Usability: Why You Need to De-clutter Your Website

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Guest post by Val Cline

I love clean sheets

Who doesn’t love climbing into a bed with fresh, clean sheets? They smell great, feel great and I just feel very cared for. I can just relax, surrender and enjoy. Tension just melts away in a clean calm space.

Why?

Because clutter is an energy drainer. Clutter really blocks us from doing and having the things we want (and need) and de-cluttering is a simple win for us right?

Yes. Yes it is.

The same energy drainers, blocks and frustrations crop up when faced with a cluttered website. It’s true! We’ve all suffered through some really bad experiences online. Fortunately things get better every year as more and more learn the importance of what we call UX or “User Experience”.

You know what I’m talking about. The sites that prevent us from doing or finding what we need with ease and simplicity.  Thing is we have increasingly less tolerance for a website that annoys us than we do for that vacuum bag that needs to be emptied.

If you have a website, you only have seconds to please people.  So it better be as clean and de-cluttered as possible.

So I ask you this:  How often have you changed the bedding for your website?

Ever?

Ewwwwwew.

Maybe you don’t think you need to do your website laundry, but really.

You should check.

It would be very embarrassing if others noticed your dirty laundry and you were oblivious right?

Sadly often this is the reality.

Maybe it’s time to check that bathroom you never go into as well.

Navigation and Purpose

When you see a dirty bathroom in a restaurant, how does that make you feel about the kitchen? Would you go back? Would you recommend that place to a friend?

Even if the food was amazing, wouldn’t you question their integrity?

YES.

Worse -if you visited the bathroom first you might not even know the food is amazing, because you might just leave.

So what does this mean?

It means if the experience of using your website, reading your content, understanding your message and goals is confusing or challenging in any way, people may not come back and they may make all kinds of assumptions about how you do business based on their experience with your website.

AND you only have a few seconds to make that good impression.

5 things you want your website audience to feel

  • They got what they came for
  • They found it easily
  • Their experience instilled trust
  • They clearly understand your purpose
  • They have complete confidence in you

Website usability (UX or User Experience) is a vast topic, so I’ll keep it super simple here and focus on a few of the basics.

Start Here: De-clutter your vision and purpose online

If you want to get serious about the experience you are providing the people who use your website start with having a clear vision and purpose online.

Consider the following:

  • What is your website’s purpose?
    • Is your whole site designed to achieve this?
    • What is the clear purpose of each section?
    • What is the site’s main takeaway for your ideal clients?
      • Are you talking to your ideal clients?
      • Are you sure they would know you are talking to them?
      • How do you want them to feel?
      • What actions do you want your ideal clients to take?
      • What are your goals online?
        • Give your calls to action priorities (1-book a session, 2-buy a course, 3-join my FB, 4-buy my e-book)

4 No Brainer Usability Tips

Don’t hide your content

You know those fancy sliding up-y, down-y navigation systems? The ones where you click on an item and then the list below it slides down, or across and exposes a sub-list of links for you to click on?

Sometimes you can’t click on it fast enough and it closes or maybe you do click on it, and the list snaps back up, hiding the link you clicked on.

You are now on the page of the link you clicked on, but there is no other indication on the page telling you where you are. What did I click on again?!?.  If you find this difficult to follow or understand -trust me, it’s just as difficult to follow and understand if you tried to use it.

Personally, I feel the only good use of such a navigation technique is when you have an enormous amount of content. Having sliding, showing/hiding navigation systems can be very useful, but they need to be done well, with lots of testing and thought.

Try not to clutter up something as important as your website navigation. Using fancy plugin’s or flashy moving navigations that slide around is often just an obstacle for your users to overcome.  Keep things intuitive, clear and simple when you can.

This also goes for needless “Click Here for More” buttons and landing pages that offer no real purpose or content. Consider how many hoops you are asking people to jump through before they get what they want. Before they get what you want them to get!  Make it simple and remove the navigation obstacles -even if you think they look super pretty, like that landing page with a huge image and a button that asks people to click for the “real” information”.

If you’ve got a beautiful smile, don’t hide it.

Keep people oriented

Use “ON” states in your navigation. This is a super easy one, but many people still don’t do it. I feel it’s like the turn signal of the internet.  It’s so easy and so helpful yet many people just don’t use them.

An “ON” state is basically some visual indication that tells me where I am on your website. When I click “Blog” on your website the “ON” state would be how that link in your navigation looks after I click it. Hopefully it will be a different colour, or have a box around it or maybe a line underneath. Something visual will change to help me understand where I am.

Knowing where I am at all times really helps me bounce around your content with ease. I can relax and soak up all your great content.  It may not seem like much, but believe me -you really can’t do this with ease when there are no “ON” states.

YES people do get lost.

I’ve sat in on many user experience trials and read UX (user experience) reports that indicate how people get lost. Ask someone to re-find something interesting they found on your site and see how long it takes them to find it again.

Fortunately this can be easy to fix.

Tips for orienting people easily

  • Use navigation “ON” states
  • Use section headings for all pages
  • Create unique header images for each section
  • Make section sub navigation available easily
  • Purposely direct people where you want them to go
  • Ask yourself always -how can I direct people with ease where I want them to go?

Consider this: Sally comes to your website and gets caught up in all the great content you have but she needs to stop reading and go pick up her kids from school.  Later, she goes back to your site, but can’t find what she was looking for.  She might have loved something you said about a service you provide or were thinking of providing; she can’t remember.  She want’s to email you about it but she can’t find it.  Was it in your about me section, the podcast notes, your services page?  It becomes too difficult to bother trying to describe it to you so she gives up.

She might even think your courses or services might be equally confusing.

Gasp!

Make your “calls to action” obvious and consistent

Sounds obvious but sometimes it isn’t easy to understand what’s clickable on all sites. It really helps if you are consistent. Help a poor website user out.

Make clickable things super clear:

  • Give all links a “HOVER” state that clearly shows that it’s a link when you put your mouse or finger on it because it changes colour or a line appears
  • Give links a colour that is different enough from your main text colour so it actually stands out -we like contrast
  • Make sure clickable promotional images are obviously clickable, super easy to read & super easy to understand what to expect when you click on it
  • Make all your clickable promotional images look similar so we all know in a second what that is when we see something similar on your site
    • It’s not an ad
    • It’s not an affiliate link
    • It’s one of your amazing promotions -I better click on that now!
    • Make sure all your call to action buttons look the same and are very obvious action calls. Make them big, make them clear and make them all the same because:
      • People scan read
      • People’s brains will easily register that offer
      • People will effortlessly know what to do and expect

If you are a small business owner, your website is an extension of you and how you do business. For you I want you to shine so you can share what you have with the people who need it.

De-cluttering your website can be a huge energy gainer. It doesn’t matter if you have the fanciest prettiest website on the planet. Function trumps beauty. Go for that clear, calm de-cluttered website, attract and keep the clients that need your services and get some digital zen.

Val Cline is an Digital Strategist with a twist.  She has 20 years of experience helping people reach online business goals. Her background spans many years in the corporate world managing online projects for Fortune 500 companies, large Broadcasters, Ad Agencies and small Creative Start Ups.  She's also had many businesses of her own online.

Val can see the path of ease for you online and zero in on the things that will and won't work for you and why, what needs to be done and when, why and what just should not be done.  She finds the honesty and truth of your "now" and your "how" so your online plan actually aligns with you and connects with your clients.

Soul Based Digital Strategy is what she practices and she uses coaching skills as a trained Life Coach to help you be true to your life and business goals for Digital Zen. You can find out more about how she works and how to work with her at www.valcline.com.

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