B2B marketers invest a substantial amount of time, effort, and money driving visitors to websites. Making sure the site adheres to basic usability principles is critical to maximizing online marketing results and alleviating obstacles that prevent prospects from taking the desired actions.
Below are six, easy to implement usability tips to ensure that visitors get the most from your site and you get the most for your search marketing investment.
Answer prospects’ basic questions first
During the usability studies I’ve conducted, one of the most often repeated complaints I’ve heard is about having to wade through marketing fluff (as in I don’t bother reading this marketing fluff). Your visitors have little patience to read through your carefully crafted marketing message. They simply want to get to the content they need with a minimum amount of effort.
Upon clicking through to your website, visitors immediately want to validate that:
- They are in the right place.
- They understand what they can (and can’t) do on your website.
- They can get the information they need and/or take the desired action.
Some of the most common questions visitors have include:
- What does this company offer?
- What can I do on this site?
- Where can I go next?
Providing answers to these basic questions will immediately give your prospects a sense of place and encourage them to explore further.
Additionally, make sure your product, solution, or service information is readily available. Provide concrete details that help prospects evaluate your offerings and differentiate your firm from the competition (e.g., specification lists, fact sheets, or comparison charts).
Facilitate easy scanning
The simple truth is that the large majority of visitors to your website are going to scan your content rather than read it. Make your content easily digestible. “Chunk” pages into discrete segments with prominent, understandable headlines.
And by all means, use:
- Active voice
- Concise and actionable text
- Bullet points instead of lengthy paragraphs
- Link names that clearly establish the context of the destination
Make navigation choices obvious
Your visitors need to be able to quickly orient themselves on your website. They need to understand where they are, where they can go, and where they have been. Use visual clues to help give them a sense of place. Some easy to implement recommendations include:
- Consistently underlining links.
- Clearly indicating visited links by using a different visited link color.
- Being consistent in your linking scheme-use the same (or similar) linking conventions throughout your site to help visitors immediately recognize navigational elements.
- Including a breadcrumb trail at the top of the page to help users navigate back up the website hierarchy (e.g., Home > Solutions > Customer Relationship Management).
Speak your customers’ language
Many companies are unwittingly guilty of using internal company terminology on their websites. Ensure the labeling you employ is immediately understandable to visitors and is consistent with common industry terminology.
If you’re not sure, do a sanity check. Show your website to someone outside your company-a customer with whom you have a good relationship, your spouse, a colleague, a friend-and see if they understand what your business has to offer.
Provide intuitive error messages
Make your web forms as easy as possible to complete.
First and foremost, try to prevent errors from occurring. Make it obvious which form fields are required and use clear and concise field labels. If you need data entered in a particular format, provide an example.
Once an error occurs, using red to indicate errors on a form will be sufficient for a large percentage of your audience. However, if you use this tactic color blind visitors will be left to their own devices to figure out what went wrong. Use additional formatting (e.g., bold font) to help draw the prospect’s attention to the areas that need to be corrected.
Placing the error message in close proximity to where the error occurred is also helpful.
Additionally, limit the number of form fields to those only absolutely necessary.
Invest in usability testing
Usability testing provides immediate insight to what attracts visitors’ attention, how they navigate, and what they comprehend. It allows you to take an unbiased look at the effectiveness of your messaging, navigation, content, labeling, page layout, and organization.
There are plenty of reputable companies who can conduct usability studies for you. In this down economy if you can’t find the budget to hire an outside firm, consider bringing the work in house. Several good do-it-yourself resources are readily available. Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” and the University of Austin’s Usability Testing Primer are two great guides.
Expend the effort to identify and address some of the common usability issues on your website. It will maximize the impact of your search marketing efforts and help clear the path to conversion.
Maximize conversion and search marketing ROI
Six simple steps:
- Answer prospects questions.
- Facilitate scanning.
- Make navigation obvious.
- Speak your customers’ language.
- Create intuitive forms.
- Invest in usability testing.
B2B marketers should implement these fundamental usability best practices to maximize website conversion and ultimately search marketing ROI.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.