Best UX Practices for Joomla Custom Themes
User experience is one of the most important aspects of website design. If there is something that users hate, it’s bad UX. So much so, in fact, that 70% of businesses that fail, do so because their website suffered from bad usability.
Luckily, Joomla is one of the best CMS platforms for website design, and one that has the most room for garnering excellent UX practices.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best practices you can implement to ensure your website captures your visitors’ attention and has them coming for more.
Pick a Theme and Stick to It
Picking a theme is not as easy as it sounds. A lot is riding on it, because 75% of users coming across your website will judge it based purely on its aesthetics.
Of course, this comes down to knowing your audience. Who are the people visiting your site? What will they be doing there? What are their preferences?
Knowing the answers to these questions is an imperative when it comes to user experience, and aesthetics in particular. Picking the right theme will not only attract attention, but will also make you look professional in the eyes of the beholder.
Fortunately, Joomla supports a wide variety of themes across many industries. Compoq offers a number of construction and renovation templates, and so does Builder. Compair and Exeltis offer clean, professional templates ideal for businesses.
Perhaps you’re looking for something more exotic? Backpack Story is one of the best travel agency-inspired templates, and so is Inspiring Safari Adventure.
All in all, Joomla has a massive repository of exceptional themes to choose from. And the best part - they all come with their own unique set of tools to create attractive layouts and designs, as well as implement shrewd SEO and UX practices.
Speed Is Essential
People tend to live fast lives nowadays. We all have to juggle work, kids, hobbies, friends, family and many other activities on a daily basis. Our time is precious, and if someone or something disrespects that time, we tend to take offense.
It’s the same with websites. A slow website is such a major downside that 53% of people will straight up leave if a website doesn’t load within 3 seconds. The statistics for apps are even worse, as 90% of people will just stop using an app if it performs poorly.
With that being said, there are a number of ways in which you can optimize your website to run more smoothly and decrease its loading times.
The first thing you do is host your site on a fast hosting server. There are a number of servers that are geared toward hosting Joomla websites, so make sure to research your server before going live - it will save you a lot of trouble when it comes to loading speeds.
Enabling GZIP compression is a superb way of decreasing your loading times. By compressing your website, you’re saving bandwidth which, in turn, speeds up your website.
Browser and server caching is also a must, as caching greatly reduces the time it takes a website to load. Joomla has plugins for both of those.
If your website has images (it mostly likely does), make sure they’re optimized. The smaller the image, the faster it loads - research ways to keep your images as small as possible without compromising image quality. Also, make sure you specify their dimensions, as it helps with indexing.
Finally, you can also enable lazy loading. This plugin prevents all images from being loaded at once, but loads them one by one as the user scrolls toward them on the page.
Make Friends with Mobile
Mobile-friendly websites are a must nowadays. It is a well-known fact that 48% of the users feel frustrated with poorly optimized mobile websites.
Luckily, Joomla is keeping up with the times and offers a wide variety of mobile-friendly themes. As mobile browsing becomes ever more prevalent, it would be wise to focus on these templates, rather than going for those older PC-exclusive templates.
Naturally, there are also a number of ways in which you can optimize your existing website for mobile. Converting your website into a mobile app is a great option, if you have the technical know-how. You can also use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to determine which elements of your website are fine and which need a bit of tweaking.
Clicks Is All It Takes
When creating your website, you must also pay close attention to its structure.
You can create the fastest-loading website on this side of the Mississippi, but it won’t matter a jot if its layout is labyrinthine and confusing.
The key concept here is that your visitors should never be three clicks away from their destination. Or, better yet, your pages should never be more than three clicks away from your home page.
In practice, this involves creating a number of categories and subcategories that structure your content in a way that’s easy to find and navigate by the user. Consider grouping similar content under one banner, then further subdividing it based on topics explored.
For example, if you have a blog, it’s a good idea to divide your posts based on topics - news, guides, product rankings, etc.
it should also be noted that this kind of UX optimization has two-fold benefits. Obviously, easy navigation makes for a better user experience, but Google likes these kinds of layouts as well.
Google’s web crawlers find it much easier to index your website if it’s structured properly, which makes this kind of optimization a great way to boost your SERP rankings.
All Links Lead to Home
Interlinking is one of the most common practices when it comes to prudent web design. It fits neatly into the theme of ease of navigation by providing direct links (pun fully intended) to related content on your own website.
For example, if you’re selling women’s running shoes and you’ve got a blog post on the latest trends, you can leave a few links to your own products that follow those trends.
Overall, the theme here is to connect pieces of content that complement each other. Not only will this make your website easy to navigate, but it will also play a major role in boosting your SEO.
Internal links also have a more technical use. If you’ve got broken or missing pages, it’s a good idea to leave links that help navigate the user to a different page. Some websites go so far as to design their own custom 404 pages, instead of just leaving a blank page with a link.
This might not seem like a bad idea, considering only 23% of users decide to try again after encountering a 404 page. Having a custom 404, with a cute design or a little joke might just be that little nudge you need to convince the customer to stay on your website.
Testing… Testing… 1,2,3
One of the final points we would like to make is to test. Your. Website. No matter how confident you are in your design choices, and how wowed your mom is with your work, it’s always a good idea to present a prototype of your website for testing.
The first thing you should do when trying to test your website is to determine your target audience. We already talked about how important it is to know exactly who you’re making your website for. These people should be your main test group, as they are the ones most likely to interact with your website in the future.
Besides finding the right audience, make sure you’ve got your goals straight too. What are you trying to achieve with this test? Are you testing your website’s performance, or its layout?
If you’re testing its performance, there are plenty of tools to choose from. If you’re testing its navigation and UI, then a live test subject is a better choice, as they can be interviewed after. Just be sure to buy your friends some ice cream when you’re done.
Alternatively, you don’t have to do all these things alone. There are plenty of excellent web design firms that will lend their expertise if you’re willing to discover more.
In the end, designing a website is not as easy as most people think. There are a lot of cogs in that machine, and they all need to be moving pretty much on point to deliver the desired results.
Luckily, expert web designers around the world are always willing to share their knowledge when it comes to their craft. These men and women have a burning passion for creating works of art that not only look good, but also serve a purpose.
At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to you. Are you willing to invest your time to follow in their footsteps? These people are more than willing to let you pick their brains for the best user experience practices to implement on your Joomla website - all you need to do is ask.