Website Usability - Tips and TricksMany people assume, wrongly, that a site visitor will arrive at your site through the front page. If you have implemented website optimisation correctly, the search engines will list multiple pages in the rankings for different terms. These will lead people to enter your site at whichever page is linked from that search. Additionally, if you are using PPC correctly, you may well be driving people to a specific landing page from an advert, so this will be the entry page.

Reader journeys are about how a visitor to your site achieves their goal by following the easiest path possible. Hence, you design your site so that a visitor can easily navigate to the page or product or link that they wish to be at without any confusion. So, if you are basing your reader journeys on entry via the front page only, you have already created the possibility that a site visitor will land on an entirely different page and be unclear what to do next.

Think about the type of visitors who will come to your site. For instance, do you sell to both the trade and retail? If you do, and a visitor needs to immediately find the part of the site relevant to them, it may be worth considering having two entirely different sites, which clearly link to each other so that a site visitor can easily transpose to the alternative site as required in case they accidentally land on the wrong site to begin with.

Are your visitors there to compare product prices with your competitors, to make a purchase, to research information, contact you, sign up to a newsletter, find a download or white paper everyone is talking about or interact with your community? Whatever a site visitor is endeavouring to do, your task when designing your website is to make that easy. It is also important that the reader journey leads your site visitors to achieve your goals as well.

If your website is there to help you achieve sales, then make sure that it is the minimum number of clicks to your catalogue of products and your e-commerce store,wherever in the site a visitor enters. Make it a simple task to look at all of your products, find all of your white papers, sign up to your newsletters or find all of your contact details whatever it is you want your customers to be doing on your site.

Make a list of possible actions a site visitor may wish to take on your site, and then give it a go for yourself. How easy is it to reach the goal? Could you simplify matters? Add pointers to make a specific task really simple? Have a look at paths through your site for common actions and see whether people are dropping out at a certain point. You can do this by setting Goals in Google Analytics and seeing whether these are being completed by your visitors. Once you understand what your site visitors want to be able to do, you can help them achieve their goals, and yours, by tweaking your site accordingly.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology