Today we’re continuing the discussion on technical elements of website usability that began in my previous post.
One more important technical question: How does your website load? If it doesn’t load fast, research why not. Internet users don’t wait for sites to load—they just don’t. The average user doesn’t spend more than 30 seconds on a website.
With a regular broadband connection, the average site’s homepage should load within 10 seconds and its internal page should load within 15 seconds. You need to make sure your site meets these requirements. There are lots of ways to ensure this.
The code of your website should be clean and free from errors. Always validate it through http://validator.w3.org and if you use cascading style sheets (CSS)—which you should be—
validate them at http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/. Thus, you’ll be confident that your website is W3C compliant.
Your code should also be “light”—don’t use anything that might make site’s code “heavier.”
Make sure that uncommon plug-ins are not required to view elements of your site, otherwise the website will be very uncomfortable for your visitors.
Avoid dynamic URLs. Use the .htaccess file’s rewrite mode to make sure all of your site’s URLs are SEO-friendly, i.e. static and keyword-rich. Consult your hosting company and hire a programmer to do some customization work for you if you don’t know anything about how to implement this.
Test, test, and test! Test it in all web-browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari); with both PC and Mac; with mobile phones and other Internet-access stations; with different screen resolutions (1024×768, 1280×1024, 800×600) and color schemes; when using additional online tools and add-ons to view the site; and how it would be seen as a screenshot or in a frame. Also ask yourself, “How does the site perform for visually impaired users? How are DHTML menus working? Do flash or action script elements load fast?”
You can’t make your site look technically perfect for absolutely everyone, but you should try to do your best.
Collect information from your visitors. You can do this automatically by using different sorts of web analytics tools like Google Analytics; or by using different marketing strategies, such as offering free products (white papers, software demos, etc.) if visitors fill out a simple contact form. Ask them website usability questions, such as what’s easy and what isn’t. The more you know, rather than assume, the better you can make your site look and function for all visitors. In addition, using web analytics is vital for other purposes. You should be aware of what’s going on with and on your website, so you can act fast when something is wrong.
Hope this information helps in creating and managing technically strong websites. Good luck!
Internet Marketing Manager
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