10 Ways to Improve Your Website Usability

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Many marketers will tell you that no matter how good your website design is, if it is hard for your readers to understand what it is all about, you are literally leaving a huge pile of money on the table. When I used to sell websites as a telemarketer – give me a break, you’ve got to start somewhere – I always heard my coworker say “But if you have a $20,000 website and nobody goes to it, you might as well fold it up and put it in your back pocket.” Well, I hate to say it but he’s right and that directly translates to usability.

The good news however is that improving the usability of your website is not rocket science. You don’t even need to know code or any of that other technical stuff to give your users an enhanced experience.

These 10 simple tips will help you increase time on site while decreases bounce rate.  They will also entice them to come back over and over again. All you have to do is implement them.


The success of your site largely depends on how readable your content is. Of course, good readable content goes hand in hand with your web design; however, it’s still amazing to see just how many people ignore the fundamentals of producing readable content.

The general idea is that your content should be:

  • Easy and pleasant to read
  • Must make sense. It should be easy to understand and comprehend
  • Content should be scannable. Studies show that most users won’t read through your whole page so always make it easy for everyone to find the important and useful information.

Still on the need of being terse with your content, Nielsen Norman group conducted more research on usability of sites and found that there was a 58% increase in web usability when webmasters cut the number of words that appear on their pages in half.

Interesting huh? Well, this can only be achieved by:

  • Being relevant.
  • Saying what needs to be said first.
  • Avoiding jargon and fluff.
  • Using only simple words.
  • Avoiding long paragraphs and sentences. 

In short, get straight to the point with your content!

Use of sub headings

Take a look at the preceding paragraphs. You will notice that the use of bulleted lists and short paragraphs actually make for a seamless flowing reading experience. In fact, according to Gerry McGovern, most internet readers do not read content in blocks.

His study found out that readers will move their eyes across websites at amazingly fast speeds in very different patterns. This dominant reading pattern however, looks like an F. The heat map image below shows your reading patterns and which sections get the most eyeballs.

heat map software

So just how do you accommodate such patterns? Well, one way would be to break up long stacks of texts by using sub headings and bulleted lists. Sub headings and bulleted lists allow your readers to easily scan your content and find what interests them most and focus on that. Hence the reason that I’m using so many sub headings and bulleted lists in this post!

Additionally, before writing you can:

  • Logically organize your thoughts and have an outline of what you want to write about.
  • Use keyword rich subheadings for each major point of your post.
  • Make sure your sub headings are short and easy to understand.

Bonus: The importance of bulleted lists should not be ignored. They not only help to speed up the reading and enhance appearance of your blog post or page but it has also been found by Click Tale that readers fixate longer on bulleted lists within posts making it easier for you to keep your visitors on your site.

Have a clear message

This sounds obvious, but you would not believe the number of people who blog about EVERYTHING. Today its sports, tomorrow its politics and the next days its Kim Kardashian. Usually such types of people are looking to make a quick buck.

Keep the message within you blog and website consistent. Sporadic bouts of massive traffic will only fool you as to think that you are being effective while really you are only being productive.[tweet this].

Pro tip: If you liked that “tweet this” option you can implement it on your own blog by going to this blog post here!

Better to have 100 highly targeted visitors per day and convert 10 than have 1000 people visit your site and convert none. This way, it is easier to build lasting relationships with people who you know are interested in what you have to say.

Image selection and placement

use images to increase conversions

You have heard the old cliché “A picture is worth a thousands words”, well it’s absolutely true. Having good content is great but what’s better is having the right images to accompany the content.

The screenshot above is the control and the treatment from a MarketingExperiments blog post that shows how SAP increased conversions by 62% by just using images.

Humans are visual beings. That’s why it’s common to hear most people say they will only believe something when they see it. Having the right images that appeal to your audience makes all the difference. You should make it a point to always use high quality images on your site. In fact, it could be the difference between converting your traffic and losing them. It isn’t any wonder then why the internet is saturated with infographics now a days.

That said, the placement of the images is also important. Oversized, blurred and out of place images can have an equally negative effect on your readers. Blogger Chris Fernandez wrote a brilliant piece on image usability. You can check it out here.

Choose right color and contrast combination

With color, it is important to remember that different colors will affect your user’s psychology and experience in different ways.

All colors have a hidden meaning and in choosing the right colors for your brand or website, you are sending out a particular message to your audience. So just how do you select the right color for your blog?

Here is how you can achieve that:

  • Work around your favorite colors and make it the dominant color of your site.
  • Use a mixture of neutral colors and your favorite color (this always seems to work).
  • Have a professional, do it for you. Haha…but seriously though, hire a professional.

The following article on the psychology behind the color selection of some of the world’s biggest brands is a must read if you are looking to gain an in-depth knowledge on colors and there meanings.

Improve your navigation

easy to follow website navigation

Note: TripAdvisor has easy to follow navigation. Probably why they are a popular travel site.

