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First impressions really matter and your website gives countless first impressions of your organisation with each new visitor. What are the simplest ways to improve a website’s performance?
When was the last time you waited patiently for a webpage to load? Today everyone expects professionnaly built websites to offer smooth navigation and fast access to great content from any device. Websites which fall short in delivering a good user experience will give a negative first impression of your organisation, before visitors have even started reading any of the site’s content.
At Acacia, we often see organisations who have invested significant resources in building content-rich websites, while overlooking some simple basic principles. For example, they have websites which look good and load relatively fast when viewed on desktop computer but are sluggish and difficult to navigate on small screens. Or sometimes the company prides itself of keeping up-to-date with latest industry trends in the ‘About us’ page but the blog articles are six month old.
The problem is often that fixing these things, never seems too urgent and therefore never gets done. Although these points can appear minor, over time they result in significant losses in website traffic, audience engagement and ultimately lost sales opportunities.
Once organisations commit to their website, where should they start? Here are six key aspects to keep in mind in order to offer optimum user experience on any website.
1) Fast page loading
The time audiences are willing to wait for a webpage to load has been steadily decreasing over the years. As early as 1999, Zona research established that if your website takes more than eight seconds to load, up to a third of your visitors are lost.
This is why a webpage load time is a crucial aspects of its performance. A slow website reduces dramatically the amount of visitors. It is worth pointing out that as technology accelerates, a website which was within acceptable load times a couple of years ago will be slow today.
It is crucial that when a website is initially built, all its content is properly optimised to load quickly and be easily indexed by search engines.
That way, as technology progresses it becomes only a matter of improving certains aspects of it, rather than having to rebuild content from scratch.
2) Responsive webpages
Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the main tool with which people surf the web. The content of your organisation’s site needs to look its best regardless of the screen size of the device your visitors are using. For example, mobile device users have little patience for websites where text doesn’t reflow gracefully as they rotate their device from horizontal to vertical position.
When designing a website with small screens and responsiveness in mind, the risk is to stick to very basic web page layouts, which might be a bit too bland when the site is viewed on a large computer screen. A good web designer will know how to create striking designs which will adapt smoothly in all scenarios.
3) Easy navigation
This is even more important now than a few years ago, when websites were only visited on desktop computers. How many levels of navigation does your organisation’s website have? Are they all necessary? A very easy to navigate small website will always get a better response than a large website with a lot of buried content.
4) Tailored calls to actionIf after visiting several sections of your organisation’s website, visitors aren’t encourage to get in touch or leave some contact details, you won’t be able to engage with them further.
An organisation’s website must have at least one ‘sticky’ page where for example visitors are encouraged to leave their contact details in exchange of a free download or a product sample.
5) Regular updates
The web is full of static websites which are very rarely updated, casting doubt about the health of the business they represent. Although your organisation might not have the resources to commit to creating weekly blog posts, it is important to regularly update the main sections of your site during the year. New case studies or a regularly refreshed home page go a long way in communicating the health of your organisation.
With so much business and communications conducted online nowadays, security is more important than ever before. Visitors to your website want to feel secure. This can be as simple as displaying your contact details, address information and copyright in the footer.
For websites handling lots of correspondence from customers (like enquiry forms) or selling goods, the use of a security certificate is almost essential and has the added bonus of displaying a characteristic ‘green padlock’ icon in the web browser address bar; reassuring a user that the website is genuine and secure.
There are of course additional points which could be added to the list but these are a good start.
François Reynier is Creative Director at Acacia.