Tablets are changing websites

> on November 6, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.I’ve ranted on at length about the way people process information when they view the website, but the advent of tablets is beginning to change how we behave online.

I’ve always been phobic about very long pages that people have to scroll a lot to read, but with tablets a sweep of the finger makes it easy – in fact, much easier than it is to tap menu tabs.  One of my clients is going down the route of a single long scrollable page with sections featuring the content that would normally be on separate pages.  However, he’s also installing a menu that takes the site visitor to the right ‘page’ if they choose to tap the menu tab instead.

It’s all about how we use our viewing devices.  Not so many years ago website menus were on the left – I’m not sure why as that it is the furthest point from where most people’s cursor sits when using a traditional computing set up.  I’d hazard a guess that someone used ‘reading logic’ and thought it should be where the eyes go first.  That was before it was discovered that we don’t read websites like the equivalent paper document, however, our eyes do tend to go the left first – to read, but when we want to take action it’s not the natural place for the mouse to go.

Most of us ‘park’ the mouse on the right near the scroll bar, so it would make sense to have the menu on the right – but in tests right hand menus are often not recognised as menus.  We’ve learned that menus are on the left, or more commonly today a horizontal bar underneath the brand banner.  But now we have the ability to move things around with a sweep of a finger things are changing.  Big blocks are much easier to tap than skinny little hyperlinks in the text, scrolling is easier than tapping menu tabs, the way we scan is different on a tablet to a traditional fixed screen.

What does this mean for your website?

That’s a really tough one to answer.  A good web developer will ensure your site is optimised for both phone and tablet, but short of designing two completely different websites it’s difficult to sit comfortably on the fence between desktop and tablet.  If you’re creating a new website then choose your designer and developer very carefully and ask them the questions about how their proposed design will behave on a tablet or phone.  It’s no longer an optional extra – tablets are becoming the way we work.

P.S.  As a copywriter I have to mention content – and it’s still a critical factor in how the search engines rank your site.  A clever design will allow you to have both user flexibility and sufficient specific and relevant content to get your site the right kind of brownie points on Google, Bing and the others.


5 tips on clicking and scrolling

Keyboard and mouseNo – not rocking and rolling – but the on screen equivalent!  Someone, somewhere made a ‘rule’ that you should be able to arrive at the page you want in no more than three clicks.  Then someone else also made a ‘rule’ that said a menu should not have more than nine or ten tabs on it.  If you have a website with a great deal of information the three click rule isn’t going to work here!

Then there’s yet another ‘rule’ that says that people won’t read more than two screens down a web page – so that means that pages have to have a small amount of information.  Besides, who decides how big the reading screen is?  In today’s world of smartphones, tablets, wide screens and notebooks how long is a screen?  Establishing where the ‘fold’ occurs is almost impossible.

So what is a poor website owner to do?  Here are my tips:

1.  Think carefully about the structure of your website before you start adding content (ideally before you ask a designer to create the visuals).

  • What is a logical arrangement of pages so that people can find what they are looking for easily?  
  • More clicks are better than more menu tabs, which many people just find overwhelming.  
  • However, the subpages need to be found under main menu choices that are obvious.

2.  Ensure you are clear on the purpose for each page .

  • What do you want your website visitor to DO when they’ve looked at the page?
  • How much information do you really need to give them in order to persuade them to do that?  
  • Only include the essentials – people don’t need to know how you do what you do, only what they get.  
  • And don’t forget your call to action.

3.  Don’t bury key pages in sub menus

  • You should include Home, About and Contact on the main menu.  
  • Also anything that you want people to find easily – FAQs, Case studies, blog.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t also link to these pages from other pages further down the pecking order on your menu, but if you think people will want to get to those quickly, put them where they can see them.

4.  Don’t fall into the trap of clever page names – stick to the obvious, it cuts down on people having to think about whether that page is what they think it is.  Some may not bother!

5.  If you have five services don’t create a page where they are all on a single page, one below the other.  

  • If they don’t see what they are looking for in the first screen or two, some people won’t bother to scroll any further and you could miss out on a lead.
  • Blogs and articles can have longer pages – people expect to see these on a scrollable page.

Just because tablets and smartphones are easier to scroll on don’t assume that everyone is viewing your site on one of these.  Acknowledge web-users comfort zones.  Make it easy for people to get around your site and it will work much  better for you.


5 reasons why people don’t get your message

If you want people to get your message you need them to hang around long enough to read it. There are lots of reasons people don’t stay on a website; these are just five of them:

1. Too much going on, making it difficult for them to focus on any one thing and read even a headline.

2. No single point of focus – in other words several places with similar weight headings, making it hard to decide where to start.

3. Dark backgrounds with lighter coloured text. This tests the eyes and makes the brain work very hard processing the actual words rather than the sense of what they are saying. Most people give up quite quickly.

4. Long paragraphs that look ‘heavy’ – most of us think that it looks too ‘hard’ to read!

5. Justified paragraphs with all the lines the same length – so the reader’s eye doesn’t have a shape to help them track how far down they have travelled. It’s easy to get get lost and read the same line twice or skip a line. Frustration can send your reader looking for something less stressful to read.

These are simple things – but ones that many websites get wrong. How does yours stack up?
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