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4 Signs You've Got (Usability) Issues in Your Website Design

website design usability

We’ve all experienced it one time or another: You’re on your phone and you need to do some quick research to answer a question. You visit the top result that gives you the best answer and are immediately struck with a website that looks like it hasn’t been updated since the early 2000s. The text is stretched across your screen, and links are too small to tap with your finger.

In this scenario, there’s a decent chance that you went back to the search results page and picked a different website altogether. Or maybe that first website took so long to load that you headed elsewhere even before determining its usefulness.

Any time a visitor gets lost, confused, or frustrated on your website, it’s a missed chance for a sale, either today or down the road. Let’s define what today’s buyers expect from a business website, then identify four signs of usability issues in your website design:

Website User Experience & Usability Awareness

Website best practices have evolved a lot since the dawn of the internet as consumers know it. The idea of needing to be able to access a website on a pocket-sized screen was unheard of in the late 1990s. Designing your website didn’t require separate considerations for both desktop and mobile.

Fast forward 20 or so years, and a website that isn’t responsive on a mobile device is missing out on 55% of the world’s website traffic (and that number doesn’t even include tablets). If the goal of your website is to drive leads and business, building and maintaining a fast, user-friendly, and accessible site is what you need to get there.

What Is Website User Experience?

User experience is how a visitor to your site perceives its design and functionality in regards to ease of use. You can apply this to just about anything in the physical world as well. You’ve undoubtedly used some sort of customer service process in the past that wasn’t laid out super well, and it most likely frustrated you.

Think of your website as your visitor’s first customer experience. A confusingly laid-out site with poorly explained products/services is like a grocery store putting the milk in the pasta section, or a restaurant not telling you its soup du jour is extremely spicy.

What Is Website Usability?

How exactly does this translate to a website? In web design, the goal is to put together an architecture that relies on tons of research on how users interact with the internet. Most of it is common sense:

  • Don’t put dark text on a dark background
  • Make sure links work
  • Make the main menu and other navigation tools flow in a logical order

However, there are some new concepts that a lot of web marketing and development teams need to catch up on:

  • Is the website fully responsive to smaller screen sizes like tablets and phones?
  • Does the website make use of ADA guidelines and/or WCAG compliance for visitors with disabilities?
  • How quickly does the website load?

Typically, the causes of your website usability issues will fall under the following:

Slow Page Load Speeds 

Simply put, your website just takes too long to load, which could make the user give up and move on to a different website. Research says you have 8 seconds on average to capture someone’s attention on a website, so you’d better move quickly. There are plenty of ways to diagnose and address this issue, but Google’s Lighthouse is a personal go-to.

The tool will run automated audits of your webpages and provide you scores for Performance, Progressive Web App, Best Practices, Accessibility, and SEO for both desktop and mobile. This feature allows you to see what is preventing your page from loading buttery-smooth.

Website Design, Layout, & Mobile Responsiveness

Your design is everything. How you present your content will determine the likelihood of a user staying on your website. This can cover everything from how you display your menu navigation to how the design adjusts for smaller screen sizes.

You’ll want to make sure there is a logical flow to your content that is consistent across the board and that a user doesn’t need to look too hard to find what they are looking for.

Lack of Conversion Opportunities

If a user can’t find a good way to get additional information or contact you for more, they may look elsewhere. Every page should have a goal -- avoid a dead-end design that lacks clear next steps for the visitor.

Content Optimization and Technical SEO Errors

Do the people you’re bringing to your website align with what you’re offering? Ignoring SEO (search engine optimization) can result in an underperforming website that ultimately prevents good-fit visitors from reaching your content. The best place to start is by identifying SEO issues through a website audit and resolving them.

How to Detect Common Usability Issues in Website Design

There are many metrics to keep an eye out for when you notice your website isn’t performing well:

1. High Bounce Rate

The bounce rate on your website is a good indicator of how well your design is working. It’s a metric used to determine what percentage of visitors have visited a page, didn’t interact, and then left. 

You’ve driven traffic to a page with direct and organic search. Now, the goal is to find how to keep people there. 

The Importance of Bounce Rate

A higher bounce rate means more visitors to your website simply exited before making any meaningful impact. Using this metric as a baseline is a great way to find a root cause for low conversion rates (which we’ll discuss in a moment).

2. Low Average Time on Page & Session Duration

Similarly to bounce rate, these metrics shed light on what’s happening behind the scenes. You may find that visitors make it to a page and leave immediately, while some may stay for a few minutes before exiting. The average time on an individual page could be used to determine if the design and content are:

  • Helpful (not overly sales-y)
  • Engaging
  • Thorough

Session duration tracks a little differently from page time. “Sessions” measure the average length of time a visitor remains on your website versus just one page.

3. Low Conversion Rate & New Contacts

This could be a symptom of a much larger problem. If the purpose of your website and business is to drive traffic to convert into leads, having a low conversion rate is detrimental. 

Some of the most immediate items to check are:

  • Are you targeting the right buyer persona?
  • Is something directly preventing users from converting, like a broken or missing link?
  • Is the information you’re providing poorly written or incomplete?

One of the primary goals of a business website is to create new contacts.  If you’re struggling to acquire new contacts, it’s a sign potential contacts may be having a difficult time finding a way to reach you for information and services. 

Between conversion and contact generation, you may be able to apply some quick solutions to your website to bring in more leads.

4. Mobile Responsiveness

How your website performs on smaller tablet and phone screens is more important than ever. The number of mobile-based searches is expected to continue rising as the infrastructure continues to evolve.

If your website hasn’t been redesigned in 5 or more years, there’s a decent chance that it isn’t fully optimized for smartphones and tablets. This results in a massive user experience decrease that makes your content less desirable. 

Coupled with an outdated design, a user not being able to accurately navigate your website due to awkward formatting will most likely leave.

Finding that your website might need a revamp?

Don't fret, help is on the way!

Getting your website up to speed can be a daunting task with lots of different aspects to keep track of making it easy to get turned around.

Whether you're looking to tackle some usability issues in your website design, give your site a fresh coat of paint, or a complete overhaul from the ground up, this free checklist can help keep you organized and on the ball during your next project:

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