Best Practices for Improving the User Experience on Your Website
We hear the words "user experience" get thrown around all the time when it comes to web design, but what does it really mean? If you define the phrase in a broader sense, it means everything that includes a person's emotions, attitudes and behaviors concerning using a certain product (read: a website), system or even service.
When it comes exclusively to web design, though, you can narrow this definition down even further until you're dealing with absolute specifics on what makes a website appeal to a user. For instance, is the site easy to navigate, or do users feel disoriented and confused when browsing your site? Practical considerations like this are at the heart of what defines the user experience in web design.
Here are the best practices for getting a great user experience on any site you design. It doesn't matter what CMS you're using or for whom you're designing you'll want to ensure that your site has all of the following.
Make Sure Your Webpages Load Quickly
People, especially site visitors, are more instant-gratification than ever these days. No one in his right mind wants to wait a longer period of time for any webpage to load. This is really one of the most basic things you can do when designing.
Fortunately for you, there are many different tools on the Internet that can help you analyze the speed with which a webpage loads. A highly popular tool comes from Pingdom, but there are also Google's PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix. Use these tools to gauge the speed of your webpages, and if they're too slow, make adjustments fast.
Consider Cross-Browser Compatibility Checks
The mark of any good web designer is how consummate he is when it comes to thinking of everything. Although checking for cross-browser compatibility has always been a pain in the neck of sorts, you should go the extra mile and ensure that site visitors can properly access your site no matter what browser they're using. After all, with the growing popularity of mobile, more people than ever are using all types of devices to access your site.
You want to do two things. First, it's a best practice to install a user-agent switching plugin like this one for Google Chrome, as it permits you to perform fast cross-browser checking. Then, you want to depend on tools such as Browser Shots and Browser Stack.
See That Your Website Is Dependable
The best practices for the user experiences include all the basics. Understand that your site will only be as dependable as your hosting provider. To put it simply: If your host is cheap, then you can't expect dependable hosting, especially if your site traffic increases.
A dedicated or private server is really the way to go, not a cheap hosting provider. Cheap hosts are normally characterized by their obsession with attempting to fit as many customers as possible into a shared server that's already crowded. This is where balance and thinking things through are in order.
Small businesses and those with personal websites shouldn't naturally spend an arm and a leg on hosting, yet it's important to have dependable hosting if your site makes you money.
You want to be very astute about scalability, which is basically when abrupt spikes in traffic all of a sudden force your host to handle an increase in traffic. Therefore, you should pick a hosting provider that lets you efficiently scale your hosting plan if your regular web traffic suddenly multiplies.
Check Both Spelling and Grammar in Your Typography
Everyone knows that the vast majority of what people consume with their eyes on the web is type. Hence, typography is insanely important! Typography relates more to the actual appearance and style of your fonts, but all that won't matter at all if your spelling and grammar are so poor that they adversely impact your text's readability and legibility.
Besides, lots of people all around the planet are browsing websites and using built-in translation software. If the spelling and grammar on your site are shabby, that will cause mistranslations and frustrate your international audience. As a result, it could well lead to your site failing to grab a wider (read: international) audience.
In addition, bad spelling and grammar could even negatively impact your SEO, so it is imperative that you edit all of your copy before letting it go live. For instance, let's say that your keywords aren't spelled right or inserted in such a way into the text that Google punishes you (read: content farm). To guard against this, simply do your best to create content that is clean and precise, which makes it both easy to follow and comprehend.
Ignore Best Practices and Suffer the Consequences
Best practices exist to guide web designers, so that they can produce the most top-quality sites on the whole Internet. Sure, you have the free will to think as you like and chart your own course, but if you ignore the above best practices, you're really not doing your career as a web designer any favors.
Everything covered above from fast page loads and cross-browser compatibility to dependable hosting and solid spelling and grammar is user experience 101. That means they can't be ignored under any circumstances if you want to build an excellent portfolio of design work. Incorporate these best practices into your design, and you'll get bigger and better clients guaranteed.
Do you have suggestions for other best practices that you rely on in your design work? Did we miss any that you think are vital or even more important than the ones on this list? If so, don't be shy to share them with us in the comments section.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marc Schenker is a freelance writer, blogger and editor who's written on web design, conversion, photography and entertainment. You can find out more about him on marcschenkercopywriter.com.