A clear call to action goes a long way

When researching websites, I often see a lot of call to actions like “Read more” linking to an article or deeper content. There are a number of reasons why this is not a great idea.

The most obvious is that the “Read more” description isn’t a description at all. It doesn’t tell me anything about what I will be reading next. A great number of users merely scan websites and since links usually stand out in color or style, will only read text stands stands out from the crowd. Those users will likely not follow a ‘read more’ link.

Another group of users is the one that relies on screen readers. Screen readers read out links to visually impaired users, and if you have 20 “Read more” links on a page, this is far from helpful.

The third point I want to make is that if you are designing for emotion, you have to make calls to action more engaging. Compare the calls to action in the marquee on IBM.com with the more generally dreaded “Read More”. They actually took their time and wrote great calls to action that are descriptive and make you want to click that link. You do the math.

New Book: Mobile First

A new book has been released in the “A Book Apart” series. Luke Wroblewski, best known for his research on forms, has written a book about mobile websites and apps. If you are familiar with Luke, you know he is pretty much the authority on this subject. In a recent podcast with Jared Spool he stated that too many companies are trying to figure out their mobile strategy instead of just putting something out there. His idea is that this mobile market is far from mature with so many changes in devices and players in the market, it’s nearly impossible to predict how an app or mobile website might perform in 2 months time.

“Mobile First” promises to be a good read with some great insights into the mobile market. An excerpt from the book has been published on the A list apart website.

Cool jQuery goodies to help the SEO and UX on the new ION website

Ion Website Homepage

The ION website, see it at iongeo.com

Worked extremely hard these last two weeks to release this new website. Take a look at the SEO dropdown menu. The objective was to incorporate SEO text on the homepage of the site and at the same time increase the findability of deeper content. I decided to go for a jQuery rich dropdown menu with descriptions for many 2nd and 3rd level pages. One problem we encountered upon execution was that the dropdown menus would interfere with some sudden mouse gestures the user would make. We solved that by putting a small delay on the mouse-over state.
Check it out at iongeo.com.

Naming PDFs and other downloadable files

Imagine the following scenario: while looking for specific information you came across a PDF file that had all the information in it you wanted. You downloaded the file and saved it in your documents folder. Since you didn’t have time to organize files – you never seem to have enough time – the file isn’t renamed and sits among a couple of hundred other files. A couple of weeks later you are trying to retrieve the file but have a hard time finding it. Sounds familiar? This happens to many people I know (me for one).

Wouldn’t it be nice if the webmaster had named the file something else than “info.pdf”?
It’s really not so hard to give your downloadables a more descriptive name. Even a file name like “annual-report.pdf” can be made more descriptive by adding the company name and the year. It’s a simple improvement, that is easily overlooked. Just keep this in mind: if a file is for download give it a descriptive name, so your user can find it later.

Hyperlink your images, it’s easier for handheld devices

After experiencing my iPhone for the last 2 weeks, I noticed that the worst user experiences I had with websites were the ones with one-word hyperlinks. It is very hard to actually tap a one word hyper link if you have anything but the tiniest fingers. A solution for this is to make sure you link multiple words. Not only is this better for usability – you can actually describe what happens when a user clicks the link – it also increases the probability of ‘hitting the target’ on a mobile phone.

The best experience is when there’s a lot of white space around the link and/or where images are linked, for instance in big call-outs or sub navigation. When designing Greenstar-na.com, we tried to keep this in mind.
On the new Greenstar North America site we tried to make both the images and the section titles clickable, to make it easy for anyone not on a PC or Mac to follow the links.

What are your experiences with usability of websites on mobile phones?