19 Dec How to Improve Your WordPress Website’s Usability
WordPress accounts for over 27 percent of the total World Wide Web; that is to say, over 27 percent of all the websites present in the WWW uses WordPress. The CMS (content management system) has a massive user base which is complemented by a vast developer’s community, busy in providing new and improved functionalities for your WordPress powered websites.
You will get a boatload of themes to tweak your sites appearance, a multitude of plugins to add and increase functionality and also plenty of widgets to make your site more interactive.
Hence there are a lot of ways to improve upon your WordPress websites “usability.” But what is the optimal way to do it? What this question is trying to address is that too many plugins and widgets or a couple of “bad” ones can make your site’s load speed slower, as well as give off a cluttered appearance.
A good website is one that is user-friendly. All the content must be readily noticeable by the viewer; navigation must be easy and intuitive plus the entire experience of visiting your site must be smooth and lucid.
So here, our goal is to improve our WordPress website’s aesthetics, performance, and functionality. All these are technical areas that can be addressed with a couple of tweaking or even by installing some dedicated plugins. So without further ado, here is a concise look at How to Improve Your WordPress Website’s Usability:
Make your WordPress Website Responsive
A website having a responsive design means that it will be readily accessible from all screen sizes and orientations. Here we want our site to be accessible via mobile phones. Mostly every individual owning a smartphone is more comfortable using it for web browsing rather than sitting on their PCs, and mostly every individual now owns a smartphone. So it will be a dumb decision to miss out on the demographic.
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Again, the majority of themes that are available now can make your site mobile friendly and responsive. Also, if you manage a little time to do some research then, you will be aware that most of your contemporaries, as well as competitors, boasts a responsive website. So not giving your audience the pleasure of viewing your site through their smartphones can develop a deprived experience for them.
Now if you’re just starting out with your website, then you have nothing to worry about in this department. You will be installing a theme for your site, and there is high chance that the theme is going to be mobile-friendly. Now the question arises for webmasters who have an old site with a lot of content and an old theme which happens not to be ‘mobile-friendly.’
Now if you are some of these individuals and you don’t intend on changing your site’s non-responsive theme, can you can still make it responsive just by installing a plugin. There are a boatload of plugins available just to address this particular dilemma.
Jetpack is one such handy plugin for WordPress which is free and offers modules to help improve your site. A Mobile Theme module comes with the plugin and helps to create a mobile version of your website, so it becomes accessible via smartphone or tablet.
The plugin creates a custom look by utilizing the header images, background, and widgets of your current theme and makes sure that readers viewing your site through mobiles or tablets get to see your site’s mobile version.
Improve upon Your Site’s Appearance
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the importance of a good looking website. If your site looks good, just based on that merit, it can retain many viewers.
But if you aren’t a graphic designer, then creating an attractive and alluring website can be difficult indeed. Many people take to themes that have heavy customization options to build a unique and creative website. But more than often, this naïve dream of their ends with a website looking for a child’s first experience with Legos and building blocks.
But then what to do? A poorly looking website won’t attract viewers, but it is also not plausible to get a diploma in graphic design just to host a website. Well if you are trained in this field then great but if you’re just a beginner or an amateur in regards to designing your website then opting for themes that sport a look you like will be more preferable. This will ensure that you don’t get dumbstruck or even overdo with the customization features that you can’t fully comprehend.
Again, if you don’t consider yourself to be one of the seasoned users, and you don’t find the difference between using ‘Gill Sans’ over ‘Comic Sans’ then it is best for you to stick to the default setting with fonts and color schemes provided by your theme.
Fonts and color schemes might seem trivial but constitute a huge part of making your site more aesthetically pleasing and hence attractive.
This point goes the same way as the previous one in the case that if you don’t consider yourself to be a web developer (an expert in the field of concern), then you should better keep the navigation of your site simple and straightforward.
Widgets and shortcodes can help your viewers explore the entirety of your site, but if done incorrectly, your site can become cluttered and hence cause your visitors to leave your site instead of exploring it further.
First, decide what you want your audience to notice when they come to your site and make those specific contents readily visible to them. Use of bold buttons and attractive thumbnail images can be a great way to promote your valuable content.
But of course, you don’t want to build a site to throw contents you feel people should read, but rather generate content people want to read. For this purpose, you can use a ‘heatmap’ tools. These tools can help you understand what content the majority of the readers are viewing. Utilizing this new knowledge you can incorporate better search navigation so that your popular contents are more easily available.
