Engine Optimization and Web Site Usability
Build a Web site and the people will come.
Ha! If it were only that easy! The Web is the one sales environment
where the customer has total empowerment. They have all the resources
(i.e., your competitors) just a mouse-click away.
Not only are you in competition with the millions of other Web
sites owners who sell the same product/service as you, but you are
also competing for users' time and attention. While search engine
optimization and submission can bring you the traffic you need,
only you can ensure that visitors will stay on your site by giving
them a reason to want to stay. That is where Web site usability
What is Web site usability?
The International Standards Organization (ISO) defines Web site
usability as the "effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction
with which a specified set of users can achieve a specified set
of tasks in a particular environment." In simpler terms, usability
is how efficiently and effectively users can accomplish what they
are trying to do when they visit your Web site.
Now that you have an understanding of usability, we'll explain
the basics of what a Web site should include to make the most of
the user experience:
Content is king
Let's face it, people visit Web sites for content -- they want
information. Sure, it helps if your site is visibly appealing as
well. But, without the right content, the results of the user experience
can be fatal to your business. They simply won't come back.
Here are a few tips to remember in regards to content:
1. Be concise. Research shows that reading from a computer screen
is about 25% slower than reading from paper or other print medium.
To that end, you will want to edit your writing to say the exact
same thing in half the words it would take if you were writing on
paper. Also, think back to the last time you came to one of those
really long-winded Web sites where the content may have been great,
but you still had to scroll and scroll and scroll to get to the
end. It can be a nuisance. So, keep your pages short.
2. Make your content scannable. When people use the Internet, they
are looking at mass amounts of information. Help them get to the
core of what they want by using bulleted items, short paragraphs,
and subheadings to make it easier for them to find what they are
3. Write without error. There is no excuse -- absolutely none --
for poor grammar, typographical errors, and misspellings. If you
own a computer, you have access to spell-checking and grammar-checking
technologies. Use them. These small details will reflect upon your
site. If you don't convey professionalism on your own business,
how will you be conveyed to potential clients? Can they trust you
with theirs? Before uploading any new content, proofread it. Then,
turn it over to someone else for their input.
4. Write as if you were a Public Relations pro. Granted, many of
us aren't PR exec's, but you should know how to market your business.
Use the lingo that is most appropriate for your business. While
you want to provide information, your main goal is still one thing:
to sell. So, write to sell.
5. Maximize your keywords. As part of the search engine optimization
process, you went to great lengths to select keywords and phrases
that are most appropriate for your business. Be sure to use them
whenever possible (without being overtly redundant) in your content.
6. Refresh, refresh, refresh. Web sites should be updated on a
regular basis -- don't let them go stale. Add new products/services,
update users with new information and tools, do what you can to
change your content and keep users coming back for more.
7. Know your audience. Since most audiences vary in terms of experience
level with both your product/service and their experience level
with the internet, you will want to simplify things more than ever.
You don't want to talk to yourself - make sure potential clients
understand your product/service. The best way to do this is to create
content that is informative, yet easy to understand for even the
newest of the newbies.
Web site design
Secondary to content is the actual design of your Web site. While
the user comes to your site specifically for information, they also
will want to enter an area that is easy to use and visually appealing.
Here are some usability tips regarding Web site design:
1. Avoid long load times. While the latest technology for Web sites
is incredibly interesting and fun, lots of graphics, Flash images,
and audio can create long load times that make the user wait. And,
if customers have to wait too long, they may leave -- and never
come back. As a guide, users will generally wait for a site to load
for ten seconds before vacating.
2. Make your pages easy to read. A common error in Web usability
is the incessant need to create the prettiest Web site that ever
existed. We've all seen them - every color from the Crayola box
of 64 has made its mark on these pages. And, with a little bit of
color usually comes a lot of cute little images that dance across
your screen. In all seriousness, resist the urge to do this. Not
only will it hoard a lot of memory, but it will drive your users
crazy. Black text on a white background is the easiest to read.
If you really want a colored background, stick with a lighter shade,
but remember to use black text.
3. Create a well-organized site. Maintaining a consistent look
and feel throughout your site is critical. The navigation you use
on the home page should be carried out throughout your Web site.
Clear navigation can either make or break your site. You are basically
providing your users with a road map to your products and services.
Don't let them get lost along the way.
4. Consider your space. Content should amount to 50-80% of your
page design, with navigation taking up approximately 20% of the
5. Stay consistent with design elements. Select one or two (maximum)
fonts and stick with them throughout your site.
6. Have a secure and automated server. Amazingly only 20% of current
Web sites are secure.
7. What can you do different? This is probably the most important
thing to remember when designing your site. Think about your business
and your competition. What are you doing differently that will make
users visit your site? Once you find out what that is -- whether
you offer the lowest prices, have a special widget that no one else
sells, or have reputable customer service -- capitalize on that
one thing by incorporating it in your design elements.
There are good sites on the Internet and there are an equal number
of bad sites (if not more!) out there. The good sites provide for
a smooth user experience - easy navigation and easy-to-find information.
The bad sites are slow to load, difficult to navigate and leave
the users frustrated before they can even get to the information
they initially needed. If you've already invested the time and effort
into developing a Web site, you should take a serious look at the
usability of your site. Here's an easy homework assignment: Some
day, when you've got a few hours to spare, surf the Internet and
make note of sites you think are good and which ones drove you absolutely
crazy. Investigate the qualities of those sites and what made them
good or bad. Pretty soon, you'll start to see some patterns that
you can learn from and implement into your own usability strategy.
Remember, usability is all about creating a unique and enlightening
user experience. Usability is the name of the game -- isn't it time
you started playing?
About the Author
As Submit Todays copywriter and editor, Kristy Meghreblian
has written online content for many successful companies, including
Monster.com. She has successfully combined her excellence in journalism
with the delicate art of keyword density as it relates to search
engine optimization. As a result, she has helped many Submit Today
clients achieve top ranking. Submit Today (http://www.SubmitToday.com)
is a leading search engine optimization, submission and ranking
company located in Naples, Florida. firstname.lastname@example.org
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