must get done (e.g. timesheet processing).
Few designers possess the range of UX skills needed, which include:
User profiling and research, informed by industrial psychology
interaction design: translating use cases into information architecture and screen elements
low and high fidelity mockup creation
user testing and prototyping
emotional design elements, branding, and verbiage
engineers to build the design
Towards a New Information Architecture: The Rise and Fall and Rise of a Necessary Discipline
This is the most incredible article I have read in months.
…I call this new breed of talented thinkers Information Architects and this book was created to help celebrate and understand the importance of their work—a work which inspires hope that as we expand our capabilities to inform and communicate that we will value, with equal enthusiasm, the design of understanding.
~Richard Saul Wurman in Information Architects
Dan Brown, in his talk on Designing Rules, points toward a new relevance for the information architect in a post-Google world. Just as furniture makers had to choose between making patterns for IKEA or continuing to hand craft furniture for a shrinking?—?but appreciative— market, so IAs must decide if they will handcraft bestbets or create the rules for making them. Peter Morville, one of the “my two dads” of Information Architecture moved on to search. Search is far from solved. It and recommendation engines— the push to search’s pull —provide more than enough of a fun rule space to keep IAs busy for many years to come.
This just about caused me to have a heart attack, die, and go to UX Heaven, from Choosing the Right Metrics for User Experience.
Although most organizations are tracking metrics like conversion rate or engagement time, often they do not tie these metrics back to design decisions. The reason? Their metrics are too high level. A change in your conversion rate could relate to a design change, a promotion, or something that a competitor has done. Time on site could mean anything.
I am told that site owners want me to prove why they should hire me. All they want is to rank in search engines. Their sites are fine. From 5 Questions to Ask Your Next UX Design Agency
Smart UX design provides value to your consumers. Value, in turn, influences purchasing decisions and brand loyalty. A great UX firm should understand your users better than you do. That understanding, translated into positive daily user experiences over the long-term, can be a competitive advantage. UX design has the power to set your brand apart. Pick the agency that can best articulate how their UX skills will contribute to your brand’s success.
The next time you see a web page with a big form covering up the page, forcing you to give them your email address first, before you are allowed to enter the site or see what what it is about, just know that a marketer had the final say – not a usability professional or conversions expert.
Before search engines appeared, how did Internet users find information? Where was information located and who had it all?
It is hard to imagine what life was like before the Internet became part of our daily lives. Schools are removing classes on writing in cursive and replacing them with how to handle Facebook bullies. Google plans on the being the one and only place on the entire Internet to provide the answers to all questions by all people.
To do that, Google must know who we are, and this is not something we agree is what we want.
We do, however, provide the same thing we have been offering since we first plugged in a computer, dialed up a modem and waited for our email to load. For many people during the early 1990’s, American Online (AOL) was where the party started. We began by sharing what we found.
You Have to See This
This is how it all began.
In 1995 I bought a 286 PC with a 9600 baud modem that shared my phone line. To get email, access the Web and make my first AOL website, I had to call a long distance phone number to reach an AOL server. Once I was connected and the modem screeching ended, I went to my favorite groups in AOL that were arranged by topic to meet and talk with other people interested in the same things. I belonged to and moderated several email subscription groups that essentially did the same thing, which was bringing people and information together.
In the years to come, there would be all kinds of ways to find people to meet and share information with, such as e-zines, groups, chat rooms, listservs, Deja news, UseNet and early forms of instant messaging. In 1998 I launched a forums, while participated in several others. There was no shortage of information.
I met mentors who taught me how make my first websites by emailing me or recommending books. Back then, search engines were not born yet. If I wanted to know how to do something, I went to a forum or an email distribution list.
They all worked by making referrals and recommendations.
Search by Popularity
Before search engines, everything was referral based.
I repeat. The way to find information at the dawn of the Internet was by referrals.
If you are a search engine marketer, this is important. The basic core algorithm for all search engines is “What is the most popular website?” This one question tortures and challenges search engine marketers. They have created schemes, tricks and tools for the sole purpose of creating web page popularity. Their mistake is not studying user behavior. Companies do not invest in studying user behavior and how the data relates to their particular web site requirements.
Conversions and Search Engines
Today, rather than refer to words like usability and user experience design, the code word is “Conversions”. Call it what you wish, but the fact is, you can lead a person to a search engine result by hook or by crook, but if the web site is not designed for that visitor, they are leaving.
It is a fact that most companies pay for a web design, without understanding or caring about the user experience. Companies care most about search engine rank. They will do just anything to achieve this, but pay no attention to making their web site user friendly. Everywhere is the evidence, from banner ads plastered all over pages, to forms that demand to be filled out before a web page can be viewed.
It boils down to this one secret. Are people recommending your products and services? Are they chatting about your brand? Do they refer you? Are you providing a trusted resource?
If your website were to suddenly disappear, would anybody care?
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Remember the TV commercial that showed what your brain looks like when you take street narcotic drugs? The splattered egg in a pan? Have you ever wondered what your brain looks like when trying to find something you want from a search engine? In those cases, brains look like strawberries.
is a piece I wrote about the relationship between human behavior and information seeking.
Frequency of the use a search term may not necessarily be interpreted to mean it is the best word to choose for your particular website. The word might be used often because it is more commonly known and used but still not meet the need of the information seeker because they know of no better word choices to try.
Did you know that your website visitors have different searching styles? Do you know how these behaviors affect how they search for information and make choices? There is more to keyword research data than the number of queries used to find site or the weight value of the top keywords. Words paint a different mental image for some people or don’t mean anything at all.
Another recent article I wrote is on a topic that I love, but which most web site owners choose to ignore.
One of the reasons why sliders and carousels suddenly appeared everywhere on homepages is because they provided vivid visuals, with or without commentary or a call to action. The logic was similar to what goes into book cover designs. A walk through a bookstore or library is partly research, partly informational and partly tied to whatever book cover attracts attention. A casual browsing experience, where there is time to take in both information and eye candy, does not work for several genres on the Web.
The real tragedy in web design is not knowing how to sell online.
This is something I didn’t write, but a Cre8asiteforums member found some interesting stuff:
Has anyone used any of the reports and settings suggested in the articles above with any success when working on their own sites or reporting for clients sites? By success, I mean, have you used any of the suggestions and has that resulted in any really valuable insights about a website that you could take action on?
I’m surrounded by smart people.
Search Marketing Standard has re-published an article I wrote about online forms design. If you haven’t checked your forms lately, now is a great time to do so.
Search Marketing Standard | In Rare Form: Best Practices For Online Forms
The article, called In Rare Form: Best Practices for Online Forms, is loaded with actionable advice for immediate application.
The key to designing a form that your customers will use is to build it so they can use it. Form builders tend to neglect special needs users, despite the easy availability of guidelines for accessible forms. International users are also challenged by forms not providing adequate space for complex addresses or country codes in phone numbers or worse — not indicating if they sell or respond internationally until the visitor fills out the address section. Those who wish to retain their privacy and prevent unwanted spam and phone calls are also likely to find many existing online forms not meeting their needs or wishes.