by Jacob Gube
An effective web design is one in which your users are able to find information quickly and in a logical fashion.
Do they visit the content you want them to visit? Are they looking in the right places of your web page? Are you able to keep your user’s attention, or do they just leave quickly?
It’s not just about the content either. If your design loads slowly – or if moving from one section to another takes a long time – it affects the user’s experience.
These things can be the make-or-break factors between a user clicking on a link to find more information, or the back button to find it elsewhere.
Some things to consider:
- Are important information being seen by the user?
- Are the navigation and action items intuitive?
- Is the user being directed to sections in a logical manner?
- Does the web page load quickly enough to not turn away the user?
If you’re interested in analyzing and optimizing your page layout – here’s some extremely useful tools that you can use to help.
ClickHeat is an open source visual tool for showing “hot” and “cold” zones of a web page. It allows you to see which spots users click on most, and which spots are being ignored.
Download: Clickheat on SourceForge.net.
2. Crazy Egg
Crazy Egg offers a myriad of analytical tools to help you visualize what visitors are doing.
Features include: Confetti – allowing you to see what people are clicking on based on certain factors such as their operating system and where they came from, Overlay – providing you with tons of data about particular links, and Report sharing – enabling you to share the data with team members and clients.
The free version only allows 4 pages to be tracked – so use your top landing pages to get the most data.
3. YSlow for Firebug
A key tenet of a strong design is that, not only should information be presented in a logical and elegant fashion, but that it must also be served quickly, with very little delay.
YSlow for Firebug is a free tool for Mozilla Firefox that gives you information about your front-end design to see if it performs well. It gives you a letter grade (A through F) and outlines your web page’s trouble spots.
It’s based on the Yahoo! Developer Network’s “Best Practices for Speeding Up Your Web Site” initially written by Steve Souders, who was once the Chief of Performance at Yahoo! and is now working over at Google on web performance and open source initiatives.
clickdensity is a full suite of usability analysis tools that will help you assess your web page design.
You can use heat maps showing where users click on the most, hover maps – which shows people scrolling over links but not clicking on them, and A/B Tests which allows you to change certain page elements to see which style is more effective.
The free subscription give you 5,000 clicks and only one page and one site to monitor.
ClickTale offers a lot of user data pertaining to how visitors use your website.
There are plenty of things you can look at such as average time it takes for a user to click on a link, a user’s hesitation on clicking a link, hover to click ratio, and much more. It also provides detailed reports and charts on your users’ monitor sizes to better optimize your web page design to cater for the typical visitor.
Besides Spy, there’s a host of other analytics data you can look at such as user Actions – which records click data from your users and Visitors – providing you user data.
7. Google Analytics
One of the best free services that Google offers is Google Analytics and probably the most well-known analytics tool. It’s incredibly easy to install and offers plenty of user and content data to help you learn more about your web pages’ performance.
It has a feature called Site Overlay, which gives you a visual representation of the popular places your users like to click on. It also offers data on bounce rates and your top exit pages (to see what pages make users leave).
So there they are, some of the best tools in the market to help you troubleshoot and optimize your page layout. In the end, it’s a combination of great content, as well as how you present this content — that will lead to an effective design.