6 Website Usability Issues That Foil Your Inbound Efforts

6 Website Usability Issues That Foil Your Inbound Efforts

By Lara BerendtApr 22 /2016

usability-issuesInbound marketing involves a lot of moving parts. People move through your content from browser to app to inbox and back again, expecting a consistent, intuitive experience at each engagement.

It takes awareness and some behind-the-scenes coordination to pull this off. If the user experience is compromised as people interact with your content from platform to platform or device to device, it can undermine your brand and put conversions at stake.

On the flip side, if you remove barriers to let people engage with you and your content seamlessly throughout the buyer journey, you’ll be better positioned to turn leads into sales, and you might even build a community of loyal advocates along the way.

Let’s explore some common usability issues that can hinder your inbound success.

1. Slow Load Times

What did you do the last time a Web page hung for more than a few seconds while loading? I bet you left the site and got on with your life. Forty-seven percent of people expect a Web page to load in two seconds or less, but average page weights rose 15 percent in 2014, with images as the largest culprit.

If a blog image hasn’t been appropriately sized, causing the page to lag while loading, your visitor could get frustrated, hit the back button and maybe move on to a competitor’s site. You’ve not only lost an opportunity to deliver your content you’ve also created a negative interaction with your brand.

Keep page weights under control by embracing flat design principles that emphasize simple elements, typography and flat colors instead of three-dimensional effects like shadows, gradients and glows. Make sure your designers and developers adhere to best practices for managing page weight, like scaling images appropriately, enabling browser caching and placing Javascript files lower on the page so they don’t slow down the rest of the content.

2. Hard-to-Use Forms

Newsletter subscriptions, eBook downloads, webinar registrations, demo requests—when creating forms to power these inbound lead generation activities, pay attention to:

  • Length: As John Hewitt asks, “Do you want the data or the conversion?” The number of fields in your form should strike a balance between how badly you need the lead, how badly you need the data and how much trust you’ve built with the prospect. Generally, the shorter the form, the better—especially for top-of-funnel offers.
  • Mobile-friendliness: Even the shortest form won’t do you any favors if it’s hard to fill out on a mobile device. Design responsive forms to fit mobile and tablet screens. Make text fields and submission buttons large enough to be clicked by human fingers.
  • Labels: Make sure form field labels are always visible and that the text itself is straightforward, not clever or cute. For more on form label positioning, check out this guide.

3. Hard-to-Find Downloads

Imagine a busy professional, Jim, who’s browsing your website at work and sees a gated offer for a report that’s relevant to his role. He completes the form, downloads the PDF, then gets distracted and jumps to a new task. On his train ride home he needs something to read, but he left his laptop at the office. He returns to your site on his smartphone and has to fill out the download form again, which he sees as a hassle. (And did you just get a duplicate lead?)

Make it easy for people like Jim to engage with your content on multiple devices by delivering PDFs via email as well as immediately redirecting users to the asset. Give your files clear, obvious names so people don’t have to waste time ransacking their download folders.

Brainstorm different scenarios in which your buyer personas access your content throughout their day and week, from one device to another, and identify ways to remove any glitches or roadblocks.

4. Emails That Aren’t Mobile-Friendly

Lead-nurturing emails help you deliver a steady stream of inbound offers to your database, but never forget that 80.8 percent of people read emails on mobile devices.

You’ve felt the frustration of using your phone to read long lines of too-tiny text and hard-to-click links. Maybe you engage in the repetitive pinch-zoom-and-scroll dance for a while; maybe you simply move on from a clumsy experience. Don’t give users a reason to delete your emails unread or opt out of your communications altogether.

Most of the basic tenets of responsive Web design are now being applied to emails. Responsive HTML emails are easier to read on small screens without having to zoom in. You can include fluid images and easily clickable CTA buttons. If you’re not a designer or developer, email marketing platforms like Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, HubSpot and ExactTarget supply responsive, mobile-optimized templates.

5. A Cluttered Website

Attracting prospects to your website is a top inbound objective, but if they arrive to find a disorganized or bloated mess, you could squander your opportunity.

A modern business website should be simple, easy to navigate, and absolutely user-centric. If you’re still working with a site that serves as a library of outdated or overly brand-focused content, it’s time for a redesign. And a redesign is a great time to step back and evaluate your content strategy and information architecture to update them for inbound success. “A lot of the assets built through inbound—a business blog, calls-to-action, landing pages—are actually components that should be developed to align with the redesign,” writes Alec Biedrzycki.

Ensure each piece of content on your site serves a specific customer need and is easy to find and use.

6. Spotty Social Integration

When ownership of different channels and media is distributed throughout organizations, it’s not uncommon for social integration to be great in one inbound area, like the blog property, but absent from another, like email templates.

Invite social engagement throughout the customer experience. This handy cheat sheet explains all the different types of social follow and share buttons. Keep these touch points in mind when adding social integration to your content:

  • Website: Display social follow buttons on your homepage and blog sidebar, and make sure every blog post also features share or like buttons for your audience’s preferred platforms.
  • Email: When you deliver inbound assets via email, make it easy for recipients to share them with colleagues or friends. In webinar registration confirmation emails, empower people to let their network know they’re attending.
  • Videos and Webinars: Platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Brightcove and Adobe Connect all offer social integration within their players and hosting interfaces. Enable viewers to extend the reach of your content or keep conversations going after an event.
  • Downloadable Assets: Include social sharing links directly in PDF resources like eBooks, white papers, reports and infographics.


Fast-evolving technology creates continuous usability challenges for businesses, but the basic principles won’t change. As Steve Krug wrote, “Usability is about people and how they understand and use things, not about technology.”

To uncover additional usability issues, test everything and talk directly to your audience. Watch people engage with your content to see where they’re tripped up. Let your audience know that you’re listening and striving to continually improve their experience by openly soliciting their feedback. Just make sure that feedback form is mobile-friendly.

For more on how to overhaul your website for inbound success, check out our eBook, High Performing Websites That Last.

Discover How to Get The Results You Want With a Website Redesign

Lara Berendt
The Author

Lara Berendt

Lara Berendt is an editor and content strategy consultant with a background in journalism and B2B marketing. For ten years she's helped craft content for publications and businesses across a range of industries—from staffing and financial services to tech manufacturing and traditional print media—forever striving to optimize people's communications and the strategies that inform them. Learn more at laraberendt.com.