No matter how perfect you think your website is, there’s always room for improvement.
What separates the good from the great are the nuances. Following a list of best practices may create something passable, but it’s the lesser-known details that give it that extra oomph. This is as true for website optimization as anything else. It’s standard to use quality images, but are they also optimized for loading times? Everybody spends time crafting web copy, but do you devote the same attention to microcopy?
I’m going to outline 5 such website optimization nuances that often slip through the cracks, even with veteran designers and SEOs. Taking your site from good to great may be as easy as a few simple tweaks.
Dive Head First into Analytics
Data collection tools like Google Analytics are absolutely essential for web optimization. These figures can reveal opportunities for improvement big and small… as long as you can read between the numbers.
Pay attention to statistics like time-on-page and conversion rates in addition to sheer volume of traffic. It’s not necessarily about which pages and posts attract the most visitors, but which ones attract the most conversions or visitor types that meet your goals. With analytics, you can reallocate your resources to avenues with the biggest return on investment.
You can even optimize the page length or amount of text. Compare the average time on a page/post to the average reading time. You can calculate this figure using the average reading speed of 200-250 words per minute, according to MarketingLand.
mind the microcopy
Every word counts, and not just the ones in posts or site copy. You also want to pay attention to microcopy — the tiny text phrases that go in call-to-action buttons, underneath form fields, and other such places.
Microcopy may seem like an area that can be ignored, which is why it’s a website optimization technique that many designers miss. But simply rewording or adding the right phrase can dramatically alter your bottom line. Jared Spool tells the story of how changing a button’s label from “register” to “continue” and adding a small explanation increased one of his client’s profits by $300 million.
Glyph stays minimal by designing for precision, where every word counts (true to their promises for your resume, as well). Notice the microcopy in their call-to-action buttons: in just two or three plain words, they explain exactly what the user can expect if clicked.
Use Appropriate File Sizes for Media
While there’s volumes written on how to choose the best images for site optimization, very little is written about appropriate file sizes. Large image files weigh down loading times, and loading time is a crucial factor in site performance. According to the Aberdeen Group, even something as slight as an extra second of loading time can…
- Reduce views of the page by 11%
- Lower customer satisfaction by 16%
- Lose 7% of conversions
You want your main images to look as great as they can, so trim the fat on secondary images instead. Less consequential images like other brands’ logos, social media buttons, or heavily stylized backgrounds can all “take one for the team,” when it comes to reducing image sizes.
The furnishing retailer Blackthumb understands this principle well. They don’t skimp on the quality of their product images, both the larger featured product and the the smaller ones to the side. Where they do skimp are the five small thumbnails for their site pages at the bottom — half of the file size for taking up only slightly less space. For an eCommerce brand, product images are ten times more important than the bio thumbnails.
Reduce Steps in the User Journey
No one likes redundancy. Everyone hates it. Redundancy is bad. It’s not good.
One of the best web optimization techniques is to eliminate unnecessary steps in the typical user journey. This is actually easier than it sounds, it just takes a bit of mental effort.
First, you have to uncover the typical user journey on your site. Google Analytics works great for this, since they present this data in an easy-to-ready flow chart in the Behavior section.
Next, write out the steps for the most common user journeys. Be meticulous and account for every single click, as well as minuscule actions like “scanning the page for the navigation menu.”
Finally, review the lists for redundancies. This is where the mental effort comes in, as you have to think critically about workarounds and time-saving solutions. Look for opportunities like consolidating two pages into one, or opening a page with the cursor already in a necessary form field to save the user an extra click.
Cache Requests at Both Ends
There’s a few different website optimization techniques to reduce loading times; another is caching on both your own server and your visitors’ browsers. This two-pronged attack cuts down on site processing from both ends: server-side caching reduces the amount of queries you have to make to the database server, while browser-side caching reduces the amount of HTTP requests.
Enabling a cache system can get complicated, especially if you’re fuzzy on the technical aspects of web design. For a more in-depth look, read this article from Better Explained.
Which website optimization techniques work for you? What would you recommend for other designers and SEOs? Share your thoughts in the comments section!