A few weeks ago I wrote an in-depth analysis on recovering from panda, and touched on a number of handy tools for checking and optimising a site’s performance to recover from the update.
I wanted to follow up on that post with a focus on some of the best tools out there for improving user experience.
Fix grammar and spelling mistakes
Grammar and spelling is an often overlooked aspect of user experience. Given that UX is so heavily focused on invoking trust through design and communication, this is key. Spelling and grammar mistakes look sloppy and can quickly undermine a site’s credibility.
Grammarly is a handy tool that eliminates the need to pester the office proof-reader every five minutes. If you use WordPress, there are also some good proof-reading plugins, such as Wordy, Proofread Bot, and After the Deadline, which can be useful for a checking any silly mistakes before hitting publish.
Check your broken links
As a Mac user, I (unfortunately) can’t download Xenu to use for broken link checking, which is arguably the best tool for the job. There are, however, a handful of good alternatives for Mac users, including Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider, or DrLinkCheck for sites with less than 1,000 pages. I also have the Check My Links Chrome plugin installed, which is a quick way of visualising any broken links on a page (shown below).
Improving overall design quality
During my BrightonSEO talk earlier this year I mentioned a few tools that I used to increase the conversion rate of a campaign I ran from around 2.5% to almost 11%. Among these was Concept Feedback, Dribbble, and Olark.
Concept Feedback is a fantastic platform that enables you to upload a mockup of your current landing page and receive detailed feedback from professional UX designers and conversion rate experts. In combination with Dribbble, which provides a huge source of inspiration for exceptionally well-designed elements, you can punch well above your weight in creating a beautifully designed site.
Olark is a live chat plugin that enables your visitors and potential customers to speak to you in real-time from your website. From my own experiences, Olark has been a fantastic tool for ironing out silly mistakes and padding out FAQ pages with answers to questions that potential customers are actually asking.
Identify navigation, trust, and general site operation issues
One useful tactic that I’ve used several times to help panda-affected clients (who I’ve suspected were hit due to poor user experience) is to commission a handful of user tests on usertesting.com with the survey that Google provided in response to their panda update.
I’d recommend doing this even if your website hasn’t been hit by the update, as the responses tend to be so insightful. For example, you may prompt the user to ask whether they feel the website is an authority or a trustworthy source of information on a certain matter, and they will explain exactly what they feel adds or subtracts to the site’s credibility.
As a slight twist, you can use fivesecondtest.com (free) to find out what people remember about your landing page within the first five seconds.
On top of these kinds of questionnaires you can also give testers a set of instructions to complete, which will highlight any operational, navigational, or general user experience issues. I’ve yet to see a user test that hasn’t uncovered something valuable.
Improve page-loading time
There are countless tools available to analyse page loading speed. My favourite tool is the Yslow Chrome plugin, followed by Pingdom, Google’s PageSpeed tool, and GT Metrix. If you’re using WordPress, I’d recommend installing the WP Super Cache plugin, which irons out the majority of issues that may lead to slow loading times.
Run cross-browser compatibility checks
Cross browser compatibility has always been a nuisance to check and fix, but with so many different devices and browsers being used, it’s never been as important as it is today. I recommend installing a user agent switching plugin to allow for quick cross browser checking, but for testing how your site looks on other browsers, you can use tools like BrowserStack or BrowserShots.
Intelligently reduce ad serving
Ads are a tricky one. For the sites that are plastered with them they tend to represent a significant amount of revenue for the site. On the other hand, they degrade the user experience and can lead to panda hits.
One solution that has worked for a number of clients I’ve worked with is to intelligently reduce ad serving by creating a dynamic rule in your database that only serves ads on the most visited 1-3% of pages. This works particularly well for websites with hundreds of thousands of pages, as Google will notice you removing ads from vast numbers of pages, while your ad revenues only drop by a small margin.
Whether you’ve been hit by an update for poor user experience or not, a lot of these things are easy to fix and will inevitably have a positive impact on customer experience, shareability of content, site reputation and ultimately revenue. If there are any great UX tips or tools worth adding to the list, please give them a shout out in the comments below.