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We don’t even have to say it: everyone — including those who are visually and/or hearing impaired — is online. Most of us were already spending a large portion of our time on the internet pre-pandemic, but necessity has dictated that even the stragglers log on and adopt a digital way of life. Doing business, keeping up with the news, shopping, paying bills, and even socializing is now done from the relative safety of our homes.

Because of this, web competition is fierce. It’s easy for websites to get completely lost in a sea of other websites offering similar services. In order to survive and thrive, smart businesses must take all the necessary steps to stand out. It’s vital that websites offer great UX (user experience), which includes Accessibility requirements. The digital marketplace has become all but ubiquitous, and it benefits everyone when viewers of all kinds can participate and appreciate their experience.

So, what does it mean for a website to be UX-Optimized? It means that you have designed your website with your users in mind. Whether they’re on their desktop computer or their smart device, they’re going to have a seamless experience. They’re going to be able to find your most important content quickly and easily. They’re going to understand your product or service without having to do in-depth reading or research. Above all else, they’re going to feel positively about the experience they had while visiting your website because you anticipated their needs.

Here are 9 things you can do to optimize your website’s UX:

  1. Optimize page-load time — First impressions are everything, and this one is tricky because it’s almost invisible. If your website doesn’t load within three seconds, a user is likely to leave before they even see it. Additionally, the damage of a slowly-loading website doesn’t end with your potential customers going to competitor sites; it is also bad for SEO. Your site will rank lower in search results if it’s slow.

    What can you do about it? Choose a performance-optimized website host, compress your images, get rid of unnecessary plugins, enable browser caching, reduce code-bloat… the list goes on. If you’re unfamiliar with these action-items, Ignition72 will be happy to educate and assist you in making your website harder, better, faster, stronger.
  2. Make it Responsive/Mobile-Friendly — Websites that are not responsive (i.e. adjust to the size and dimensions of the device a viewer is using) send a message to users who end up there: we don’t keep up with the latest web technology and trends, and we don’t care about the experience you have while you visit our site.

    We’re sure this is not how your business wants to be perceived. Having an agency like Ignition72 rebuild your site from scratch (recommended) or recode your site (not recommended) to be responsive will be well worth the effort. Users will stick around longer, are more likely to take action, and will subconsciously remember your site as a good resource. Plus, Google and other search engines will not punish your website by pushing it to the bottom of search results with the other non-responsive sites.
  3. Make it Accessible — Technically, websites offering goods and services to the general public should have always been built with the ADA in mind. When we all first began using the internet, however, it was essentially the wild wild west, and inaccessible sites slid under the radar.

    Those days are over, and we’re here for the transition from sites that are difficult to read and navigate to those that consider everyone’s unique needs. Accessibility includes appropriate contrast for reading text, legible fonts (style, size, color), captions for images that can be read aloud, captions on videos for the hearing impaired, and so much more.

    The WCAG provides a comprehensive outline of what it means for your site website to be considered Accessible, but it can be pretty overwhelming for most people. Ignition72 has made it a priority to be fully informed experts in Accessibility. We even built Candescent, a tool that can be installed on any WordPress site to help, for free! We would love to help you make your website usable by anyone who comes across it AND avoid a potential lawsuit.
  4. Create an Intuitive Information Architecture (IA) — The navigation structure of your site, represented by the Information Architecture, is your site’s most used functionality. It manages people’s expectations and allows users to find the content most relevant to them.

    Using your Google Analytics, you can explore what content is most valuable to your visitors. You should also have an idea of the content that is a priority for your organization as well. The IA should be reviewed and updated as needed, ensuring that it is clear, plainspoken, and helps your visitors accomplish their goals. Optimally, your site makes it easy to do this, but, if it does not, we are always here to help.
  5. Minimize Number of Clicks (less than three) — No one wants to go down an infinite rabbit hole of clicking to find what we’re looking for. This is technically part of number 4: Information Architecture. Over time, our websites grow and become bloated, often adding to the depth of our content. Using dynamic content, or a content filter tool, can allow you to serve thousands of pages while avoiding a deep and complicated IA.
  6. Provide a Search Tool — While some people like to explore a site organically using the homepage or the navigation menu, others like to find their answer immediately. This is typically done using search. While there are a large number of search tools available, we like to use Custom Google Search: We can style it, it helps index the site (which in turn helps with your SEO), and we can also filter out (or add in) different elements like ads or secondary databases.

    For Government sites we also often use Search.gov, another powerful tool.

    Search is often a paid for service (although the cost is nominal), so you want to be sure that it is working well for you and your site. These days, you can also push your on-site search data into your analytics, adding a valuable data point.
  7. Differentiate Hyperlinks— Every modern website is a collection of hyperlinks, or just links (for short). These take us to other pages within the same site, pages on other websites (offsite links), or even to files and other assets that we are providing.

    Managing peoples expectations with links is an important part of UX (we have all seen a link that has been clicked change color). It is well-worth taking some time to assess what link types your site is using and how you can better manage peoples expectations before they click on the link.
  8. Use Clear, Concise, Useful Messaging — The average American web user reads roughly 450 words per page and prefers them to be written at around the 8th grade reading level. Clarity and brevity win out almost every time over lengthy, complicated content. You can use Readable.com, a free tool that you can paste your text into and quickly see what reading level it is and how likely your visitors are to consume it. Working with a professional writer can also help. Ultimately, ensuring your content is easy to consume by your audience is a key objective of any positive user experience.
  9. Clean, Simple Design (use white space)Design is never (or at least rarely) the reason people come to your website. At Ignition72, we like to say that design is not just making something pretty; it is making it usable and memorable so that users can quickly learn how a site works, consume the content, and be left with a reinforced image of your brand while doing so.

    Over-designing your site, or making it complicated, dark, or hard to consume is never cool, even if it is pretty. And remember, you want to ensure that the site looks good on all devices.

As 2021 comes to an end, our world is quickly evolving and we are all learning and becoming more digital savvy. So, too, are our tools (like Google). Ensuring that your site is easy to use, compelling to consume, and well thought out can make a huge difference to the outcome of people visiting it.

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