Marketing isn’t just about driving traffic to your site, but creating a positive and enjoyable impression once we get there. It’s all about the experience, and the majority of us want an easy to navigate, quick to digest, and easy on the eyes experience.
Below are 9 key design and usability practices that, when used properly, will help to draw more visitors or potential customers to your site and keep them happy once they get there. What better way is there to help you grow and strengthen your business?
Simplicity is key
Let’s try and make this as difficult an experience as possible…said no one ever! It’s no surprise that simplicity is highly valued, and this especially applies to good web design. There are two main aspects to simplifying your site. The first, is to organize your content in a concise and to the point manner. For example, a site that is content heavy, is more likely to be overlooked than a site that has consolidated its content, broken it up into sub-sections, and included some visuals to help with explanation where copy isn’t needed.
The second aspect of simplicity relates to a site’s ‘scan-ability’. Simply put, can you get the gist of the content without having to read the page word-for-word? Ease of scanning can be improved by using headings and sub-headings, bulleted content, call out boxes, as well as by highlighting key words and phrases. Think about how a magazine article is designed, versus a medical journal, for example!
Ease of navigation
A site’s usability is largely linked to the ease of its navigation, so it’s crucial that content is organized intuitively. Make sure that you have a clear navigation menu at the top of your page, comprised of no more than seven or eight clearly worded topics. Drop down menus are also commonly used to organize a lot of content. To navigate more easily through sub-page content, each page should have clear headings and a well-organized hierarchy. Colour coding sections is a popular way of keeping track of sub-content pages.
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We all make mistakes, and it is easy for users to make mistakes while browsing. Help your users with simple feedback when they make a wrong turn. Alert users when they make a mistake while filling out a form. Add confirmation dialogue boxes at critical stages of a process, ‘Are you sure you want to proceed without saving?’. This gives the user an option to halt a task and correct as they go. Finally, any message sent to the user should be user friendly and easy to understand. Avoid the use of technical jargon and communicate to your user as a human being…no tech speak!
Cross-device consistency is also key
You’ll be hard-pressed these days to find a site that is not mobile compatible. With the instant rise in popularity of smart phones, tablets and now, even wearable technology, you have to make sure your site will work on a multitude of devices. But just to have it work is not enough. The overall experience in use and purpose should also be consistent across devices. Usability of a web site should be the same, irrespective of the device used for access.
Let your visuals do the talking
A picture is worth a thousand words and that’s because the brain can process visuals a lot faster than it can text. Most people are inherently visual thinkers and are less likely to be data processors. So, it is good practice to include relevant visuals when the content allows for it. Photography can create a more personal connection with the user. Graphs and charts help with digesting data more easily. Icons are great for replacing words with visuals. One thing to keep in mind, is that imagery should help to tell your story, not distract your user. Incorporating visuals in a relevant manner is a great way to further enhance your brand and make it easier for your customer to relate to you.
Understanding visual hierarchy
It takes just milliseconds for a user to decide if they like your site enough to want to spend time there. So, along with being visually engaging, you also want your site to have a very clear and concise visual hierarchy (aka, where should my eye go first…). A useful trend happening in web design right now, is the 1, 2, 3 approach. This is a visual guideline that allows the user to get from point A to point B and beyond, without having to think about how they got there. The more transparent the message and the orientation of the site, the more likely you are to gain the trust of your user.
There are many different design techniques to create a clear visual hierarchy, but here are some of the basics. Use of size and weight, for example, a large bold header at the beginning of a paragraph is going to stand out more. Separation of content and the use of white space allow the user breathing room to digest information. Colour coding sections will not only help with visual separation, but provide personality to the content as well.
Extra! Extra! Keep your important features above the fold!
‘Above the fold’ is a term coined by the newspaper industry. The upper portion of a folded newspaper is where the most important news story of the day lives. If your site visitors never scroll down the page, then you’ll want to make sure your key message isn’t missed. Save that million dollar web site real-estate for the most important content on each page. The more compelling the above the fold content is, the more engaged your visitor will become, and they will scroll away!
Reduce my mental workload please
To make your site more user friendly, don’t make your visitors have to work to get what they came for. Constantly aid the user's memory by providing reminders of previous actions or options for future actions. You can graphically highlight the user’s path by using a breadcrumb navigation or progression dots. You should also make sure your page headers are consistent with your sub-navigation titles. These are just a few techniques that will help users easily chart the course that they have taken on the site.
What is your call to action?
Congratulations! Your site visitor has decided to stay and browse to become familiar with your site. Now’s the time to reward them with a clear and direct call to action… what do you want them to do with the information they’ve been given? The goal is always to limit the amount of work the user has to do, so, when you can, make your call to action as simple as clicking a button. Make the language surrounding the call to action enticing and helpful by giving it a voice. And lastly, give it presence! Don’t bury it away. You always want to make sure it’s in a place that makes sense with the flow of the page.
Improving the usability of your site will boost the health of your business. So make sure you properly consider usability. Use the above techniques to make your site creates a user-friendly and memorable experience.