Improve your Site’s Load Time
We have all encountered sites that take ages to load and ones that pop up right after their URL is hit. This phenomenon is not a fault of WordPress but rather a lack of optimization and most importantly dependent on your web host provider. To fully improve upon your WordPress site’s usability you can’t ignore improving its load time.
If it is a fault of improper optimization, then the solution may vary, and you have to dig into the matter. But if you feel that your site is all good but still faces some issues with load time then it’s time to change your web host provider.
You might want to consider some of the more premium hosting services like FlyWheel or WPEngine which provide you with a reliable and fast service. These two services have a great record of improving load time as well as comes with very little downtime.
You have to understand that most people dislike a lagging site and those in particular which are slow to start. These instances are one of the primary reasons for having fewer traffics in your website. Hence looking into this matter and improving it from its current condition can help you achieve your WordPress site’s potential and also improve usability.
As we were talking about earlier, a lack of optimization can lead to slower load times. One of the ways you can optimize your site is to reduce the load times of different web pages in your site by implementing a caching system.
Caching is a process in which a copy of your web pages are created and stored away as a static file on your server. It can be stored as an HTML file or even cached database queries. Now after a visitor requests a particular page of your site, the server shows him the cached page instead of dynamically producing it by re-querying your database.
This entire process can speed up the page response time and reduce overall server resources needed for generating a web page.
In the case of WordPress, you can implement a caching system to your site with the help of plugins. There are well over a thousand plugins you can choose from to address this issue, one of them would be WP Super Cache which is very popular among its users. It is free, easy to use and can reduce your site’s load time dramatically.
If you are looking to improve your site’s usability, then a caching plugin is a must have.
A Clean Dashboard
The WordPress Dashboard is sort of the main control center of all the behind-the-scene aspects of managing a website. Hence this is a place you don’t want to make a mess out of.
Up until now, we have been trying to improve WordPress usability by making it more usable for your audience. Now we shall tackle the issue of making the platform more usable for yourself. This will increase your ease of use and make you more productive and ultimately – enhance your WordPress website’s usability!
We all know why this point is here. Almost every one of us in our course of using WordPress had come across a time when our dashboard was too clustered to work with. Unnecessary plugins alone can just bundle up and make your site as slow as a tortoise. Just go through your dashboard and tidy it up.
Take notice of all the redundant plugins you have installed and delete them. Also remember to update all the plugins that you use as soon as updates are available.
Just incorporating this little habit in your daily routine can keep your site optimized and have faster load times.
Image Optimization Plugins
All sites include images into their content, and in fact, there are sites which are just based off images. Some examples would be photography blogs, travel and living sites or portfolio sites of graphic designers. If you are one of them then listen close.
Images are basically big contents in off themselves, and a site rich in images can become very heavy which will overall affect the performance of the site, especially the load time, in a negative way.
A clever way of bypassing the problem is by opting for an image optimization plugin. A keen example would be EWWW Image Optimizer. It is free and will automatically reduce the images included in your site to their lowest possible size.
With a lot of images getting their sizes reduced, it will be a significant weight reduction for your site which will make the load time faster, and as we explained, a faster website is the one with better usability.
Integrate Broken Link Checkers
If you are just starting out with your website, then this is something you don’t need to worry about that much, but you can rest assured that it will happen. So just educate yourself.
Broken links are mainly caused as your site grows and most importantly ages. These are the nasty little critters that bring you to that awful “404 error” page. Things, like renaming or moving a web page as well as linking to videos or PDFs that has been removed, can cause a broken link to occur.
Though this is not something that will result in you losing your visitors but still, if a visitor comes across a broken link, they will find the situation frustrating at the least.
It is always good on your part, as a content provider for your audience to give them something that is working. The trouble with broken links can be easily avoided with the help of some WordPress plugins like the appropriately named Broken Link Checker.
This plugin is also free and will check the entirety of your site, your pages and posts for any broken links and even address any missing images. If anything “broken” is found then, you will be informed and then you can update the link or just erase the hyperlink.
This will give you a convenient way for monitoring broken links and missing images forming in your site.
Improve Your SEO
A WordPress powered site is by no means intended to stay down the ladder of search engine searches. There are plenty of plugins to help you get a better search engine ranking, and if you are losing traffic just because of the lack of SEO then you are not “using” your WordPress site to its full potential.
