The last time you got into your car, did you notice if your wheels were properly aligned?
My guess is that 99.99% of you didn’t even consider it. And if you did, would you really know how to check anyway?
But it’s an important question. Wheels being out of alignment can decrease gas mileage, reduce the longevity of tires through uneven wear, and make handling the car more difficult.
You might even say that it can cost you in traffic.
The same is true for your website.
Right now, your website may be out of alignment in ways that your eye isn’t trained to see. If so, it’s likely also costing you in traffic and conversions.
Let’s take a look at three of the most common and correctable ways that websites get out of alignment, and what to do about them.
1. Slow load times
Open up your site in a new browser. How quickly does it load? Does it hang up at all?
If it hangs — longer than a second and a half maximum — just know that if you weren’t you, you wouldn’t have waited for it.
Site speed is no longer a buzz term. Its impact is no longer conjecture.
Here’s a headline from May 2012:
Slow-loading websites cost retailers £1.73bn in lost sales each year.
We’re nearing May 2013. If that number has changed, it’s gone up, because attention spans aren’t getting any longer.
What we found was that people are pretty patient for up to two seconds.
That quote is from University of Massachusetts professor Ramesh Sitaraman, who published a recent paper on the topic of online attention spans.
(For the record, Google considers a site “slow” if its load time is longer than 1.5 seconds.)
The point: It’s no longer acceptable for your site to just avoid loading slowly. It has to load fast.
Here’s how to ensure it does …
Read and digest this post. Take action on it. There are tips in there that will literally make you money.
Then, dig deeper.
That post was written in January. It’s great, but it’s also somewhat dated. There are already new site speed developments, and one of these new developments is the aptly named SPDY.
If you want the nitty-gritty tech specs of SPDY, click here. If you just want to know how it will help you help your content do its job better, know this: it’s Google’s internal project to make the web run faster.
Why would you not take advantage of this?
That’s actually not a rhetorical question. You can’t take advantage of SPDY. At least not by yourself you can’t.
First, you need all the web browsers out there to get on board. Fortunately, many are. You can bet more will be coming around soon.
Next, you need your site to be hosted by an agile, forward-thinking company that is obsessed with speed. Why? Because SPDY requires special server configurations that not all hosts can (or will be able to) provide.
Our own managed WordPress hosting service Synthesis can … and does.
Yes, SPDY is already enabled on some of our biggest, most important sites. If you qualify, it could be enabled on your site too.
Milliseconds matter. Shave them off, one by one.
2. A subtle design flaw
A slow load time is one way to encourage quick bounces from your readers. So is poor design.
If you’re a writer (and not a designer) like me, you might not know what “poor design” really means. Sure, you might recognize egregious design flaws when you see them, but how about the less obvious ones?
Many design flaws hide in plain sight, working against your content rather than for it.
One element of design that many writers ironically overlook directly impacts the delivery of the words we work so very hard to perfect.
Typography is no mere website accoutrement, at least not to a good designer. Rafal Tomal is a great designer. Here’s what he has to say about typography in a post about five web design trends to keep an eye on in 2013:
Typography became a really important part of modern web design and I believe it’s a foundation of any great design.
When was the last time you thought about typography? If you met that question with silence, it’s time to start.
Typography is “the balance and interplay of letterforms on the page, a verbal and visual equation that helps the reader understand the form and absorb the substance of the page content.”
Know that fonts affect mood, and mood affects how much time readers will stay on a page and read. Also know that fonts affect comprehension, among so much else.
Think of typography like your website’s voice, volume, and laugh. Personally, I can only hold a conversation with someone for so long if their voice grates, if it’s too loud or too low, or if their laugh annoys. It pushes me away.
Is your typography drawing your reader in, or pushing them away?
3. A not-so-subtle design flaw
For many of us with untrained eyes, the impact of typography is subtle, almost imperceptible. But there is a not-so-subtle design flaw that may also be driving people away from your site.
Your website needs to look as good on an iPhone as it does on an iPad. It needs to look as good on a laptop as it does on a desktop.
The best (and easiest) way to achieve this is by employing responsive design.
Mobile Responsive Design
Still new to the concept of responsive website design? Don’t worry, here are the basics for you.
And, again, StudioPress has you covered with a suite of out-of-the-box mobile responsive themes (I really like Metro myself). Pick one of these if you’d rather keep your knowledge of responsive high level, and not dive head first into a world of coding. Or, you can pay someone else a lot of money to do it for you.
There are naysayers, of course. People who claim that responsive design is not the only way to optimize website design across all devices. Of course, it’s not the only way.
But, in my opinion, it’s the best way.
Good responsive design has resulted in as much as 400% conversion increases.
You do not maximize conversions by forcing an iPhone user to pinch, zoom, stretch, and squint to get your site looking right on the phone. They’ll bounce, sometimes just from the first impression. And you never get a second chance to make a …well, you know.
That’s what is so important about load times, typography, and responsive design. These elements of your site create immediate impressions. If the impressions are out of alignment with what you want them to be, your website is failing your content.
Design is content marketing!
I doubt I have to put the hard sell on you to acknowledge the importance of site speed. It’s a ubiquitous tip these days.
Plus, it’s fairly straightforward to implement improvements: get better hosting; remove non-essential elements from your site; optimize what’s left; and be on the lookout for developments like SPDY.
Web design can be a bit more difficult to nail. It’s subjective. It’s both art and science. And that can make it convenient to ignore for those of us who are design idiots, and would rather just focus on writing the words
But that is counter-productive for our content marketing goals.
Here’s a thought that sums up how design can help content marketing specifically.
Design is every single character on your blog, a space between your paragraphs, an underlined link or your background color. Design is both what you see and what you don’t see. Design evokes emotions and can create unforgettable user experiences.
Is your site evoking emotion? It better be. It’s the key to getting your work shared.