How to make sure your website isn't driving people crazy
There is a gas station in my town I dread going to.
I am not joking, here is what happens every single time I get gas there:
I insert my card and somehow do it wrong.
It tells me to reinsert my card.
I do it again and somehow do it wrong.
It tells me to go see the clerk.
I’m not an idiot at using my debit card. It’s just that the process is just slightly different than 99 percent of the gas stations I use. So out of habit, I do it the way I’m used to doing it. Which is the wrong way at this gas station.
It has gotten to the point that I avoid going there if I can. In Idaho, I don’t want to stand out in the cold for five minutes trying to figure out one of the most basic technologies in existence. When I do go, it drives me so crazy I vow to never go again.
Many websites out there have things on them that are causing these gas station moments for people.
Have you ever been on a website on your mobile phone and had a popup open up, but the popup was too large for your screen so you couldn’t get to the X to close it out? This is a maddening experience.
Have you ever hit submit and then not gotten a confirmation message, so you sit there hitting it again to try to make sure it went through?
Have you ever tried to click into a pulldown menu, but the menu disappears before you can select the item?
If we aren’t careful, we can do these things to people on our websites.
People will not stick around to figure it out. They will leave your site. This means you could be losing customers over small things.
It’s worth taking time to go through and make sure our site isn’t driving our visitors to leave.
Here’s how you can make sure that you aren’t losing visitors due to small frustrations.
1. Make a list of three primary goals that you have for your visitors on your site.
This could be things like joining your email list, booking a consulting call or purchasing an item.
Make sure that all roads lead to a visitor taking those steps and that there are no roadblocks along the way. If we want people to do certain things on our site, we need to make them easy, intuitive and in line with other similar actions they have taken on other sites.
2. Don’t get too creative in your design.
Some creativity is great.
Too much reinventing the wheel is just confusing to visitors who are used to websites working in certain ways.
If you want a user to click on a button, make it a button, not some piece of art that doesn’t look like a button.
If you want a user to read a blog post, don’t make the type so small they can’t see it.
If you want mobile users to be able to use your site (Hint: you do), make sure anything they need to click on is large enough for fingers to tap easily.
3. Keep an eye on your Google analytics.
If you have your site set up in Google Analytics (and you should!), there are a lot of insights you can keep track of related to the performance of your site. It's good practice to check out these numbers regularly.
In the page report section, you can view the bounce rate of each of your pages. Bounce rate is the number of visitors who left your site without going to another page. If there is one page in particular that has a high bounce rate, it's worth looking into to figure out why.
Google Analytics also allows you to set up goals that you can keep track of. Then you can experiment to improve the path that ends in a goal completion.
4. Test. Test. Test.
Make sure that you are regularly going through your site and clicking all the buttons, pulling down all the menus, and scrolling through all the galleries. Do this on a desktop computer, a mobile phone and a tablet if possible.
First, you want to make sure everything functions and that there are no glitches.
Second, pay attention if there is anything that trips you up momentarily. Even if you find yourself pausing slightly, stop and think about what it was that made you hesitate.
Are you asking users to do something different than they normally do? Is there something on your site that surprises a user when it works differently than they think it should?
Have your friends and family test it. Ask them the same questions and have them note where they are pausing or have brief moments of confusion.
It’s easy to design a website and then never think about it again. But making our website the most effective possible involves some trial and error. It also means we should continually refine it and make sure it is easy to use for our visitors.
Clarity should trump creativity every time.
Because even if your site is the most unique piece of artwork in the world, if someone can’t use it, they won’t buy from you.
Want help with making sure your site is working as effectively as possible? Try my website audit checklist.