The weather outside might not be perfect enough to be called Spring quite yet, but that’s no excuse to avoid Spring Cleaning, especially for your website. Any time is a good time to trim the fat and lose the bulk -- after all, your New Year’s resolution to do so has probably fallen flat by now – your website’s users will thank you for giving them a less frustrating online experience. Before making that first trip to the thrift store donation bin, try these four Spring Cleaning tips to improve your website’s usability.

Unstock the Stock Photos
In a Web where mobile rules and visitors’ attention spans are as short as ever, it’s essential that any website loses any elements that don’t add value. Ornamental elements such as stock photos rarely add to a website’s user experience – in fact, in most cases, they harm the experience more than help.

It’s a good idea to shed the images that aren’t related to the topic of the website and don’t add value or information. Instead, use images of your own content – using actual photos of staff, customers, products, locations, and graphs add to your website’s credibility and provide users with more important, trust-building images to add to their experience.

Slim the Homepage
More often than not, a website’s homepage is the gateway to the rest of the site. It’s crucial to make a positive first impression and clearly define what the website is about, and what primary action users should take.

Studies have proven over and over that most Web users will not read blocks of paragraph text to learn what a website offers – instead, they scan. While what you have to say is probably interesting, cut it down so that someone scanning the page can take your message with them. Use bold, concise, objective headlines that cleanly lead into more descriptive text, and eventually into an action.

Once you’ve built an interesting, engaging homepage and created a positive first impression, you’ll find your visitors’ attention growing and more traffic finding its way into other pages on your website.

Cut Down Registration Forms
For any type of business, contact and registration forms are one of the most important functional pieces of any website. Oftentimes, however, they aren’t crafted and thought through with the detail they deserve. Think about it – you’re relying on your customers and potential customers to provide you with their information, taking their own valuable time and effort to register or contact you.

Make contact and registration forms as short as possible. While it sometimes may make sense to capture a user’s address, birth date, job title, and zip code, conversions will suffer if users see a dauntingly long page full of personal questions and run away from your website faster than it takes them to answer “What is your mother’s maiden name?”

Take Tumblr for instance – a clearly-labeled “Sign Up” button from their homepage takes users to a page with nothing (and nothing at all) more than three form fields – email, password, and username. Once they’ve captured that information, it’s possible to add more detail later.
 
Slim Loading Time
If you’re a traffic-minded website owner, you probably obsess over your website’s bounce rate and work to get it as low as possible. While you can tweak the color of buttons and run all the A/B tests in the world in hopes of dropping a percentage, nothing has a bigger impact on keeping users on your website than having a fast-loading page.

Now is a great time to run through your website’s code and see what scripts are no longer used, or what is ready for an update. Make changes to your aesthetic design to suit your loading time and user’s experience – they can probably do without downloading a two-megabyte background photo.

If you’ve optimized every last kilobyte and still have a slow-loading site, it may be time to evaluate your web host. Changing hosting providers isn’t anyone’s favorite Web-chore, but the impact it can have to make a website quicker and more responsive could improve your users’ experience dramatically. After all, nearly half of Web users expect a site to load in under two seconds, and tend to abandon a site that isn’t fully loaded within three seconds. It may be time to jump off the budget hosting provider that crams your site onto a server with thousands of others.

The Bottom Line
Simply put, Spring Clean to make your website as usable as possible. Simplify website tasks. Lose bulk, and shed any website element that doesn’t directly provide value or add to your visitors’ experience. Showing you’ve got your act together will keep users on your website and get them more excited about learning what you have to offer.

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Steve Luvender

About Steve Luvender

Steve Luvender is a Senior User Experience Designer at Liquid Interactive, where he works with organizations to design and implement solutions that delight people and create business results.

Published Feb 25, 2013