The key to making sure your readers have an awesome navigation experience on your site is to have a simple layout. In fact, experts used to recommend that people should find what they are looking for on your site within three clicks max! Keeping everything clean and simple makes it easier for your audience to find the vital information they need.

In essence, people should only look at your website once to know what’s going on. In order for this to happen you must always make sure that:

  • Your site is organized in a simple way.
  • Use language that is easily understandable to everyone.
  • Have a separate landing page for each category and have links to products or service details there          .

Of course, you cannot forget that today most people access the internet on their mobile devices, so you have to make sure your site is mobile friendly and can be navigated on both desktops and smartphones.

Think like your audience

Business coach Stephen Covey wrote the best selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In it, he states that one of the habits is to start with the end in mind and I totally agree with that.

It is important to know your audience and know that people arrive on your site looking for a particular piece of information and your job is to give it to them. Even trickier is that all this has to be done in a couple of seconds otherwise they will hit the back button and be gone forever.

A good way to know whether your audience will love your site is to objectively analyze each page of your site and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it attractive?
  • Does it have a simple clean layout that makes it easy to find important information?
  • Will the information presented answer all questions and clear any objections.
  • Use a testing software like Visual Website Optimizer to really drill down on what works with your audience and what doesn’t.

In short, always make sure you answer all your readers’ questions. Remember people read your content because they believe your have the answer to their problem and if they can’t find that from you, they will surely get it from someone else.

Make links user friendly 

Including resource links in your content not only helps to improve your credibility, but it also tells the readers that your content is well researched and factual. However, did you know that the proper use of links can help with the readability of your site?

Here is how you can do that:

  • Show what links have already been visited by the user by styling the invited user selector with a different color. Nielsen’s study thoroughly explains the importance of this.
  • Using link titles to give your links more context and to inform users on what to expect after clicking on your link.

You can read this guide for more information on visualizing your links.

Be interactive and engage

engaging with audience

There is nothing worse than a blogger who doesn’t interact with his readers. Comments, shares and likes are actually the vitals of your blog. They determine how well your blog is performing. Which is why I try to engage with my audience as mush as possible.

In fact, if anything, they have a direct result on the success of your blog so to choose to ignore those who interact with your readers through these mediums is like committing blogging suicide. Responding to comments actually shows that you not only appreciate your readers, but also that you care enough to spare some time to engage with them.

The good news is that once they feel appreciated, they will come back over and over again.

Keep it simple

Lastly to make your website/blog more usable, keep it simple. Don’t try to overcomplicated things. Write in easy to understand language and in your own voice. Never imitate. Be short and to the point.

Remember, we live in a very impatient world and we want everything now. So give your readers what they are looking for immediately, in fact, in the first few sentences (learn how to hook readers by writing a powerful introduction paragraph). This way they actually have a higher chance of staying on your site longer just to hear more of what you have to say.

P.S. Go ahead and try to beat that maze above. I couldn’t!

So there you go, 10 ways to make your site more usable. There are definitely more, however, these 10 will greatly improve your users’ experience. Try them out and see for yourself. Let me know in the comments what other ways you’ve helped increase your sites usability!

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14 thoughts on “10 Ways to Improve Your Website Usability

  1. Hey Jason,

    Loved your content and bookmarked it for later. Definitely some interesting stuff there…

    However, I got pretty annoyed by the floating “socialbar”? I’m currently using Mozilla and it floats on the content. I had to resize the mozilla window to 70%.


  2. Jason,

    Great post.
    Funny, I just posted today about increasing website conversion rates and one of the top factors I list is making sites easy to use. Easy sells, difficult chases visitors away.

    1. Thanks Steve. Funny how I come across sites all the time – sites that look like they have awesome design/content – yet find myself leaving because what they’re saying isn’t laid out easy enough to even comprehend. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post Jason. I have been reading the book “Don’t Me Think” by Steve Krueger where he says that keep it as simple as possible with your content.

    Don’t make them think because if you make them think, they are likely to leave your website.

    1. Totally! As marketer we want to guide our customers to make the right decision…we never want them to make a decision on their own. Thanks for sharing!

  4. i thought my website was good enough but now after reading your post, i realize that i can work my site better. thanks for sharing such information. it helps a lot

  5. One additional way to improve your website usability: Remove the distracting “Share” element on the left side that keeps sliding up and down when scrolling this article. I only managed to read the top ten sentences.

    1. Haha. Thanks for sharing Martina! I’m testing different social share buttons at the moment. Do you have a favorite that you use?

  6. Hi Jason,
    Your article is really good and clear to understand, I appreciate very much your help!

    Do you have an article about e-commerce usability optimization?

  7. I really believe the “Think like your audience” tip is important. There are various types of software out there that allow you to “spy” on your visitors (I have used Clicktale, but I am sure there are others).
    It is amazing to see where people spend most of their time on a page. Not always what you would expect.

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