So here’s the thing – all the cool stuff you’re trying to do, the social media strategy, the motion graphics, the sick design? It doesn’t matter if all it does is lead people back to a website they’re going to hate. You need to walk before you can run and you need to get the basics of good usability before that digital marketing agency you hired can truly earn their keep.

Said simpler: If your website sucks, it doesn’t matter how creative your marketing is. People are still going to hate you. You should fix it.

As common sense as many usability principles may be, business owners still struggle to grasp them. They focus on the fancy bells and whistles (cool infographics, bro!) before establishing a solid foundation for the messaging and the conversions they’re looking to build.

They build websites backwards.

Create a site experience users love by focusing on the things they actually care about.

Simplify The Page.

Unless you’re Buzzfeed, users don’t land on your site because they’re on a leisurely Web stroll. They come with a purpose or, perhaps more accurately, a problem.

  • They’re looking for new running sneakers.
  • Their bathtub is leaking and they need to fix it.
  • They’re researching higher-ed programs.
  • They want to send someone a video message.

Your role as the owner of that site is to know the problem, to answer it with the most relevant information and to do it using terms they’ve already identified.

That’s it. Your role is not to give them the entire kitchen sink or get them off track; give users exactly what they want and nothing more. If they want to go on an expedition to find everything your site has to offer, they will. Otherwise, every extraneous link or piece of content on that page is a distraction from their true goal and may send them astray.

Know Thy User.

I was in a department head meeting with Overit’s Lead Developer Josh Shea. During a talk about overseeing internal teams Josh said, “you can’t lead people you don’t know”. Huge statement and I immediately wrote it down. Because he’s right.

The same way you can’t lead people you don’t know, you can’t solve the problems of people you don’t know.

Get to know your people. As a business owner you may choose to do that via:

  • Keyword research
  • Analyzing user queries
  • Talking to your customer support team
  • Tracking movements and behavior patterns
  • Organizing focus groups
  • Creating user personae

Better yet, you may choose to do it through a combination of those things. And you should. Because it’s impossible to create a site your users will love if you haven’t taken the time to identify their needs, wants, desires and pain points.

Offer Shareable Stuff.

Web visitors are a notoriously fickle bunch. To win their favor and get them to keep coming back to your site you need to give them a little something for their efforts. Whether it’s a company blog updated several times a week, a video series that premieres every Saturday or a new cartoon published on Tuesdays, everyone likes landing on a favorite site to find new stuff has been posted. We like treats and that’s what fresh content assets are – yummy, delicious content treats.

Feed your audience fresh, dynamic content they can consume, comment on and share. The more you give users to sink their teeth into and engage with, the more they will and the more they’ll seek out your site.


You’re not a mind reader. You’re also probably not a genius (sorry). Those two things means despite all your best intentions you won’t create the perfect site on first launch. It’s going to take analyzing user behavior, testing and constant tweaking and rolling out new iterations to build something that will truly be exciting and worthwhile to your community. Do that testing. Shootout new calls to action to see which resonate better with your audience. A/B test elements for design and placement. Run through Neil Patel’s list of conversion tips. Get your hands dirty and see what your users like and what they don’t. Because once you know how to rev your customers’ engines, you can do it all the time.

There’s a lot of cool marketing “stuff” to invest in. From animated infographics to videos to sites that transform in front of a visitors’ eyes. And that’s all great. But that’s not the meat. The meat is the experience your site offers and your ability to please and to enchant your users. If that’s not your main goal, you’re doing this wrong. Follow the basics to create a site users love and then wow them with the other stuff.