The internet has evolved in so many ways over the last few years. It can be hard to keep up with the latest tactics for optimising your website’s content, structure and design. In the past, certain tactics became popular that exploited weaknesses in the way search engines or social platforms discovered content. As search engines and social platforms have evolved in recent years they have also gotten smarter. So, these kinds of exploit based optimisations have become less effective than they once were.
Instead of finding new weaknesses to exploit, more current website content optimisation strategies have also evolved alongside the smarter platform technologies resulting in the establishment of a new guiding principle for web designers and digital marketers: Websites are used by human beings and so they should be designed around human behaviour.
So what does ‘designed for human behaviour’ actually mean? In the context of designing websites it essentially means that you can worry less about tactics like keyword stuffing and spend more time designing purposeful user experiences. By focussing on optimising your website content to meet your audience expectations you increase their chances of positive engagement and help them achieve their goals.
Below are three ways you can use insights from human behaviour to make your website content more effective.
Understand The User Intent
Each page on your website should have an intended purpose. You should be able to state clearly what you want the user to do on each page. As a guide, we would recommend each page have a primary and a maximum of two secondary intents, otherwise your content will become confusing for your user to follow.
The intent of something like an ‘About Us’ page is straightforward, it is to inform users about who you are. As a result, the user will expect to find some text and even images that tell your story. You may look to include secondary intents like getting the user to contact you and subscribing to your newsletter which will each require your website design to incorporate buttons and forms that facilitate these actions.
Anticipating your user’s intentions on the pages across your website allows you to create useful content. It strikes a balance between what users want and the engagement you are looking to generate from them. A starting point on the road to achieving this balance is to invest some time in reviewing your website, and content. Considering such questions as:
- If I was a website user, what would I expect to find on this page?
- As an organisation what do I want our audience to do on this page?
- Does data (from tools like Google Analytics) support my assumptions?
- What else is my audience doing on this page?
Striking that balance between the needs of your audience and organisation can be challenging. However, the rewards are there for those willing to invest the time and resources into optimising your user experience.
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Make it Faster
While people will engage with long-form content the room for error is getting smaller as attention spans also shrink. This means that special attention needs to be given to the user experience leading up to the content so that it is as fast and efficient as it can be.
Keeping speed and efficiency front of mind when writing social copy will help in crafting content that is eye-catching and slows the frenetic scrolling long enough to get click-through. Once on your website, pages and content need to load quickly or you will bounce users who give up on your slow content. Once it does load you need to quickly deliver on the promise made in your social copy or at least confirm that the experience promised will be delivered.
This is a simple example of generating clickthrough from social to your website but there are several ways you can promote fast and efficient use of your website.
Integrating CRM’s and smart form fields is a clever way of collecting information and then tracking users around your site, only ever asking them for more information as you need it and then using that information to provide a more personalised and easily navigable website experience.
Guide The Eye
The design and layout of your pages will change the way users interact with them. This will help you support user experiences across your website.
There are two basic scanning patterns on a webpage depending on the type and amount of content being displayed.
- The ‘Z’ pattern – Where content is structured and contains a lot of images. This type of pattern is seen as users scan across the page looking for places they typically find logos, menus and buttons. The main body of the content sits centrally as the users scan across and over it repeatedly.
- The ‘F’ pattern – This pattern closely matches a ‘reading pattern’ as users scan over text-heavy content.
Understanding these two patterns allows you to use design to make your content more effectively and deliver content elements where users will expect to find them. By basing your designs of these basic scanning patterns you can make your user’s experience easier. Therefore more enjoyable, which in turn promotes longer sessions and increased chances of conversion.
Testing, testing, testing
Finally, it is always important to remember that humans sometimes do not behave the way we expect. While we can use the above rules as a guide for crafting engaging user experiences, we also need to confirm our assumptions through regular testing.
We recommend A/B testing your marketing content and website design as often as possible to explore specific parts of the user experience and using data to ultimately determine the directions we take.
Start A/B tests with a hypothesis such as, that removing the requirement for a phone number will increase the number of form completions on our landing page. We then create two versions of the page and change only this component of the form before sending the page’s traffic. There are several ways of doing this but ideally, you want users to be randomly sent to each variant without realising they are in the middle of an experiment. Leave it for a few days and then assess your results before implementing the winning variant.
Optimising your website for users means understanding your audience and remembering that they are people who are coming to your site for a reason. The better you can meet their expectations, do so quickly and without challenging them unnecessarily, the better your website and content will perform.