In the first part of this two-part series, we looked at why user experience (UX) is so important, along with general steps you can take to improve it within your WordPress environment. Examples are functionality and design. This second part examines more specific steps you can take to improve UX – such as fixing 404 errors and installing various UX-oriented WP plugins. It closes with a few common UX mistakes to avoid.
Fix any issues with 404 errors.
One very simple step to take is to watch out for any dead ends – 404 errors – as indicated by WordPress theme firm WPion. If a user sees a 404 error, there is no chance you will retain them as a visitor. After all, there are probably no images or content for them to see (unless you have an incredible 404 page). You want all your web pages to function as you want them to. Your UX will suffer if people see these pages.
Use best practices for carousels.
One way to improve the UX of the site is with a carousel or slider, so that you can get your message above the fold (i.e., in the part of the website that you immediately see prior to scrolling) and in front of the potential customer.
The reason that many people like to use a carousel on their WP site is that it:
- lets you show off your most important messaging in a central location;
- allows you to prioritize as you place the messages in your preferred order; and
- allows you to be diverse in your messaging and have a bit of appeal for everyone.
While those reasons are compelling, many people do not believe in the UX of this approach for 2 reasons, noted WP theme site ThimPress:
- users often do not have the patience to wait for the slides to go through, perhaps looking at one image and moving on; and
- carousels are not search-engine friendly, because it is not easy for search spiders to crawl them.
For the best possible UX if you do implement carousels, use these tips:
- Turn off any auto-forwarding function;
- Allow the user to control slider navigation; and
- Limit your slides to a maximum of 5.
Strike a balance with white space.
It makes it easier to digest your content when there is sufficient white space. These empty areas allows you to demarcate different areas where you want the eye to go. It is especially important to have substantial white space when you are trying to provide a large amount of information above the fold. Creating the right balance of white space is a challenging aspect of web design. However, the general idea is that a larger amount of content will naturally lead to a larger amount of white space.
Upgrade your navigation’s sophistication with mega menus.
Tools or functionality within WordPress geared toward highly advanced menu creation are loosely called mega menus. Mega menus are a logical next step beyond the primary navigation in the header and secondary navigation in the sidebar – and they make sense in the context of sizable blogs or many ecommerce product pages.
The reason mega menus are increasingly popular is that there is uniform visibility, with everything included, even content that is on lower tiers. Since everything can be seen right away, the UX is improved because the user is able to get to your less frequently visited materials more quickly.
On the downside, said ThimPress, mega menus will:
- sometimes slow down the site, particularly when you use icons or graphics;
- be useless for a site that does not apply the WP taxonomy well to hierarchize content; and
- be difficult to make 100% responsive for the best mobile performance.
Beware of modal pop-ups.
You of course want to convert as many of the visitors to your site as possible – but be careful not to drive them away by being too aggressive.
Interruption marketing, otherwise known as the modal pop-up, can be a great way to boost sales. Many, many plugins now make it possible to interrupt the user in this manner. You can let them know about a discount, have them sign up or subscribe, remind them to like a social media post, etc.
This method is far from perfect. The reason people use it and consider it a UX improvement is simply that it raises their conversions.
Reasons that a modal pop-up can be the worst thing you can do for user experience are that:
- the popup can get in the way when your visitor is interested in digesting content, such as an explanatory article;
- the popup will typically feel like it simply a distraction and will often be ignored unless it harmonizes with the journey of the user; and
- accessibility is inevitably damaged by these devices.
Select plugins to improve your usability.
Perhaps it is a no-brainer that you can solve many problems on WordPress with plugins. While these add-ons may be immediately available, simply wading through them and figuring out what you need, and what is well-maintained, can be a huge process. Neil Patel is a thought-leader both in marketing and in user experience, so his suggestions are interesting on this topic. Here are the 11 plugins that Patel suggested for UX:
- Contact Form 7 – KoMarketing released a poll in 2015 that revealed nearly half of respondents (44%) had left a site because there was no contact information available. This plugin simplifies the creation of a contact form.
- What Would Seth Godin Do – Using cookies, this plugin displays different welcome messages to returning visitors than you display to new ones.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – This plugin gives you a quick overview of your main stats right in your WP admin portal.
- W3 Total Cache – This plugin allows you to keep the user’s browser from having to re-download redundant data.
- WP Smush.it – You want to minimize your images for strong performance. This plugin makes that easy.
- WPtouch Mobile Plugin – Making it simple to become mobile-friendly, this website addresses an increasing concern.
- Broken Link Checker – The average lifespan of a webpage is 100 days, said Patel. Broken links should be addressed. This plugin notifies you of them over time.
- CrazyEgg Heatmap Tracking – This plugin shows you how users interact with your site through visual heat-mapping. (Notably, this plugin is from Patel’s company.)
- Better Click to Tweet – This plugin allows you to tweet little quotes from within content.
- WP Live Chat Support – This plugin offers you the option for free live chat.
- P3 Profiler – This plugin gives you a report on the load times and similar information for all your other plugins.
Avoid common usability mistakes.
Here are some frequently made mistakes that would cause your UX to suffer:
- Choosing diversity over consistency – Be consistent. Stick with your color scheme and fonts.
- Sacrificing UX and only focusing on speed – You want your site to be fast, both through your own optimization and with high-performance infrastructure. However, speed must be paired with function – so assess your UX in conjunction with speed for optimal engagement.
- Not paying attention to industry standards – Be certain that what you are doing on WordPress applies to the niche you are serving. Strong UX is about moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Placing emphasis in the wrong directions – Research cited by WP Mayor (also the source of these common mistakes) demonstrates the order in which the typical user scans a page and, in turn, the priority of site elements. The eye goes to elements on the page as follows: logo, navigation menu, search box, social media links, main image, text content, and bottom content. Use this knowledge to guide design in a conscientiously prioritized manner.
- Trying to meet numerous objectives simultaneously – Meet that one goal that the user has for your site, rather than trying to be all things for all people.
Strong performance for strong UX
Going beyond performance to broadly consider functional usability of your site is key. However, as indicated by that last plugin from Patel and from other elements above, the speed and reliability of your WordPress environment will be key to delivering strong user experience. At Total Server Solutions, our infrastructure enables our cloud to realize performance that other providers can only dream about. See our high-performance infrastructure.