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August 2, 2012

3 Steps to a Better User Experience on Your Site

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Today I had a fight with Trader Joe’s dish soap. Those of you who know the TJ’s brand of dish soap can probably identify. You unscrew the top, and there’s this very stubborn aluminum sealant that you have to wrestle off to let the soap flow. The problem is, the soap bottle gives you no help at all. There’s no tab protruding off the edge to swiftly remove the sealant. You literally need tiny little elf hands or a pair of surgical tweezers to get any sort of traction.

Trader Joe's Ad for Its Dish Soap

I love you, Trader Joe’s, but why you gotta lie?

After about two minutes of wrestling with it, I thought, How hard could it be for Trader Joe’s to have made one tiny tab to grab hold of – an improvement that would make a huge impact on the experience?

The thing about the user experience is that sometimes we, as product developers and marketers, are so close the product that we fail to see the obvious. Or maybe we just haven’t taken the time to look at the product from every possible angle.

Either way, we can’t forget to take the time to revisit the user experience time and time again throughout the lifecycle of the product. And yes, that means your website — the most important product you have on the Web. Let’s have a look at three simple steps you can take on your site now that can build a better user experience, shall we?

1. Navigate the Site

When’s the last time you did quality assurance on your site’s navigation? A “set it and forget it” attitude is a huge no-no for your site. Put yourself in the users’ shoes and take a spin.

First, is the navigation intuitive?

  • Make sure it’s easy for the user to get to the page and to go to other pages.
  • Make sure outbound links open up in a new window, so they are not taking the person completely off the site.

One example of an easy-to-navigate solution is having “breadcrumb” nav, so the person knows where they are at on the site at all times. Or, if you have a blog, a “related posts” plugin is nice to give the user additional suggestion for going deeper into the site.

Here is an example of breadcrumb nav (named after the “Hansel and Gretel” concept of being able to find your way home):

Example of Breadcrumb Navigation on a Site

 Next, do all the links work? Make sure you don’t have any broken links internally or externally that are giving 404 errors.

Tools you can use to get a bird’s eye view of the site are:

  • Google Analytics to identify high-trafficked pages and other important page metrics (free).
  • Google Webmaster Tools “crawl error” report to find crawl errors on the site (free).
  • SEOToolSet’s Single Page Analyzer tool to find broken links on single Web pages (the 30-day money-back guarantee lets you give it a spin for a month free if you cancel prior to the end date).
  • Xenu’s Link Sleuth to get a big picture of the active and broken links on your site (free).

Of course, tools are great for efficiency’s sake, but they don’t replace the first-person experience. So don’t be afraid to get in there and look at your pages as your users do. You really want to get a feel of how they are experiencing the site to find glitches.

If you have a large site with many pages, you know the big project that’s ahead of you. Start with the most important pages to your business – landing pages that are intended to convert visitors, high-trafficked pages, and so on.

2. Review the Content

When’s the last time you read the content on your site? If you’re laughing, it’s probably time to put on those reading glasses and get to it. Some high-level things to look for:

  • Typos and grammatical errors.
  • Misinformation and factual errors.
  • Outdated information that’s no longer relevant.
  • Complicated language that can be simplified.

Next, look at the relevance and the freshness of the content for your site. If you have informational pages that were once hot topics but are now stale and moldy, think about your “evergreening” strategy.

Update the pages to make them something people would want to read today. And don’t forget to resubmit for Google to re-crawl it once it’s complete. In Bing, you do this through its Webmaster Tools.

Content isn’t just limited to your text. Look at the images and videos on your Web pages and ask:

  • Are they still in tune with your brand?
  • Do they look outdated?
  • Is there a way they can be improved with little effort?
  • Do the videos still play?
  • Are they positioned well on the Web page?

Again, start with the most important pages as outlined in the previous section. Conversion optimization tactics can be helpful here. Some tools to help you:

3. Ask for Feedback

When’s the last time you asked users what their experience was on your site? If you’ve ever been involved in the development or marketing of a site where what the CEO “likes” is the ultimate decision, it’s time for some outside perspective.

There’s lots of ways you can garner feedback about your website:

  • Organize focus groups with people in your industry, teams within your company and/or your target consumers. Each one of those groups will have different motivations and expectations of the site, so input from all gives you a “360-degree” view.
  • Send out surveys asking questions about the site and its performance. SurveyMonkey has a free option and works well.
  • Look into tools for user feedback <– that link to SiteTuners has cool tools that include Kampyle, UserVoice and LivePerson.

And if you want to learn more about user experience, take a look at this month’s SEO Newsletter, where we talk about SEO and blogging and how they relate to the UX.

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4 responses to “3 Steps to a Better User Experience on Your Site”

  1. Keri Morgret writes:

    I took over operation of a forum, and discovered that on the home page of the site (that I never visited because I went straight to the forum) there was a bad typo! I used a free scan from CheckDog (http://checkdog.com/) to scan a few of my static pages for typos.

    A cheap-and-dirty spell-check that I did on the forums was to go into Google Analytics and export the titles of all of the pages with traffic in the last year or two. I put the titles into Word in plain text and used its spelling checker. I went ahead and fixed forum thread titles so the site looked better at first glance in the SERPs and in browsing the site. Because that site was user generated content, and I didn’t have the time and money to run a scan of all the content, I only fixed the titles and static areas and left the rest alone. Not something that can be done in every case, but it worked for me.

    Xenu is just for the PC, so Mac users may want to look at Screaming Frog as a crawler. There’s a nice outline of what both Xenu and Screaming Frog do at http://www.seomoz.org/blog/crawler-faceoff-xenu-vs-screaming-frog.

  2. Kent writes:

    Hi Jessica, using eye tracking software to track is the most accurate way to check if a website has better user experience or not.

  3. Nick Stamoulis writes:

    404 errors not only ruin the user experience but are also bad from a search engine trust perspective. A great tool to find broken links is Link Tiger. It’s a manual process to go through and fix the links, but it’s worth it.

  4. Jessica Lee writes:

    @Keri: Thanks for all the great info; super helpful and appreciate it! See you in SF?



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