You can come up with the most amazing content in the world for your website, but that won’t matter much if your site’s design or programming makes it difficult for visitors to read, navigate, and use.
Unfortunately, your site might be difficult to use without you even knowing it. The fact is that just because it’s easy for YOU to use doesn’t mean it isn’t alienating and frustrating a large significant percentage of your site’s visitors.
In this article, we explain best practices to make a site easier to use for everyone who comes across it. Most of these improvements can be done by the average WordPress user — no programming knowledge necessary — and can make a big improvement in user experience.
Use Headings Appropriately
If you’ve used WordPress for a while, you’ve probably noticed heading options in your box editor. Headings are also called “header tags,” “canonical tags,” and “hierarchical tags.”
At a glance, they may just look like different sizes or styles of font, but they’re actually meant to be used as text divisions that help the reader navigate your content.
Using these tags appropriately is a big part of making your website more usable, for many reasons.
First, readers should essentially be able to scan the headers of your text to get a sense of what’s on any given page. That’s what the headers were designed to do, and using them consistently and in the right order generally looks better and is easier for the reader to navigate.
Plus, that sense of navigation is even more important for people who are using screen readers. If you’re just manually updating the font size without using the WordPress headings in the stylesheet, visually impaired people won’t be able to quickly scan your content like someone without impairments would. And if you use the headings as a way to just change the way the font looks (instead of using them as the outline headings for your content), the experience will be extremely confusing for someone using a screenreader.
Second, website users often use keyboard shortcuts to jump from one section of content to another. This is especially important for anyone who doesn’t have access to a mouse, and including people who have mobility limitations in their hands. If you don’t use the right heading format, you’re making the experience much worse for people who’d rather stick to using their keyboards.
For more on how to use headings correctly, check out these posts:
Check Colors And Font Size For Legibility
If you have perfect vision, you might not be able to appreciate just how difficult it is for many website visitors to read your site’s content. Most of these legibility issues come down to the colors you’ve chosen for your text.
“Color contrast” refers to the contrast ratio between text (or an icon) and its background, and choosing the wrong colors can make it nearly impossible for people with visual impairments (such as color blindness or low vision) to read. A few common mistakes people make on websites include using white text on a colored background or using neon text on a white background.
You can easily check your site for color contrast issues by using the WebAim’s WAVE accessibility tool. Simply enter your site’s URL and navigate to the “Contrast” tab. You can also use WebAim’s specific contrast checker or Deque’s contrast checker; however, you need to know the hexadecimal color(s) your site is using. Those pages will still give you additional insights into what qualifies as contrasting and why, taking things like text size and images into account.
Check The Page Load Speed
In today’s age of instant gratification, it can be pretty frustrating when a website doesn’t load right away. Even though a few seconds of waiting might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it does affect how easy the site is to use. After all, you don’t want the first impression that your visitors get of your website to be one of frustration. A slow load speed immediately reduces the visitor’s confidence that the site is well-maintained and trustworthy.
The problem is that there can be wildly different causes for page load delays.
You can start by searching for free tools to check your site’s speed. If it’s slow, then you can start to analyze the causes.
Although you may need the help of a website professional to do things like change to a lighter theme or analyze plugin use, we know of a few best practices for improving site speed overall that even novice WordPress users can tackle.
- Resize images – Uploading full-sized photos to your blog isn’t necessary and slows down your site’s load speed. You should be able to resize your website’s image to be just large enough to display appropriately without taking up any extra space. There are even WordPress plugins available that resize images automatically so you don’t have to.
- Stop auto-loading comments – If you run a blog with posts that have a lot of comments, visitors may find that the comments cause significant delays — and may even crash the site. Try a plugin like Lazy Load for Comments, which gives visitors the ability to choose how your comments are loaded and sorted.
- Delete unused plugins – When you’re using WordPress, it can be easy to “collect” a series of plugins and then forget that you installed them. Even if you’re not using them, they’re still there, taking up space and slowing down your site. Remember to periodically go through and uninstall the plugins you don’t use anymore.
Take Another Look At The Navigation Menu
According to Neil Patel, drop down menus are bad for two reasons:
“Depending on how they’re programmed, [drop down menus] can be difficult for search engines to crawl. But there’s another, bigger reason…Drop down menus are annoying, according to usability studies from the NN Group. This is because as visitors, we move our eyes much faster than we move the mouse. When we move the mouse to a menu item, we’ve already decided to click…and then the drop down gives us more options. It’s a moment of friction in our minds as visitors.”
It’s best to stick to 5-7 menu items using the horizontal bar design that people are used to seeing when they visit a website so they don’t have to spend extra mental energy figuring out where to go.Website users shouldn’t have to spend any extra mental energy figuring out how your website’s navigation works. Click To Tweet
It’s also worth noting that Google will demote your site if your menu buttons or clickable items are too close together, which is something your designer should be able to address.
Need Help With WordPress Usability?
Bet Hannon Business Sites is here to help. We can either fix your content at hourly rates, or we can train you and your staff to do it via a video teaching call.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
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