Simple Usability Improvements for your WordPress Theme
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On 19th June 2013 I gave a presentation to the WordPress London Meetup Group entitled Simple Usability Improvements for your WordPress Theme. It was not one of my more common presentations about web accessibility, although there is of course a large overlap between usability and accessibility (see Accessibility vs Usability).
My aim with this presentation was to encourage thought about how small changes to websites can make navigating around a website so much easier for site visitors – something that could of course make a difference between visitors staying (and buying) or visitors leaving.
I demonstrated a series of small code changes that can be made to WordPress theme files, and also mentioned a couple of useful plugins that I use on my own website, and on the websites I’ve built for my clients.
The presentation slides can be found in the Coolfields Slideshare area.
Search Results Improvements
The first section covered some ideas for giving site visitors improved feedback about any search that they carry out on a WordPress site. Firstly I felt it was useful to tell visitors how many results came back as a result of their search – something that features in very few themes – and I showed the code changes required for that. I use this on the Coolfields Consulting website if you wanted to try a search.
After that I introduced a search plugin called Relevanssi that I regularly use. The plugin aims to improve upon the default WordPress search facility, firstly ordering the search results by relevance instead of just chronologically. The plugin has many, many options including a method for highlighting the search term within the excerpts of the results shown – something I think visitors find really useful. I use this plugin on the Coolfields website and on all websites I build for clients.
Customising Post Type Display
My next section covered some ideas for varying the output on search results and archive (category, date, etc) pages depending on the post type. This is especially useful on sites where there are many different post types – eg Events, Articles, Jobs, etc. It can help site visitors understand more about the item in a list without having to actually visit that item.
The techniques can be taken further to decide whether to present the published date, author, categories etc – as sometimes these are not relevant. For example, a published date makes sense for a News Item but not for an About Us page. I also showed ways of making the Read More links more meaningful – a useful accessibility feature too.
In this section I talked about moving beyond the Older Posts/Newer Posts links found on the blog index, archive and search pages within many Word Press sites. The aim here was to create numbered links to each of the results pages within a list – something that also tells a visitor how many pages of results there are.
There are a couple of plugins that do paging, but if you need some more customisation then you may need to create your own functionality.
I demonstrated how two lesser known WordPress variables can be used to build a function to do this that can be used across your whole site.
So these are just a few ideas for small tweaks to improve usability. Of course, there are many others.
If you’ve got a suggestion that you think would make a difference why not tell us about in the Comments section below.
It’s on YouTube
The presentation was recorded and it’s available on the WordPress London YouTube channel. (Unfortunately there are no captions as yet).
Some other Usability posts
- WordPress Keyboard Accessible Dropdown Menus Plugin Revisited - Jul 8th, 2013
- WordPress Permanently Visible Log Out Link Plugin – Version 0.1 - Feb 15th, 2013
- Why None of the External Links on this Website Open in a New Window - Dec 4th, 2012
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