Five things you can do to improve your website.

I recently bought a house. The final version of the contract was signed in the back of a car. At night. On the way to a bar. Mind you, this was not my first pass at the document, but it was a Saturday night, I was out with my friends, and eager to finalize the deal. And the last thing I wanted to do, was look at my friends and say, ‘could this wait until I sign a contract on a house?’

So I hopped into the car, clicked through to the site, reviewed the last few things that changed, and digitally signed the document from my phone. What does all this have to do with improving your website? Your site should be able to deliver on its core promises on any device, at any place, whenever it is needed. Here’s a few ways to ensure your site does that:

  1. 1. Think beyond just being responsive

All platforms should work well with your site, but mobile needs to be the best. Consumers expect that mobile experiences will make their lives easier (like purchasing real estate from the back of a moving car after a cocktail). Make sure your site works everywhere at any time on any device. Which means you need to think beyond just looking good on a mobile phone:

  • Can native mobile components make the mobile experience even easier?
  • Does the experience on your site work seamlessly when a user moves from wifi to cell signal?
  • Is all navigation and content available on your desktop site also available on all mobile devices?
  • Does your site employ mobile best practices?
  1. 2. Test, test, and retest

Get out of your comfort zone – go beyond looking at the physical devices available to you – test on every available device, operating system, and browser (and every combination thereof). Sound like a lot of work? There are testing sites out there that make it easy – BrowserStack is one such offering where you can test on dozens of possible configurations and likely a few dozen more you hadn’t even thought of. It’s a simple-to-use SaaS product that helps you make sure your site works flawlessly on all platforms – and it’s cheap too, with plans starting at around 30 bucks.

  1. 3. Friends don’t let friends test alone

You’ve been working with your company’s site for years. It’s your baby. You’ve tested it on every possible configuration and you know it like the back of your hand. Who have you asked to look at it outside your company? Don’t just test within your team. Ask Aunt Gladys, your neighbor, your mother, and your spouse. It needn’t be an exhaustive task either – two or three minutes are all they should need. Ask them to do two things from the device they are most comfortable with:

  • Perform your most important measure of success – i.e. click to apply, add something to their cart, download a report, etc.
  • Find a buried, but common and easy to find piece of information about your company – i.e. your mailing address or location

Have simple questions you ask each person:

  • How easy was it to perform the requested tasks?
  • Was anything confusing?

You’re looking for more than dead links and images that don’t load. This is all about usability. Was it clear to someone unfamiliar with your site how to navigate and complete the most desired action?

  1. 4. Never trust your success to Aunt Gladys

I’m sure she makes the best rum balls at Christmas, but is she really your target audience? While collecting the anecdotal research above can be very helpful, the amount of insight you gain from systematic controlled user testing with an experienced moderator is worth its weight in gold. (GOLD, Jerry!)

And don’t just test your final design. If usability tests turn up something germane to information hierarchy, you may find you need to undo some of your carefully thought out design. Think about user testing with high fidelity wireframes.

We once watched several users not find one of the most important CTAs on the home screen of a mobile app we had been building for months. So we moved it from one side of the screen to the other – suddenly every subsequent user saw it. Even your most experienced UX designer can’t predict the surprising things you uncover in user testing.

  1. 5. For the love of all that is digital, hire an agency

Disclosure: I’m biased on this one.

One of the best offerings a great agency will bring to the table is the ability to leverage their decades of experience combined with an ‘outsider’s’ viewpoint to build an experience that is sometimes difficult to achieve ‘inside’ the organization. Plus, your selected agency should bring a breadth of expertise from the latest tech and design trends to SEO best practices that are often hard to replicate in-house. All those data and analytics you’ve gathered? They’ll use them to inform user experience and information hierarchy. Have you not gathered data and analytics? They can help set that up for you too.

These days, most people will go to your site as the very first handshake with your business. Whether you’re a new startup in town or a global bank that’s been around for a hundred years, people want to get a sense of who you are and how easy it is to work with you. And while your products may be best-in-class, poor user experience on your site can be just enough for your target customer to walk away from them. We have more than a decade of experience building innovative digital experiences large and small and would love to talk with you about how we can help improve your site. Let’s chat!