Website User Experience guidelines

Keep these user experience principles in mind when optimizing your site

1. Focus on your users’ goals

Step back and first ask yourself, “How can I give my users what they want while getting what I want?” The first step in answering this is to figure out what your users’ goals are, what your goals are, and how they work together.

You’ll need to think about what your site’s core offerings and strengths are. AdSense recommends keeping this to one or two strengths. Though your site may be good at many things, you should focus on what it’s great at.

Some questions to ask yourself when starting out are:

  • How are your users finding your site?
  • What are they looking for?
  • Do you give them what they want?
  • What do you want from your users?
  • How do you get the desired response from them?
How can I give my users what they want while getting what I want?

You’re a tech news site and after considering each of the questions above, you determine that:

  • Most of your users come from search engines and land on the article page
  • Your user is looking for the content of the article they searched for
  • You show them a full-page article on the landing page
  • Your goal is to keep the user engaged so that they stay longer and see more content
  • The answer here is the real challenge. You need to prove to the user that there’s other valuable content on your site and encourage them to read more. This can be accomplished by including some related or popular articles at the bottom of each article.

2. Employ a clear structure to guide users

Regardless of what page a user lands on, you only have a few seconds on that first screen with the space above the fold to get their attention and show them what you’re all about.

Employing a simple hierarchy will give your page a clear structure that will guide users and highlight what you want them to see.

Another thing to keep in mind is the information architecture of your site. Users are able to recognise familiar pages from unfamiliar ones based on the consistent way you organise and display information on your site.

If your website’s structure is not logical or what they expect, users will be lost and not sure where to go next. This adds to overall frustration and can lead to users leaving your site.

Use these simple design tips to create a structure for your page:

  • Contrast: Using colour, saturation or opacity to juxtapose elements on the page.
  • Size: Size is one of the easiest design levers to guide your users. Don’t be afraid to use BIG and BOLD elements to draw users’ attention to the most important information on the page.
  • Alignment: Elements that share a common axis appear related.
  • White space: Drawing attention to specific elements by leaving empty space around them. It also makes your design more appealing to the eye.
  • Grid: Using a simple grid to lay out elements on your page will create a sense of order and structure.
Employ a clear structure to guide users

Newspaper sites usually do a great job in creating structure through hierarchy. The breaking story or most important piece of news dominates the screen. This ensures that it’s the first thing you see.

Major headlines from other sections are also big and bold so a user that’s browsing can quickly and easily pick them out. The size and contrast of photos and headlines help to guide users through the page.

3. Ensure that users know what action to take on your site

Users should always know what action to take next on your site. When a user lands on your page it should be very clear what they should pay attention to first, second and so on.

There should also be a clear next action for them to take, whether it’s clicking “buy” to make a purchase or reading a related article.

Consider these points when creating meaningful calls to action:

  • Emphasis: Give emphasis to the call to action by its size, colour, contrast and/or use of white space.
  • Simple: Don’t clutter your page with too many different actions. Really think about what you want your users to do and prioritise those actions in your design.
  • Incentive: Give an incentive to take action. This can be seen in discounts, gifts, raffle entry or access to more content
  • Proximity: Make sure that your call to action is in a logical placement on the page. For example, if the page features an article, you may want to put the call to action below the article.
  • Consistency: Have your call to action show throughout the site and keep its appearance consistent.
Ensure that users know what action to take on your site

4. Tailor your experience to your users’ situation

Your site needs to provide a great experience for users whenever and wherever they need it. It’s important to put some thought into how your visitors use your site differently in different situations.

Make sure that you consider their time constraints and whether they are on a mobile device or a computer.

Use these tips to help you think about what your users might experience:

  • Situation: What situation is the user in that caused them to seek out information on your site?
  • Limit features: The mobile version of your site should only include the core features of your site that will help your users find the information they’re looking for. Save the other advanced features for your desktop site where your users have a little bit more time.
  • Speed: Users only have a couple of seconds so make sure your site loads lightning fast. Google’s Page Speed tool can help you optimise your load time.
  • Forgiveness: Users make mistakes, especially on mobile. Let them easily undo and return to where they were, without having to use the back button.
Tailor your experience to your users’ situation

Suppose you’re a restaurant review site. How does a mobile user’s behaviour differ from that of a desktop user? Firstly, mobile users are probably on the move; they could even be walking down the road as they browse your site.

They won’t have time to navigate through several pages of restaurants as they do on the desktop site. They expect your site to use the phone’s built-in GPS to locate them and show them popular restaurants nearby based on their search.

Your site can even optimize the review experience for mobile by showing the most popular short reviews since users don’t have time to read long reviews.

Remember, it’s all about thinking about the situation that the user is in when they reach your site – and tailoring the user experience to match.

5. Turn casual visitors into loyal users

So far, AdSense discussed ways to make sure that you understand what your users are looking for and how to present it to them. But you may be wondering how you keep users coming back again and again? After all, repeat business is the lifeblood of businesses both online and offline.

To get users to return, you need to do more than just answer their questions; you need to give them reasons to return to your site.

Below are a few ways you can turn one-time visitors into repeat visitors:

  • New content: First and foremost, make sure that you constantly provide new, high-quality content. Next, make sure that you showcase your new content on your top landing pages.
  • Related content: Show users similar content elsewhere on your site. Create a section that links users to popular content on the same subject. This will drive more engagement.
  • Social: Make it easy for users to connect with you via their favorite social networks. All major social networks have widgets that you can put on your site to invite visitors to follow you. Once you have them, make sure you push out your most popular content to drive return visits.
  • Email: Make sure that you have a way for users to subscribe to your email list for updates and/or a newsletter.
  • User engagement: Make it easy for users to interact with your content through forums, a rating system or recommendations.
Turn casual visitors into loyal users

If you have a deal site where users can search for offers, you can first prompt them to sign up to be notified via email when new offers that match their interests are added to the site.

You can also showcase how many people recommend a deal so users see which deals are popular.

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