Vital Website Usability Checklist You Can't Ignore
Good web designers who take pride in their work know that the user experience is what matters most. Their goal should always be to make the site visitor experience great usability. This means that the site should be extremely easy to use, display choices and information in a logical and orderly way, position crucial design elements in suitable places and feature an absolute absence of ambiguity.
Think that's a tall order? If you really consider yourself a professional, you won't think that this is difficult at all. In fact, your standards should be so high that you're already striving to design your websites with the aforementioned in mind at all times. Some would even go farther and also include gender and age appropriateness as additional factors of great usability.
As a designer, it's your job to make sure that your design is functional, practical and so simple to use that visitors don't have to have much experience with the Internet to efficiently navigate your site. Here are some of the most vital website usability tips of all time. Ignore them at your own peril!
Avoid Clutter No Matter What!
No site visitor is going to enjoy viewing your cluttered website because it just confuses them and makes their user experience harder instead of easy. Don't be afraid to leave some white spaces on your site's webpages. This makes viewing the site easier on the eyes.
Don't ever be repulsed by white spaces to the point where you're doing your best to clutter up all of your webpages with superfluous text and unnecessary images. All their inclusion produces is a site that's overly busy-looking and chaotic. On a practical note, it will make important things difficult to find for your site visitors. A clean and simple design solely focusing on information site visitors are searching for increases usability immensely!
Here's a notorious example of horribly cluttered site design to avoid: Gary Private's site. He's a little-known actor and musician. Note the plethora of animated GIFs, the dreadful colors and the disorganized layout!
Design a Fast-Loading Website
People today are highly impatient. That goes double for web surfers. After all, we have DSL and cable modems today; we're not stuck in the lame, old days of dial-up modems and the like. Therefore, people using the Internet also expect that sites they visit load very quickly.
The worst thing you can do as a web designer is to sabotage yourself by repelling people from your site by designing one with slow load times. As soon as a visitor navigates your site and realizes how slowly each page loads, he'll just leave and he'll likely never return! After all, if you're not ensuring fast load times on your site, then plenty of other sites will, and they'll get your visitors.
To make sure your site loads fast, keep things like videos and especially graphics to a minimum.
Check out Cisco System's website for an example of a fast-loading site. Note how graphics and videos are used moderately throughout the site; even webpages with a good amount of graphics still load quickly.
No Substitute for Amazing Navigation
Some would argue that the majority of a website's usability is determined by site navigation alone. Think of it this way: If your customers are too confused by your layout to navigate your site efficiently, then they're going to get frustrated and leave rather quickly! Lots of visitors will just leave the site if they can't locate what they want in just a matter of a few clicks.
No matter where prospects go on your site, you'll want to ensure that they always know where they are. This means that it's a good idea to consistently and prominently display your company logo and brand name on every webpage, always in the same place. Consistency is a hallmark of super-effective navigation.
A wonderful illustration of this is Amazon's site. The biggest retailer on the Internet sports a spectacularly well-organized layout with its company name at the top left of every webpage, a search box on top of every webpage and a Ã?Â¢??Shop by DepartmentÃ?Â¢?? drop-down menu right underneath the Amazon logo on each webpage.
Make It Easy to Read
Sometimes, there's just no substitute for keeping things the very simplest that they can be. This is especially applicable when it comes to how easy to read your site is. Here are some easy readability tips to keep in mind at all times:
- Certain color combinations are just doomed to failure on a website
- A really bright background color that features very dark text will quickly repel your site visitors
- For best results, use either a white or a light background color that features black text
- Splashes of color should be used in moderation, particularly in sidebars or headers
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage's website is a good example of easy-to-read design. Note the white background and darker text along with color that's used sparingly in the logo of the Center.
Create a Super-Helpful Sitemap
The old sitemap may be overlooked by some designers, but that's reckless because a proper sitemap increases usability. A highly functional sitemap allows any site visitor the necessary ease of access regardless of what specific webpage they're on.
Some sites can be so huge that site visitors - especially those browsing your site for the very first timeÃ?Â¢??can get overwhelmed and even lost! This is where a brilliant sitemap comes in handy: Visitors can consult a sitemap to find their way around your site, which will increase your site's usability by infinite amounts. As a bonus, consider this: Search engine spiders can crawl your entire site with greater ease, which helps your search rankings.
Big brands know the usefulness of great sitemaps. Look at Apple's sitemap. It's the epitome of making sure that even the most disoriented site visitor can easily find his way around Apple.com.
The User Is the Most Important Factor
All good web designers who take pride in their work already know this: They design sites to improve the user experience, period. The user is the most significant piece of the puzzle. Keep a user happy, and he'll reward you by becoming a loyal site visitor. If you're selling products or services, he may even take that loyalty a notch further by becoming a dependable customer.
To build such loyalty in your visitors, you have to focus on web usability more than anything else. If your site is so bogged down with design flaws that it repels users, then what good is it? All you've got in such a worst-case scenario is another lonely site on the Internet that no one visits! Keep the above tips in mind when designing your site, and you'll draw site visitors to you like bees to honey.
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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.