Usability is the Silent Partner of SEO

Posted on April 15, 2013 by Simon Thompson

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Search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the ways to generate traffic for a web site – but usability is just as important if you want to keep those hard-won visitors on your pages.

Usability is an assessment of how easy a web site is to use and goes hand-in-glove with SEO.

Regardless of how much traffic you generate with great content, well scripted tags, adword campaigns and back links, they will not stay if your web site challenges usability.

So what is usability?

Think of five key factors in web design –

  • How easily can a new site visitor pick up finding the information they need on a web site?
  • Once they have figured out the navigation, how quickly can they move around?
  • If they come back to the site after an absence, can they pick up where they left off?
  • Do they keep making mistakes, leaving the site or going up blind alleys because the site is not intuitive?
  • Is the design pleasing to the eye?

Working out if your web site has poor usability is quite simple. The bounce rate is really high and no one ventures past the landing pages. Repeat visits will be low.

Web design has etiquette. Web users expect to see common names for pages, like home, main page, contact and about. Breadcrumbs are really helpful for signposting where they are on a site.

Colour palettes should be limited and complementary, while typefaces and formatting should be consistent across every page. Use those H1, H2 and body styles.

Don’t forget web users have a reading line on a page. Western users start top left and work to the bottom right, while many other users start on the right and read to the bottom left.

Many will not realise the importance of usability. They will just land on a web page and find moving around a hassle and they might not even realise why.

The champion of usability as a science is Jakob Neilson. You can read much more about his views about web design on his web site.

The upshot is regardless of how well your SEO works, your traffic will pass you by if you ignore usability.

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