One plugin worth considering in this context is famous WordPress SEO by Yoast. The plugin in will help you write your content by helping you to focus on specific keywords. This in turns makes your content more focused and unique and thus raises your chance of obtaining a better ranking. By the way, these type of contents are not only preferred by search engines but also people and thus improve your audience’s experience while reading your content.
The plugin is very easy to use and intuitive and is bound to improve your site’s traffic as well as content quality.
Provide Support Live Chat
This aspect is something to be taken very seriously if you use your site to provide some sort of a service for your audience/visitors. These are your valued customers, and they will appreciate you setting up a support team which they can easily contact and ask for help.
You can always put refer your client to an email link where they can ask for after-sales assistance, but you can also take the plugin route. WordPress is filled with a boatload of plugins that will help you provide quality support to your customer. For the sake of an example, let’s talk about the Provide Support Live Chat plugin. The plugin enables you to incorporate a live chat button to your site as well as to add custom images. The live chat button can be placed wherever you want and is flexible in regards to positioning. It will also help you to integrate some useful shortcodes.
The mere gesture of including live chat support to your site will increase your site’s usability by a mile. The live chat feature is gaining constant popularity as it is able to fulfill the needs of the most demanding users as well as comfort the doubts of the more cautious one.
The simple act of including a live chat option will help you increase your potential demography as well as help you know more about your customers.
This is one of the most crucial aspects of owning a website and doesn’t deserve even the tiniest bit of negligence. Because of the huge popularity of the WordPress CMS, it is also one of the most prime targets for hackers to practice their skills.
Luckily WordPress is also loaded with plugins and options to help you in this regard as well.
Plugins are available to help you with server side scanning, website monitoring and also security alerts will keep your site less prone to hacking. You can also do some good by keeping your plugins regularly updated as well as doing a malware clean up in a regular basis.
Another popular form of hacking a site is by brute force. You can take the help of some plugins in this case as well and just change your login URL and thus make it more difficult more you to be hacked. If you don’t want your lock picked, then simply hide your lock!
You can also limit logins with Limit Login Attempts plugin. Which offers a feature that can limit the number of times a particular IP can attempt to login to your site.
WordPress holds so much possibility of customization and the potential to add so many functionalities that you will naturally have the urge to find out its true power. But once you set on that path, and after an hour of tweaking you see that everything about your site is messed up, you will want to revert to your primary state which will be a complicated process if you haven’t backed up. Or perhaps consider the scenario where you have spent a couple of hours drafting a post which just vanishes due to some error.
These things happen far too often, and thus the kind developers have also made plugins to help in this aspect. Of course, your web hosting provider to includes some form of backup with their services. If you use some of the premium web host providers like WPEngine or SiteGround, then you shouldn’t worry as they perform daily automated backups.
If you wish to know of some plugins that do the same, then consider VaultPress plugin. It will help you with real time backups which are mandatory for any site that has frequent updates but might be strenuous on your server if you are hooked with a shared WP hosting plan.
Popups and Sliders
Popups and sliders are in vogue among the WordPress community or webmasters in general. They provide a convenient and independent way of making sure that your audience sees a certain content of yours. WordPress provides a robust platform for integrating pop-ups and sliders into your site through plugins, but these features are only useful in moderation
Remember, a successful website is not the one which force feeds audiences with information THEY think valuable, but rather readers know what they value, and the successful website just happens to have the best variation of their audience’s cravings.
If you are launching something or your site is going to hold a special event you know your followers are going to love as they have been anticipating it, the pop-up can be a great means to go with that. But frequent and continuous use of pop-ups is just a sign of a bad website.
Sliders are similar to this as they can distract your visitors from the content they have come to use and create the content consumption experience much less enjoyable.
Most importantly if your site’s mobile version has pop-ups or sliders, then it can affect your site’s usability in a unpleasant manner, so this is some thing you need to use with restraint.
This are just some simple ways you can improve your sites usability and make for a great user experience for you as well as your visitors. It is to be always considered that a site which is easy to navigate will always be preferable over its complex alternative.
All the mentioned steps are easy to employ, and the changes should be visible immediately. Do let us know how much this article was helpful and also add some of your tips and tricks for increasing your WordPress site’s usability.