There is little dispute that the appearance of a WordPress blog is one of its most important attributes when presented to audiences. Even the very best content will be left unread if posted under a pixelated image and a header in Comic Sans. Much as the discovery of three-point perspective changed art forever, so our progress from 8-bit computing has revolutionized modern web design. Providing a positive WordPress user experience to visitors is a key goal of any serious blog owner in 2017 and beyond.
Before we rest on our laurels, let’s not forget that just because a website looks amazing and visually crisp, it doesn’t mean it has great functionality for a user. In this feature post we will be taking a look at how you can ensure your WordPress blog or web site is ticking all the right UX boxes.
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WordPress: The Blog Platform of Today
WordPress is undoubtedly the most popular content management system ( CMS ) out there, with 28% of all websites now using the platform. Clients are wide ranging, from the smallest blogs to The New Yorker and BBC America. The reason is clear: WordPress provides an incredibly easy-to-use system, allowing for user-controlled updates and modifications, alongside a wide range of themes that put modern design at the forefront of its mission.
The simplicity of the WordPress platform has been the key to its runaway success, as customers don’t have to worry about technical or security issues providing it is maintained and instead can focus solely on-page. This popularity is also evident due to the types of online projects catered for with regards to hosting.
You could spend days scrolling through the hundreds of WordPress themes available. We came up with a list of the 15 best free designs this year, but the options when choosing a premium design really are endless. However, some people are beginning to suggest that the ubiquity of WordPress as the CMS de jour is harmful long-term. The reason? The elevation of design principles over UX practices.
Prioritizing the WordPress User Experience
Remember the old phrase ‘customer is king’? Well, it’s as pertinent in web design as any other business. The entire selling success of your site is determined by the people who use it. If you are selling something, your UX will be reflected in your conversions. If you are writing blog posts, it will be reflected in how long your site visits, how many pageviews, the bounce rates and so forth. The main areas to consider are:
- Brand Identity: your site should clearly represent what you are about. Know who you are writing for and use a consistent tone.
- Usability: is the information on your site relevant to what visitors want? Are you providing people with what they need?
- Navigation: are there clear pathways through the site? Is it obvious where to find certain information?
- Visual Language: this encompasses everything from the kind of images you upload, to the typography and color palettes you use.
Your WordPress Blog UX Checklist
The following are some specific areas to keep in mind the next time you are looking to improve your WordPress user experience. Pay keen attention to them, and you will keep your site visitors happy for a long time to come.
Less is More
Keep it simple. Avoid walls of text at all cost, and do not over-stuff your pages with information or imagery. Headers and taglines should be well thought-out and sharply correlate to your overall brand tone.
Above + Below the Fold
‘Above the fold’ refers to the part of your website that is visible when it first opens, without any scrolling. Think carefully about what you want to appear here: this is the most important part of the entire site and could make the difference between visitors bouncing off the page or staying put.
Keep it Mobile
Maintaining a mobile-friendly site is more important than ever, with mobile traffic increasing substantially across the web YoY (year-over-year). A site optimized for mobile use will demonstrate scrolling as the preferred movement to clicking: this is great news, as it is a far more intuitive form of navigation.
Many premium themes are mobile responsive. There are also mobile plugins in the marketplace and technologies such as Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles which are both worth time and effort in researching.
Page Performance and Site Speed
DoubleClick, a Google subsidiary, published a report in late 2016 finding that 53% of mobile sites are abandoned if they take longer than 3 seconds to load. This is important when working with WordPress as a platform, because so many of their themes are loaded with plugins. Plugins can slow a site’s speed down, and affect its security measures.
When WordPress updates, sometimes plugins will stop working, or they will simply not be updated. The moral of this story? Don’t pick a theme that is already loaded with excessive plugins. If you have to use a lot of plugins, simply because of functionality then choose them wisely and see if their scripts support minification and caching.
Look also at third party ad networks, lots of tags can slow down a page in a way that is beyond your control. Consider reducing the number of ad networks in play across the WordPress blog. Consider also using automated services such as Ezoic to balance the WordPress user experience with ad revenue and to optimize placements and pageviews.
Beware False Friends
With all the best intentions, there are a few points where people often attempt to follow best practices and just fall short. Our top two pet peeves:
Old Content Can Be Invaluable, It Can Also Be Detrimental
No one has time for outdated content. An icon for a Twitter account that hasn’t been posted on since 2014 is a waste of valuable space and an eyesore. Similarly, a sidebar which links to a blog post from 2013 simply makes your site look badly maintained. As much as it may hurt to say goodbye, it’s for the best. Exceptions to this rule may include timeless content that is the best in its class, reference based, authority content with enduring value.
Ditch Navigation and Homepage Sliders
Ah, image carousels. They are found on various well-known sites and a feature of numerous WordPress themes, but that doesn’t make them good. Offering little positive value (driving only 1% of click-through traffic), they actively contribute to impairing many of the points listed above: slowing page speed, and are often mobile-unfriendly and confusing for visitors. Just don’t do it.
A lot of WordPress themes are designed by coders and developers who do not understand audience behavior. Thus their priorities when developing their theme are different to yours when using it in the real world.
Recommended Resources and Further Reading
- Why sliders detract from your blog : Why pro users never use sliders
- Allocating your time : Balancing web design with SEO
- Optimize ad testing and earn more : How Ezoic automates ad placement
WordPress User Experience : Wrapping Up
To deliver on providing a great and consistent WordPress user experience to a blog audience a webmaster has to hit several moving targets at once. Namely encompassing fluid navigation, page speed, intuitive menu design and of course compatibility with a range of devices. The final topping is in fact regular, engaging content that will shine under these supporting UX conditions.
For sure there are other considerations involved in mastering a positive WordPress user experience, SEO is important, so is responsive web hosting and possessing diverse traffic sources. Actually these matter little if the core UX is poor. The audience should not struggle to find key content. Or have to ask too many questions about what a page is about. Or indeed languish waiting for a post to load.
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So use these user experience tips wisely to get all of the ducks lined up in the right order. Your WordPress blog will reward you generously with lower bounce rates, higher pageviews and better audience satisfaction and revenue.
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