Everyone can think of at least one example of a site that is absurdly lacking in the user-friendliness category, but no one thinks that it could possibly be THEIR site. Here’s a brief guide to some common problems, and warning signs that YOUR site isn’t as friendly as it could be:
One of my particular favorites is a site whose splash page says “Enter Here” and that’s it. There is just nothing else on the page. No other links, no brief explanation of why I’m entering, and the page title reads, “Untitled.”
Clicking on the link isn’t much better. Once on the second page, (still Untitled, mind you), there is a list of links. No graphics, not any other type of written information on the page, and no alt tags. The links read as standard links might show, “Home”, “Back”, “News”, etc.
Now I’m hoping that your sites don’t look like this, but how fine-tuned are your sites? Are they so user-friendly that a chimpanzee or perhaps your mother-in-law could understand it, or does it take a top rocket scientist with a slide rule to get around? Chances are, your site is somewhere in between. Let’s have a look.
Let’s first check browser compatibility. Not much is said about browser compatibility, because we often fall into the trap of believing that the world runs on Internet Explorer. Not so! There are several browsers, and the most common are: I.E., Netscape, Mozilla, and Opera. Please understand that your site may well look incredibly different on different browsers. Check your site’s compatibility, please.
Another thing to keep in mind is the time it takes your site to load on various Internet connection speeds. No, most of the world is not yet on DSL, cable, or satellite. Most of the world is somewhere back in the 56k range. If your site takes more than 10 seconds to load, your surfer may well go someplace else.
Please remember to use alt tags in your HTML. Google spiders the heck out of these, which means higher page ranking for you. But more importantly than that, your surfers can see a nice description of the picture. That counts as brownie points. It also lets them see where they’re about to go before they click a link. That’s cool too.
Please get rid of any broken links that may be on your site. Those are almost as annoying to the surfer as pop-ups – but where pop-ups can make you some extra cash, broken links cannot.
Don’t you hate it when you click on a picture expecting to see a larger version of that picture but get a lovely little red X instead? So do your surfers.
Please do not incorporate Flash into your site designs. Not everyone has the plugin and not everyone can get it. This just slows your page down and annoys the surfer who can’t see it. If you MUST use Flash, please be sure that a link to the plugin is offered as well as an HTML version of your site for those folks who just don’t want to get the plugin.
Little things add up to a great deal of annoyance. Remember: Even one housefly can bug you to death. Take care of yourselves, and your sites! ~ Tala
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