Provide the Option of Visiting the Standard Site from a Mobile Version – Notes on User Experience

Provide Options, UX
We all know that mobile versions of web sites should be minimalistic, efficient, action driven; in many cases a lighter version of a standard website.
But sometimes, users may want to access the standard site from their mobile devices if they are looking for specific information or if they are familiar with the standard website. This is more common with the proliferation of better mobile devices and more efficient, inexpensive data services.
What many mobile versions are failing to do is to provide a link to visit the standard site causing great frustration to the user.
What to do:
Give your mobile visitors the option of visiting the standard site, even if it’s just through a link in the footer. And from your standard site, you could give them the option to come back to the mobile site, making this link available on detected mobile devices.

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Expected format and client side scripting – Notes on User Experience

Form design
Users, including ourselves, have to deal with web forms almost every day. The task can be tedious and even frustrating, especially when a simple task comes with an instruction booklet.

It is common to find a simple Telephone Number field with a set of instructions attached to it: “Please don’t use spaces, dashes or brackets”… “Use brackets, don’t use spaces”… “Area code in brackets, no spaces”.

Yes, the database expects a clear format and this is very important, but the user shouldn’t have to pay for it.

All forms and specific fields should be designed taking a user-friendly approach, utilizing client side scripting to format the data, no matter how the user inputs the information.

Using the telephone example, the user should be allowed to input dashes, spaces, brackets; the script will strip these characters sending only the information needed.
Other alternative is to use a multi-field format with properly labeled and sized fields, and scripting to allow the user to continuously type the information by jumping from one field to the next one once the field is completed.

As a last note, don’t wait until the user fills the complete form to provide feedback, immediate validation is necessary to offer a positive user experience.

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“You Are Here” Indicators – Notes on User Experience

You are here UX indicators

I was recently presented with a web application for evaluation and I was surprised to see that what we think as a “Usability Basic Principle” was poorly executed. The use of “You Are Here” indicators.
It is important to let the users know at all times where they are. A user may lose track while browsing through your website or using your application and unless they know where they are, they will abandon the task and leave your site… frustrated!

What to do:

  • Display a Clear Page Title – Use the highest visual hierarchy for the title in your content and always present it in the same place.
  • Indicate the Location in the Navigation – Highlight/differentiate in the Menu and Sub-menus where the user is.

Other ways to let the user know their location in your site: 

  • Use Breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs are a powerful navigation tool that also help communicate where users are in relationship with the rest of the site/application and the path they took to get where they are now.
  • Use Progress Indicators – Let users know their progress during a process or while filling a multiple-page form.

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SEO tips part 2 – Off-Page Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization

As mentioned in my previous blog, Search Engine Optimization is divided in 2 parts: On-Page and Off-Page SEO.
After preparing and optimizing your web pages with On-Page SEO (read my previous article), you can start working in the popularity of your site with Off-Page SEO:

10 Off-Page Search Engine Optimization activities

Off-Page SEO is about the activities you do to promote and popularize your website.

  1. Submit your site’s url “carefully”. I am AGAINST submitting to 1000’s of useless directories and using software that promises multiple submissions. Nonetheless, submitting to quality directories (count with one hand) and sites related to your field is a good way to put your name – and url – out there. The key here is quality over quantity.
  2. Prepare Press Releases and send to Online PR sites. A press release about your website’s launch, a new contract or a special event can be released to different PR websites, who will distribute the news to various online news outlets.
  3. Article Submissions. Create a short article on your area of expertise and submit it to article directories to be published with links to your site. Your article might also be picked up and published on other websites bringing additional traffic.
  4. Multiple blog platforms. Set up different versions of your blog on different blog networks like WordPress.com, Blogger and Xanga with links back to your website.
  5. Comments on Blogs. But don’t just spam for links; focus on building a relationship with other bloggers by providing relevant, useful comments.
  6. Collaborate with other sites that complement your area of expertise and let your site be linked from these sites. This is a more professional approach to reciprocal linking.
  7. Create Social Media Profiles. When creating social media profiles, you will include your web address company name and branding making your site more popular. Then, with the use of social media, you will find an additional channel that will bring traffic to your site.
  8. Social Bookmarking. Social bookmarking websites like Delicious, Digg or Stumbleupon are often crawled by search engines and their links help with your site’s popularity and listing.
  9. Create a useful Tool, or Widget for your target audience and make it available for free in your website.
  10. Hold contests with an interesting prize and provide mechanisms to help spread the news: email to a friend, like this, tweet this, blog this, etc.

Much more can be done to improve your ranking and popularity, but this list is a good staring point. Don’t forget to monitor your progress; a good analytics system will give you valuable information on your traffic, trends and efficiency of your web efforts.

Don’t forget to optimize your web site, read my previous article: On-Page Search Engine Optimization.

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SEO tips part 1 – On-Page Search Engine Optimization

I started my Web Design career over 12 years ago. Back then, it was a hot topic how to get at the top of the organic search results – deja vu! –.
Many things have changed in the web since then; the techniques, the technology, the players. Oh so different. But at a recent networking event I was very surprised to hear an old story again: “…my SEO guy has an insider in Google giving him Secret tips on how to get me to the top!”… If I only had a dollar for every time I heard that story. 
To help non-technical people avoid this and many other SEO fairytales, I decided to share some current techniques about On-Page/Off-Page SEO techniques, starting with:  
 
10 On-Page Search Engine Optimization tips  
 
On-Page SEO really starts during the design and development of your web site:
  1. Provide brief and clear titles for every one of your web pages, accurately describing the page’s content. Don’t repeat the same title in 2 pages.
  2. Take advantage of the description Meta Tags. Google might use the description Meta Tags as snippets for your pages. Write a ‘descriptive’ message that can inform the user about the topic of your page.
  3. Structure your site to provide readable URLs. This not only helps the search engines but it is user-friendly.
    You can use: www.mysite.com/folders/desc_23.html   (wrong)
    Or you can use: www.mysite.com/services/pressure-washing.html   (right!)
  4. Use meaningful “anchor text” and clearly identify them as links.
    You can use:  click here >   (wrong)
    Or you can use:  Our Tiling Services >   (right!)
  5. Take advantage of Heading tags to provide hierarchy to your content. H1, H2, H3, will tell the search agents what is more important in your page.
  6. Make your images search engine friendly by using the “alt” attribute. Provide a clear, descriptive “alternative” text for the images.
  7. Use text-based navigation, this makes easy for search engines to crawl and understand your site. Try to avoid navigation with Flash or JavaScript since some devices may not handle these properly.
  8. Include a sitemap; an HTML site map listing your pages in categories. An XML version of your site map also helps the search engines to discover your pages.
  9. Providing fresh, on topic and useful content to your audience not only keeps your site interesting, search engines love new, relevant information.
  10. Avoid splash pages. Once popular, splash pages -often with flash animation- were used as a dynamic introduction to a website. Splash pages are now perceived as non-user-friendly. And for SEO, you are literally putting a barrier between the search engines and your main page, where all your relevant, fresh content is; not to mention the links that will serve to crawl the rest of your pages.
Many other tings can be done to improve your chances of a good ranking, but this list gives something to work on and monitor while I post more tips.

As a last note, Google has great information -available to everyone- on Search Engine Optimization and excellent webmaster tools and programs to help with the ongoing task of keeping your site in top shape. SEO information is not top secret… just Google it!

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Also read my article on Off-Page SEO tips.