In recent years, web designers have been trending towards trading in visual bells and whistles for minimal simplicity. There is probably more to this trend than the aesthetics. With the emerging emphasis on content strategy and website interactivity, simpler web design just makes more sense. Maintaining a user-friendly website is one of the most important things you can do for your business. Things like confusing navigation, slow load times, and device incompatibility can easily drive away the traffic you worked hard to attract. Of course, the majority of web developers aim to create a website that is visually pleasing and original. However, there are aspects of usability you should keep in mind to give visitors the best experience possible.
Magdelena Georgieva makes a good point in her Hubspot article titled “The Key Components of a User-Friendly Website Navigation”: Your navigation is what stands between the user and the user’s goal, and you don’t want to make it difficult for them to find what they’re looking for. Here are just a few guidelines to create better website navigation:
- Your navigation should offer a small selection of webpages to visit, and use clear wording like “About,” “Team,” and “Home.” Each button should clearly indicate where your visitors will be taken.
- Make it easy to get back to home at any time. It’s common practice to place the company logo in the website header as a link back to the homepage.
- Your navigation should also indicate to the user where they are on the site. For example, many websites will highlight the button on the navigation bar that the user just clicked on as a way to help them remember where they are on the site.
- Your site should also include search functionality at the top right-hand corner, since that is where most people will look for it.
Site Load Time
You probably know from experience how frustrating a slow-loading website can be. The average internet user is accustomed to accessing information within moments, so don’t let your website be an exception. Limit the number of large files on your webpages. Those Flash graphics might look impressive, but don’t sacrifice user experience by overdoing it. Using valid HTML and CSS is also important to the functionality and speed of a website. Use a tool like GTmetrix to test your site speed, and work with your web developer to make improvements to your site’s load time.
Clear Error Indications
If a user makes a mistake in filling out a form, make it easy for them to see what they did wrong. This leads to less frustration and greater user experience when a user can quickly and easily fix their error.
If your site isn’t compatible across mobile devices, it’s time to get up to speed. Research shows that mobile internet traffic now accounts for fifteen percent of global internet traffic, where just ten years ago it accounted for less than one percent. Many websites now use responsive design to make their sites compatible across all mobile devices. The responsive websites respond to a user’s device, screen orientation, and screen size. In other words, a site designed in this way will load its content to suit the device its being viewed from. Another option is to create a separate site altogether for mobile devices to access. There are pros and cons to both approaches. Weigh them against each other to see which is right for you, but don’t go another day with a mobile-friendly website.
Typography is something web developers shouldn’t take lightly. Consider using simple, clean, and readable fonts for your site’s content. You should also make it big enough that a user can read it at a comfortable distance from the screen. Your font should also contrast well with the background color so that it’s readable. Dark grey font against a black background might make sense in your head, but you’ll be better off choosing a color combination that is easier for visitors to read. It’s also important to make your written content scannable. Internet readers tend to have shorter attention spans, so make it easy to get the gist of the article by incorporating headings, graphs, pictures, infographics, and bullet points to help break up and highlight content.
Your site should be accessible to people with disabilities, which includes the elderly, the physically disabled and the visually impaired. These people usually use screen readers on their computers and devices. Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 gives useful guidelines for making websites accessible. The Rehabilitation Act requires the government to make their electronic resources available to disabled people, and the Supreme Court amended it in 1998 to include websites. Some guidelines include:
- Creating alt text for embedded media such as pictures, graphs, and video
- Creating captions for audio and video files
- Making content provided by scripts accessible to assistive technologies (e.g., Flash)
- Making a text-only version of your website available
Issues with browser compatibility can occur if a webmaster isn’t staying on top of browser updates, which are regularly released. Today’s browsers have evolved to become more consistent, but there are still some inconsistencies between them that can affect user experience. Test your website across browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari on a regular basis to make sure your pages are rendering properly on all of them. If something needs fixing, it’s better you catch it before your visitors do.
A great website is the backbone of any company’s digital marketing strategy. If you’re doing all the work to drive traffic to your website, but are still getting mysteriously low conversions, it might be time to evaluate your site’s bounce rate and user-friendliness. Make sure your piece of web real estate is one that people will want to come back to, and you’ll be more likely to experience success online.