In the prior article in this two-part series, we discussed how to improve Association website effectiveness by avoiding messaging challenges on your website. This article will focus on common user experience issues that occur with some websites.
Lack of a security certificate
Prospective members may never reach your website if the website lacks a security certificate. (https://) Today’s browsers will display a warning if a visitor tries to go to a site with no security certificate.
This is both a user experience and SEO issue because search engine result position may be impacted by the lack of a certificate. The fix requires the purchase of a security certificate from your hosting company ($5-$300+ per year.) Once you purchase the certificate have your web developer force the certificate throughout the website.
Difficult to contact your association
Your phone number should be in the top right corner of the header, as well as in the footer and on the Contact Us page.
- Too tall – We often see website headers that are so tall that they require extra scrolling to get to the main messaging for the website.
- Social media icons placed in the header – Social media is less important than site navigation or main messaging. Placing the icons in the header distracts visitor focus. We place the icons in the footer of the website.
- Too many navigation links – Some websites have poor layout/navigation and as a result they cram two full navigation menus in the header. It’s okay to place a few less critical page links in a second menu that is placed above the main menu in order to house less important pages; such as the contact, blog, or about us pages.
Aren’t your frustrated when you visit a website and invest time exploring and find something you want to explore further, only to find that you get a 404 Page Not Found error when you click on the link.
If you review Google Analytics you can see a list of the broken links on your website.
Links that go off of the website in the same window
If a link takes someone off of the website be sure to set it to open in a new window so that when the visitor finishes there they can close that window and be back on your website.
Taking people off the site to view videos, make donations, etc. requires the new window setting.
For videos, we prefer to keep people on your website by using embedded YouTube or Vimeo players on a website page. If 3rd party websites are needed for donations or other purposes we prefer to integrate them in to the main website. For donation pages the payment will still take place off of the website by utilizing the third party payment processor (Stripe, PayPal, Network for Good, Blackbaud, Sage, etc.)
Pages that don’t have text or graphic links to other pages.
People don’t read a website like a book so you need to guide them to the next logical page. For example, a link on an About Us page could go to a frequently asked questions page or a benefits of Association membership page.
Check Google Analytics to see what the most visited pages are for your website. Oftentimes people don’t realize that their second or third most visited page is the About Us page, and they leave visitors stranded on that page rather than guiding them elsewhere. Also, Google likes internal hyperlinks, so by adding them on a page you help your SEO by getting visitors to explore more pages and spend more time on your website. It can also help lower your bounce rate (the percentage of people who leave the website from the same page where they entered the site.)
Lack of a Frequently Asked Questions page.
An F.A.Q. page serves as both a sales tool and as a method of guiding people deeper into the website pages or to a Blog article for answers to their questions.
An F.A.Q. page allows you to relieve your staff of answering common questions. It also lets you ask the questions you want website visitors to ask. For example, if you want to attract a younger membership group a question about philanthropic aspects of the Association could have an answer that leads to an internal page about those activities, or to a specific Blog post about an event the organization hosted or participated in as a group.
Stranded page visitors.
Nothing is more frustrating than getting deep into a website and being unable to return to the Home page or finding navigation buttons that aren’t working to escape the page to view other content. Check your website navigation periodically to see that it still operates as expected.
Using organization vernacular
Oftentimes organizations use page names that have meaning to members, but are unfamiliar to potential members. Those pages will likely remain unvisited by new website traffic, and do nothing to project an appearance of a welcoming Association.
Auto-play Music or Video
Video or Music that auto plays when the page is opened can be startling and is intrusive.
Website visitors (as well as Google) expect that a website will be “responsive.” Responsive means that the website will shrink and grow based on the device used to view the pages. Just because you use a responsive theme don’t assume that your website provides a great user experience. Our development team spends extra time ensuring that the mobile device experience is superior. The use of forms to be completed on a cell phone is where poor responsive design comes to the fore. Poor design can be identified by the need to use fingers to manually expand the screen to make the fields larger so that text or numbers can be entered into a form.
Slow loading pages.
If you use high resolution images or large video files the load speed may be impacted. That will result in visitors leaving the website and Google will penalize your website’s search result placement.
A hard-to-use content management system
If your CMS is challenging to use, or requires that you wait for a developer to make site changes, you will be less likely to update content or may create website problems with the content you add yourselves. Our preference is a drag and drop editor.
Integrated Blogs (contained within the main website) are preferred over BlogSpot blogs. There is little SEO value to having a separate Blog outside your main website.
No or limited calls to action
It is important to guide visitors to the end destination in the same way hyperlinks guide them through the information in your website. A call to action can be a button on the page such as, Join Now, Learn More, Become a Member, Why Join? How We Help. etc.
Unsafe credit card procedures
Even if you have a security certificate on your website you shouldn’t use a form that collects credit card information that is stored in the content management system. Doing so opens your Association to liability if the website is breached. Visitors will exit your website if they are uncomfortable with your credit card or other data collection procedures.
Hard to remember domain names
Many Association website domain names are an alphabet soup that can be impossible for non-members to recall. Develop a name that is memorable.
User Experience Tools
One method of uncovering user experience issues with your Association website is to use Hotjar, a piece of 3rd party software, to measure the hotspots on pages or to view the actual user path (mouse tracking, or mobile finger navigation tracking) through their “mouse” tracking recordings. Yes, it’s a bit creepy, however by using Hotjar recordings we’ve been able to uncover reasons that someone abandoned a shopping cart on an ecommerce website, or to see parts of a page where the experience is weak from the visitor viewpoint. You won’t know who specifically the person is whose recording you watch. There is a limited function, free version of the software to try.
If you’d like to discuss your Association website and how to move it forward, please contact us for a complementary consultation.
(hotjar example: Red indicates the most active areas on the page.)