Social media sites and services like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to interact with colleagues, friends and customers… but for many it’s not enough. Yes, Virginia, the web site is still alive and well and (in my opinion) the best way to present content on the Internet. It is also an easy way that you can monetize said content – though the advertising dollars that was once available is a lot less now than before.
If you have a site, or are thinking about creating one, here’s some ideas on how to improve the general usability and effectiveness of your web presence:
Test it with users
This is something a UX person such as myself considers a no-brainer, but it is an activity that many don’t even consider. If you have an existing site, then ask friends and family to try and find specific content or accomplish a task. This way you can validate if your navigation labels are obvious and that any functionality you may have is functioning properly.
Revamp the navigation
Think about simplifying your navigation and the terms you use to describe the content areas. Be objective – If you were a new visitor, what would you want to see? If you run a restaurant, is your menu and operating hours easy to find? For a business like this, intuitive navigation can mean the difference between helping and attracting new customers or discouraging and losing them.
Make sure your site is usable on mobile devices
If you have a web site that is not easy to read or use for mobile users, you are missing a significant percentage of your potential audience. There are a lot of responsive themes that are available for WordPress sites, and if you have “rolled your own” site, then you can easily find code snippets on the web that will allow you to add responsive menuing and reflow content for mobile screen sizes.
Provide a clear mission statement to your home page
What is your site about? You may think it is obvious, but it may not be. Put it in writing, in plain English on the landing page of your site.
Pay for your own hosting
You may be tempted to use free hosting services, but in the long run you want to go with a hosting provider. They provide support, web services and aps you can leverage, and many of them let you create a starter site without you having to know anything about how to code.
Take advantage of your web analytics
Almost all web hosting providers have a analytics package that will tell you what content that visitors are “hitting”. Use that data to identify what is working and what is not, as well as to “tune” the information you put on your site.
Have an image for every article
Having an image on each article provides a nice “anchor” to the content you created, and will also show up in social media sites when users share your article. This in turn will attract more clicks, and more readers/visitors.
Make sure search engines can see your site
Another no-brainer, but this is something many overlook. Make sure you have registered your sites with the various search providers and have a tool that generates a “sitemap” that the various search engines can “read”.
Integrate (and “handshake”) with social media
Finally, while web sites are more effective that social media when it comes to representing yourself or your organization online, you still need to support and integrate with social media. Allow for people to easily share articles, integrate with the appropriate sites (such as Yelp) and create your own social media account to promote your site.
Have fun with it
Attitude is everything, and so try and look at the website as an opportunity instead of a chore. Regularly update it with content – even if it’s links to funny cat videos. Make it represent you and try to make it something that visitors will enjoy. Heaven knows they have enough to worry about in the “real world.”