Make sure your website does not suck!

No matter how much time you’ve spent designing it, no matter how pretty it is, no matter how much you like it, there comes a time when you have to face it: your website sucks. It doesn’t matter how cool it was on the release day – the time has gone and whatever was great back then, is not as good anymore. Google knows it, YouTube knows it, the Prime Minister’s Office knows it, and so do your competitors.

Google over years

The decision to redesign our website was not an easy one. It took us a while to realize that the longer we wait, the more complicated it will be to do it. And that even if at this moment it doesn’t seem to be the most important or the most urgent thing to do, we don’t want to get to the point where it is.

Ready, steady, go!

Our attempt was not to build a completely new website but to rebuild the one that we already had, making it more user-friendly. The first task to complete was going through the website and examining it closely for the weak points: incoherent elements, random animations on icons, “hidden” information, differently looking sliders and ugly graphics – all the things that appeared over the time, when the small, “cosmetic” changes were made. The list was way longer than we expected! Over a half of the elements that needed to be improved were the things we did not realize when using the website on regular basis. It turned out that our website may be quite confusing for the visitors…

monkey

As the list was ready, we prioritized all the problems to start with the most important ones – the ones that may cause misunderstandings and confusion. Among the most important tasks, we listed: reorganizing menu and content, unifying buttons and sliders and updating some information. We also created three additional pages to extract the information that our visitors may be looking for so they won’t have to wander through all the nooks and crannies of our website.

Remember, remember

To avoid further incoherences, we defined a few rules to follow:

  1. Focus on the goal. No matter what it is (this may be making your visitor do some shopping, register, contact you or anything else), don’t lose sight of it. If you add any element on the website, ask yourself whether it is coherent with this goal.
  2. Don’t make the user think. Following Steve Krug’s advice, let users accomplish their intended tasks as easily and directly as possible. Don’t ask them to click through multiple pages to find the information they are actually looking for – face it: they won’t.
  3. Be coherent. Keep the same set of colors for the buttons – you can distinguish those on the sliders or those on the main page, you can highlight the more important ones, but make sure they are similar to each other.
  4. Make sure that one button will not cause an action different from the action caused by the same looking button on any other page. No matter if your users liked the action that followed it for the first time, they won’t be very likely to waste their time on clicking it again.
  5. Keep it simple. Sophisticated phrases work in classical literature. Here, on the Internet, the messages ought to be plain and easy to understand. Remember the second rule? According to Ginny Soskey from Hubspot, 55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds on your website  – use them wisely!
  6. Keep it nice. Whatever you think about your users, they like things that are pretty. They visit nice places and they spend hours on the Internet watching funny kitten videos. If the website is ugly – they will leave it.

Following these rules, we’ve started to rebuild our website. Step by step, we’ve changed all the elements listed above. We tried to make it easier to go through the pages and to reach the information our users will look for. We kept the golden rule in mind all the time: Don’t make the user think.

So far, we’ve managed to extend the average session duration twice and bring the bounce rate of our home page below 40%, but our work is still not over. As it was said at the very beginning: No matter how much time you’ve spent designing your website, no matter how much you like it, there comes a time when you have to face it: your website sucks.

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Marketing Specialist, enthusiast of customer-oriented marketing, linguistic communication theory, and literary semiotics - adapted to storytelling. Quora addict, compulsive learner. Follow at Quora