Tips For User-Centric Online Environments – Helpful Hints For Charities 33

Blog post 33/52 Creating user-centric online environments

Tips for user-centric online environments

In this weeks post we’re going to be looking a simple checklist of considerations all website managers should be thinking about when developing and improving their website content strategy and plans for interacting with the sites users.

It is likely you have a clear idea of what you want from the site – how you want it to look, how you want to layout the information etc. The question you really need to ask yourself is ‘what do I think my users will want’?

It is hard to stay objective but this is the only way you will be able to head in the right direction towards a successful website. Your views are obviously still important but you need to balance these with what your visitors will need from your website to make sure you are hitting the right note.

This article looks at the importance and different aspects needed to interact with your users.

 

1. Build a community around your website

Integrating a blog, twitter feed or Q and A section are just a few examples of building a community through your website. Allowing users to join in your discussions and comment on your articles is a great way of building relationships and sharing information. If visitors feel your website is a useful source of information, they are more likely to join in and revisit.

If you are using social networking platforms such as Twitter, it is worth integrating a feed through your website where your posts show up and also including a function to let people retweet your posts in order to attract more users to your website or twitter profile. For more ideas on community development check out our post from earlier this year.

2. Write your content in a conversational manner

When writing your content, although you are likely to be the expert on what you are writing about, it is best to write your content in a conversational manner and avoid sounding like you are talking at your users. Also, avoid jargon where possible and keep it simple so your users can understand what you are trying to say.

Depending on the nature of what you do, it is likely you will need to take the appropriate approaches to your writing style; either formal, laid back tone, informal, jovial, emotive or persuasive for example. If you feel a formal tone would suit you better, make sure you remember to sound approachable.

3. Keep your navigation and information clearly laid out

To keep your visitors interested in your website and be able to guide them around it is important to make sure information is readily available. Over complicated navigation is a thing of the past and users prefer sites to have fewer, yet much clearer options with core site messages clear from the homepage so users can quickly establish if your website relates to what they are looking for. Clear and loud website ‘calls to action’ buttons are the key to delivering individuals to your desired outcomes.

Interacting with your users through the information on your website has to be done effectively or you risk losing out on valuable site visitors. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and evaluate how they might engage their users.

4. Have an up-to-date news section

Having a news section allows visitors to see what is happening in your organisation and gives them first hand access to regular updates from you. Updating your news section with well optimised articles keep you regularly appearing in search engines who appreciate the fresh topical content.

Allowing visitors to comment on your news relates to point number one about building a community around your website and can generate a discussion about your articles. These discussions can occur between the individual and the article author, the organisation or between individuals too.

5. Reply to comments quickly

If your website visitors comment on your news articles, social networking posts, articles or submit questions to you, aim to reply within 24 hours as a rule. This is a good way of getting people back to your website, getting involved in discussion from users and potentially making conversions.

6. Include interactive features

Adding image galleries, video and audio is another way of interacting with your users without using an overload of written content. It is an interesting way of attracting attention and some users will much prefer to use these sources of information, especially as it is common knowledge that most web users skim information with speed.

7. Monitor your website traffic

When we set up websites for our clients we always integrate a Google Analytics account so we can help clients monitor the success of their website. The Google Analytics package is a great way to find out how many visitors your site is receiving, where they are coming from, how long they stay on the site and loads more useful information. Traffic and site usage stats should be recorded regularly and reviewed to get a fuller understanding of how people are using the site. We recommend setting digital objectives for downloads, emails sign ups, donations etc. so that total marketing efforts have an observable bench mark.

This can help you see if users are visiting sections on your website that allow interaction and also help you see which pages are proving not so popular. Keep an eye on your bounce rate which means the percentage of visitors leaving your website at first glance to see if people are finding your website useful and browsing through pages. You should aim for a bounce rate lower than 40%.

8. Make sure your website follows accessibility standards

Making sure your website follows accessibility standards is a subject that often needs to be considered in detail with the actual site users in mind and your own in house resources for maintaining the standards once the site has gone live. A lot of site organisations feel they need to comply with W3C AAA standards, which would be great but sometimes can be unrealistic to maintain in the long term. There are some general functions across the board such as text resizing and changing the colour of text for the visually imparired, translation options for international sites and audio/browse aloud options for those with hearing difficulties.

 

 If you enjoyed this post or feel like you have some more to add why not let us know via our comments section below.

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