Tuesday, March 10, 2009

25 Ways To Improve Your Site Today

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Yes, the title may look like this post should be on an amateur blog and that it will be full of references to clip art and animated gifs, but this is serious. I’ve compiled a list of what I think are 25 ways to improve your website in as little time as possible. All can be done in a matter of minutes. Now, a website is hard work and usually there are no quick fixes but this list should provide you with a few pointers to make some updates today. If you like, it can also be used as a basis for a quality check document.

Usability/Accessibility

Because it matters. If people can’t use your site, they won’t stay.

  1. Navigation: Ensure that your navigation is easy to use and consistent. You may be able to use it, but could a newcomer find the information they desire?
  2. Search: If you don’t have a search box, then why not? Sometimes navigation isn’t enough. It may not be a 5 minute job to add a custom search facility, but it is extremely quick to add a third party search like Google’s.
  3. Click here: Why? Change this phrase everywhere on your site. It doesn’t make sense out of context. The user has to read the whole paragraph (which they probably won’t) to understand why they should click there. Consider phrases like “Download the profit/loss graph” or “Listen to the podcast entitled food for thought.”
  4. Title & Alt Attributes: Use them how they are supposed to be used. If you haven’t used any at all, then a quick fix will be to start adding them to navigation and other elements on every page.
  5. General: If you’ve got any code snippets that could annoy the user, like resizing browser windows or opening new pages in a new window, then remove them. Just because you like something a particular way, your users may not. Don’t take over their desktop.

Search Engine Optimisation - SEO

Because you want to be found. (On-page tips only here)

  1. Titles: Add consistent, relevant but different titles (title tag) to every page in your site. If you already have titles, check that they are short and describe the content of the page.
  2. Link around: Internal links to your pages (I’m thinking from the body copy here) are just as important as external links. Besides the usability gain, you have the unique opportunity of specifying your link and title text.
  3. Strengthen keywords: Probably the quickest thing you can do. Highlight some keywords and phrases and add a strong tag (bold) around them. This shouldn’t be overused but can provide some positive results if used sparingly.
  4. Headers: The correct use of headers (in a semantic, logical manner) can produce fantastic results. The H1 tag is the most important - try using some keywords in there.
  5. Overkill: It seems whenever I speak to someone about SEO and give them some tips, they go way overboard. This can really ruin all the hard work you’ve done for the user. So remember, optimise with the user in mind. And stay away from dodgy SEO stuff - every time you use black-hat SEO, a kitten steps on broken glass.

Design/Development Process

Design is our passion. Let it show.

  1. Images: By all means create beautiful images, but don’t forget to optimise them for the web. You may have a quick connection - not everybody does.
  2. Design comes from scratch(pad): Don’t necessarily fire up your graphics editor before thinking about the design. It can only take 10 minutes to draw (you know - pencil and paper) various layouts and wireframe the design. Doing this will make you think more about placement of elements and less about the aesthetics.
  3. Contrast/Text-size: Ensure that contrast levels and text sizes are ‘acceptable’ - There are no golden figures (although recommendations are available) to aim for but at least check with other people using different setups. Just because you have perfect 20:20 vision doesn’t mean that anyone can read your site.
  4. Consistency: There’s nothing worse (OK - an exaggeration, yes) than a website that doesn’t function consistently. A user can find it hard enough to learn how a website is put together without having to remember all the little quirks and foibles on your site.
  5. Testing: Check (or get others to check) the site under as many conditions as possible. Try to do this every time the site has a significant update. It’s worth it as it only takes a minute or two.

Content

That’s why people visit the site.

  1. Text/Whitespace: There’s a big trap that often people fall into. Whitespace. How many times have you heard “we need to fill that space and cram the text in a bit more” ? More text in a single area isn’t a good thing. It can make it harder and less enjoyable to read the content. It you had a shop would you cram as many products in as possible? No. You’d let them have space so they get noticed. Do the same with your text.
  2. Write for your audience: Can people understand your text? Think about your audience and reword those confusing sentences.
  3. Corporate Boasting: Which is more useful ~ “We provide 200 megaunits of wobble-sprockets to our worldwide, global markets” ~ or ~ “We can provide a wobble-sprocket to you anywhere in the world.” Speak to the reader and engage them. Don’t waffle.
  4. Use interest: If someone has read an article or item of content, then it is fair to assume that they were interested. Instead of leaving them high-and-dry after an article, point them somewhere related, whether it be another article or a product perhaps.
  5. Objectives: When writing content, make a little mental note of what your goal is for the page (e.g. encourage registration) and try to guess what the users goal is (e.g. to get at information.) Match the two (e.g. “to find this information simply sign up”) and you’re golden.

Off-Site

Because it’s not all about you.

  1. Hang out: For reasons surrounding traffic and respect. Go to forums, blogs and portals within your niche and hang out. Offer advice, link up with people and gain respect. Doing this for 10 minutes a day will improve your image and lead to quality, niche-lead traffic. A bonus. Oh, and don’t spam your community.
  2. Learn: As well as handing out advice, listen. Whether it be listening to colleagues, competition or potential clients you are bound to learn an awful lot just by witnessing other people’s actions.
  3. Encourage viral promotion: Not particularly in a gimmicky-email-newsletter fashion (that takes budget and time) but in a social fashion. Tell your friends and colleagues (and clients if relevant) something unique about you, your company or website and chances are they’ll pass it on. 5 minutes of blabbering could lead to heaps of traffic.
  4. Be yourself: When interacting online, don’t conform to internet stereotypes - just be yourself. Doing this will mean that you are natural when interacting online and more likely to take a similar approach as you would offline. So, take your offline business ways online.
  5. Spam: As in don’t spam. Every time you spam, you are adding disrespect to your own company/site. It’s the real-world equivalent of pushing a leaflet into a potential customer’s mouth.

And there we go. I hope this list is useful and has shown you how easy it is to improve various aspects of your website and its marketing. This isn’t exhaustive by any means - as I said earlier it takes effort and time to really get your site near-perfect. Evolution is the key: tweak, feedback, measure and repeat. Oh, and before you go looking, no, I don’t always practice what I preach!



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About Me


嗨,我是花,居住在印度兴奋的Windows,Linux中国的外籍人士和所有高科技的东西

Hi, I am Hua, a chinese expat residing in India excited about windows, linux and all things tech

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