5 Essential Usability Tips to Get Your Website Ready for 2016

Published December 23, 2015 ⚡ Updated on August 7, 2018 by Markus Pirker

Boom! Another year is over.

What did you do in 2015 to make your website more user-friendly?

Not enough? Don’t worry!

Here are five main tasks to start off with in 2016.

1. Check your Website for Dead Links

There is nothing more frustrating for your website visitors thank clicking on a link which doesn’t work.

Time for a new year cleaning!

What you can do right now:

If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest using Google Webmaster Tools for your site.

Beside many other information like search terms and referral links, you’ll see all 404 errors on your site.

There is a great post on the Moz blog on how to fix crawl errors in Google Webmaster Tools which is worth checking out.

How to save your 404 errors using Google Webmaster Tools

If you’re hosting a WordPress Blog, I recommend installing the free Broken Link Checker Plugin.

It regularly scans all your existing links and automatically send email notifications to blog authors or/and administrators.

No more broken links in your blog posts.

2. Double-check Hover states on Mobile Devices

Displaying information only when visitors hover over terms can be a great way to de-clutter your site.

Unfortunately, tablets and smartphones don’t support hover interaction (at least not yet).

Therefore it could be problematic if you information or functionality is only accessible on hover.

Make sure to check your site on multiple devices to make sure your content displays correctly.

Hover states on mobile devices
Actions in WordPress are only visible on hover for desktop devices and always displayed on a mobile device. Image from Trent Walton

We came across this problem lately in this Usability Test from cotton-color.com – a webshop we’re working on.

The visitor wrongly assumes that a product is added to his wish list after a touch on an iPad.

What really happened was that an icon that was only displayed on hover on the desktop-version suddenly appeared on a touch.

The problem: Nothing was added to his wish list.

What you can do right now:

  • Double-check hover areas for your site on multiple devices.
  • See if information or functionality is hidden on hover on a mobile device that could somehow have bad impact on the overall user experience
  • Set up a remote usability test in 3 minutes to see how visitors use your site on their own mobile devices, and if they come across any problems with hover states.

3. Verify your Sign-up Flow is Error-tolerant

Already adjust your Google Adwords budget for 2016? Great. But before you invest in advertising you should really make sure that your site can react accordingly to errors.

How your site reacts to errors can make or break the customer experience. Click To Tweet

If someone registers or checks out your site then that process needs to be as seamless and simple as possible.

You don’t want to lose customers or give them a bad experience when using your site!


Error tolerant webdesign
How does your site react to errors?

Most of the tim, we design our sites for the “best case scenario” but completely forget that errors can happen at some point.

How your site reacts to errors can make or break the customer experience.

What you can do right now:

  • Check your registration process with actual users to ensure that:
    A: It works. (You wouldn’t believe how many broken sign-up processes we found during our usability studies.)
    B: Your error messages are easy to understand and helpful.
  • Manually check the feedback and wording your validation delivers on entries that generate errors.
  • Feedback should be in the users’ language (words, phrases, and concepts familiar to the user rather than overly technical terms). Review your error messages to determine if they are written in simple language. An effective error message indicates the problem and suggests a solution. Never use language that blames the user for the error!

To learn more about error-tolerant design, there is an excellent book by Matthew Linderman titled “Defensive Design for the Web.”

4. Revise Top Search Keywords

If your Web site or Web shop features a prominent search function you’ve made the life of your customers already a lot easier.

According to widespread estimation, your site visitors perform searches on half of their visits.

How to Improve your internal site search using Google Analytics
Go to Behavior -> Site Search -> Overview to see your internal site searches in Google Analytics

That is reason enough to make sure that your site’s search function gives visitors what they need.

Visitors become frustrated when they search for something, and the results have nothing to do with want they wanted.

What you can do right now:

  • Check your Top 10 most frequent search queries to determine if they are retrieving the expected results. If you haven’t set-up search tracking, you can do so with Google Analytics.
  • Review your Top 10 search queries, and revise each one individually as needed.
    • Does the query deliver any results?
    • Are quality results generated?
    • Are the Top 5 results relevant? If not, then manually link the search query to existing products or pages that are relevant.

For more information about on how to improve your site’s search function read Lou Rosenfeld’s “Beyond Goals: Site Search Analytics from the Bottom Up“.

5. Update Your Footer to 2016

If you’re using a static timestamp in your footer to indicate the copyright year, remember to change it now to 2016!

Otherwise, just go to “Update Your Footer” and copy the snippets to display an automatically updated copyright year and save yourself a lot of hassle in 2017.

What other things are you doing to improve your site in 2016? Tell us using the comment option.

P.S: If you want to make usability testing a habit in 2016, check out userbrain.net. 🙂

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