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A recent survey of small business owners revealed that virtually every small business plans to invest in at least one website improvement in 2018.
Among the top concerns, small businesses’ desire to improve their websites’ user experience (UX) stands out. For the nearly one in five small business owners who hope to build a more user-friendly website this year, investing in user experience carries obvious appeal. After all, who wouldn’t want their website to be easier to use?
However, for those without an extensive background in UX, the concept of user-friendliness can seem frustratingly vague. This is particularly true for small business owners whose deep familiarity with their own websites might prevent them from noticing problems users face.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to quickly and easily assess your website’s usability. Small business owners can use this article as a starting point for investing in website improvements to improve usability.
Test usability with tools or a partner
For some companies, the first step in improving usability is hiring a user experience agency that can provide expert recommendations.
As part of their evaluation, many user experience agencies conduct testing to identify users’ pain points. These tests typically involve observing people as they interact with a website and helping UX researchers identify patterns of unexpected behavior or confusion so that web design can be corrected accordingly.
By drawing on both research and testing, a user experience partner can suggest changes that will make your website more intuitive for users.
However, not every small business can afford to hire a partner. In fact, nearly half of small businesses report a digital marketing budget of $10,000 or less in 2018.
If you can’t afford to hire a user experience partner at the moment, there are plenty of tools you can use to assess usability on your own.
These tools provide insight into how users behave on your website. They typically offer features such as:
- Heatmaps that can reveal the way users mouse over your pages, revealing hidden patterns
- Videos that show individual user journeys, allowing you to granularly diagnose problems with your page design
- Exit surveys that gather feedback from customers who leave your website
- Mobile testing that checks to see if your website is operating correctly on smartphones and mobile devices
Usability Geek put together a comprehensive list of affordable usability tools that small businesses on a budget can explore.
Finally, you can always call a good, old-fashioned focus group. Ask friends or family members who aren’t familiar with your website to explore it, and then request their honest feedback for ways your website could be improved.
Audit your website’s calls to action
Chances are you created your website with one or two simple conversion goals in mind. You may have wanted to capture inbound leads, sell a product or create a landing page to market essential information about your business.
User-friendly websites are careful to place calls to action (CTAs) where they are both highly visible and likely to attract clicks.
To audit your CTAs, follow these simple steps:
- Evaluate your most important goals, such as selling a product or capturing leads.
- Identify each place your website requests or requires users to engage with a CTA.
- Note the language, placement and overall design of your CTAs.
- Begin to test small changes, altering one variable at a time.
Measure the success or failure of an updated CTA design by tracking conversions and user journeys.
To help decide which variables you should test, look to websites that have invested in extensive usability testing, such as Amazon or Facebook, for inspiration. Some variables you can tweak include:
- Language: Sometimes an audience will respond better to a certain phrase over another, even if they mean the same thing. For example, try swapping “Check Out” with “Place Order” or “Sign Up” with “Subscribe.”
- Colors: You may need to change the colors of your CTA buttons to make sure they are noticeable.
- Button size: Increasing or decreasing the size of your CTA buttons may lead to differences in conversion rates.
- Location: If users have to scroll to see your CTAs, try moving them to a higher position on the page. You also may be able to replicate them in a menu bar or other permanent location.
By testing one variable at a time, you may discover that a small change can greatly impact CTA conversions. Over time, you’ll hone a sense of how your users interact with your website and better anticipate where to design and place your CTAs effectively.
Invest in improving security
User-friendly websites go further than simply implementing an attractive design. When considering your users’ needs, safety should be a priority.
In 2016, the FBI estimated there were an average of 4,000 cyberattacks on small businesses every day. That number is only growing; in January 2018 alone, one researcher counted over 7 million cyberattacks.
Because cyberattacks pose such a significant threat, small businesses should consider website security to be an essential component of their website’s user-friendliness. Users who feel uncertain about a website’s security often won’t stick around long enough to make a purchase or engage meaningfully.
To start, small businesses should make sure they’ve invested in an SSL certificate. SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a certificate that authenticates a website.
You can tell if your website has an SSL certificate already by looking at your URL; if your website address starts with “HTTPS,” you already have a certificate.
If you don’t have an SSL certificate, you can contact the development firm that built your website or hire a freelancer or consultant to easily obtain one.
Starting in July 2018, Google Chrome will penalize websites that lack SSL certificates by warning users about security.
Improving security will put users at ease, especially as security threats continue to multiply.
Refresh your FAQ page
No matter how perfectly designed your website might be, customers will inevitably still have questions. After improving design and security-related user experience issues, consider adding a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) page to your main menu.
An FAQ page can supplement your customer service efforts while making your website more helpful to users.
A great FAQ page has a few key features:
- A friendly, welcoming tone that showcases your brand’s style
- Clear, short answers that anticipate common questions
- Links to relevant resources located elsewhere on your website
To build your own FAQ page, begin by combing through any questions customers might have sent to your company via email or a contact form over the past few months.
As you audit past communication with customers, compile a list of common questions.
Once you’ve assessed your audience’s most common pain points, you can distill that information into key questions and write clear, thoughtful answers.
Finally, make sure your FAQ page is easy to scan. To accomplish this, try grouping your questions thematically. For example, you can group all questions about shipping into one block of text and add a header.
If you already have an FAQ page but are still receiving questions from customers, it may be time to refresh the content. Anticipate your audience’s needs by updating your list of FAQs.
Once your FAQ is in good shape, create a recurring calendar event every six months to remind yourself to periodically read through your FAQ page. This will ensure your FAQs stay accurate and up-to-date as your company grows and changes.
Although improving user experience might seem overwhelming or vague, it really means making small changes that thoughtfully anticipate your website users’ needs.
Updating the design, security and customer service features on your website will go a long way toward helping users engage with your business. User-friendly websites consider how each of these aspects impact users’ ability to make a purchase or accomplish a task.
While best practices in user experience do exist, it’s still important to test each change with your particular audience to learn what they prefer. Be sure to test your changes diligently and track analytics along the way.
Overall, starting with simple changes can help you forge closer relationships with customers, achieve higher conversion rates and build a more user-friendly website over time.