When it comes to building a website, the general rule of thumb is that it should be user-friendly first of all, everything else second of all. In short, user-friendly websites are the ultimate goal that every business owner, webmaster and web designer should be working towards. However, it wasn’t always like this—in fact, there was a time when it was a lot different.
Why User Friendly Websites Work
There is really only one reason why the big shift towards creating a “user friendly” website happened—Google specifically said they wanted “user friendly” websites. When Google says that they are going to give preference to sites that focuses on providing the best user experience for their viewers, the modern SEO and web design approach was all but set in stone.
Shortly thereafter, web designers and SEO professionals started touting the importance of creating a website for the user, not for the search engine. Why? Because the search engines are starting to rank sites based on how a user would rank the site:
- Is the content new, relevant and informative?
- Does it answer my specific question that I searched for?
- Is the site easy to use and laid out in a logical order?
- Are there tons of spam and advertisements all over the site?
These factors are clearly thoughts of a human user, but by implementing certain tracking techniques and plugging the results into an algorithm, search engines have been able to rate and rank websites based on their overall user friendliness.
The Algorithm of Friendliness
For example, a major metric that search engines use to find out if a site was “user friendly” or not is the bounce rate. A bounce rate is determined by the percentage of users who get to a website from a search engine result page and “bounce” right off to another page or right back to the search engine result pages. When this happens, a search engine can assume any one or combination of the following:
- The website had content that was different than what the search engine thought it would have, thereby making it useless to the viewer
- The website was not working, causing the viewer to leave
- The website was unpleasant to view or possibly difficult to use, making it unusable to the viewer
- The website took too long to load
Any one—or any number—of these reasons could drive up a website’s bounce rate, meaning the search engine has to rethink how to recommend this site. The search engine has one goal and one goal only: to provide the most relevant results based on the query that the user entered. If the results that the search engines are giving result in high bounce rates, obviously the search engine isn’t providing the most relevant results for that user.
Making Your Site User Friendly
The only way to truly make your site user friendly (and reduce your bounce rate so that search engines keep on recommending you) is to ensure that you have the basics down. This means making sure that:
- Your content is fresh, relevant and helpful, answering any and all questions that a viewer might have, especially ones that they entered into a search engine to wind up on your site
- Your website is in proper functioning order, with each webpage loading up quickly and correctly. All links should be in proper working order and it should be pleasing to view
- Your website should not only be pleasing to the eye, but it should be easy to read, understand and navigate. There should be plenty of white space and the navigation buttons should be in a familiar place to the viewer so they are not confused
The bottom line is that your website should be designed and written with the user in mind, making it easy for them to find the information that they need and then take action. This is how you use SEO and web design to make your website more user-friendly.
An Added Bonus
Of course, there is one other big reason that your site should be user friendly and it has nothing to do with search engines or any type of online marketing, and that’s the human element. When your site is user-friendly, your visitors will not only view your more as a company that cares about its customers, but they will also see you as technologically competent since you built a website they liked where your competition failed.