How to Make Your Website User-Friendly: 8 Essential TipsDesign Developer
What do you usually do when you stumble across an ugly-looking and poorly optimized website? Do you stay and continue struggling against all odds in order to find the information you came for? Unlikely. Why would you even bother if there are so many other websites out there? Your time is valuable, and so is the time of other internet users. This is why good usability is considered to be the cornerstone of web design, determining whether a site will serve its intended purpose.
Indeed, website usability is not to be taken lightly. It is reported that 79% of people simply give up on websites that are not optimized for convenient usage. Creating a website for business or any other purpose, the last thing you want is visitors leaving you after only a few seconds never to come back again.
But what is a user-friendly website anyway? Usability depends on so many different factors including design, navigation, optimization, mobile-responsiveness, etc. In this post, we’ll figure out what exactly makes a positive user experience and review some tips for ensuring a good website usability to help you retain your visitors for as long as possible.
Plan the website architecture from the outset
Creating a user-friendly website takes a lot of planning. Even before you start building your website, you need to have a very clear idea about its future structure and appearance.
This is why it makes sense to create a rough blueprint that will allow you to come up with the basic schematics for your future website. This step is called prototyping, and you don’t need any special tools to carry it out except for a sheet of paper and pencil.
All you really have to do is draw a simple sketch to render the overall arrangement of core elements on the site, e.g. header, footer, navigation menu, sections and categories, on-page layout, functional elements, ads, buttons, etc.
To ensure good usability, try to put yourself in the user’s shoes, think of how to provide the easiest and most effective way of finding and consuming information on your website.
With a prototype, it will be much easier for you to prepare a design assignment for a web developer or create a website on your own using a site builder like Ning.
Make sure your website design is flawless
The visual aspect is as important for your website usability as its structure. Being a website creator, you are free to follow your own aesthetic preferences and creative vision while designing it. But try to approach the process strategically. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Adapt your website design to the audience you are going to engage. Different target groups have different tastes. Their first impression from your website will determine whether they will stay or leave.
- Pick an appropriate color scheme. Make sure the colors of your website’s background and content contrast well and are not straining on the eyes. Ideally, the colors shouldn’t be too bright or too dull. The content must be easy to read.
- Unify the design of every page. The pages should look equally good and within the same design pattern. Consider using a website template to achieve the desired consistency in terms of design.
- Make sure your website header and footer are on point. Use them to the full extent but try not to overload with excessive navigation and design elements. Don’t forget to add your logo.
- The recent trend is the design simplification in favor of website usability. The cleaner and lighter your website looks, the easier it is to navigate through. Check Apple’s website for inspiration.
Ensure the efficient and convenient navigation
Navigation is particularly important for good usability as it directly influences the user experience while browsing a website. The easier it is to navigate, the more effortlessly users will find the information they need, and the better impression your website will leave.
Good navigation incorporates multiple aspects including:
- A well-designed navigation menu: accurate and short labels, a moderate number of tabs, an absence of clutter effect, good legibility, well-defined sections and categories, dropdown and sub-navigation menus; don’t forget to anchor your navigation bar so that it doesn’t disappear out of sight while scrolling;
- Easily accessible search tool: sometimes there’s just no time for browsing a website page by page in search for the required content; a search bar is a great solution to help users find information by keywords and save precious time;
- Multiple ways to browse content: introduce various charts or filters to sort your content out (by date, by rate, by relevance, etc.);
- Well-managed internal linking system: this not only ensures good usability but also improves SEO;
- Functional header and footer: intuitive navigation tabs, informative introductory content (website name and logo linked to the home page, tagline, etc.), additional buttons, e.g. Subscribe, Contact us, Follow on [social media] etc.;
- Accurate product classification: if you sell multiple products on your site, break them into several distinct categories so that your customers can find what they need easily.
Unless the navigation of your website is intuitive, people will be more likely to leave. No one wants to spend ages looking for the required content or feature.
Optimize the loading speed
Let’s face it, slow websites are annoying. There’s nothing surprising in the fact that most internet users do not want to sit and wait until a website loads. The truth is, 40% of people leave a website unless it loads within 3 seconds.
To minimize the loading speed, you should make your website as lightweight as possible. Remember that a large number of third-party plugins and widgets will considerably slow your site down, so use them in moderation. Apply only those that are essential for user experience on your website.
Images are also quite data-heavy, so compressing or resizing them is not a bad idea when it comes to optimizing the loading speed. You can use online tools like ImageSmaller or Image Optimizer to get the job done.
To check whether your website is fast enough, use Pingdom, the service that allows you to run comprehensive speed tests and offers helpful suggestions as for improving the load times.
Make sure your site is mobile-responsive
It is estimated that 49.7% of page views worldwide are made from mobile devices. This means that if you don’t optimize your website for mobile usage, you might lose half of the traffic you could potentially generate.
With so many people accessing the internet from smartphones and tablets, making a user-friendly website is pretty much about making it mobile-friendly. Speaking about mobile-responsiveness, if you build your site on Ning, consider yourself covered.
Format your content properly
How you write matters as much as what you write. Your content can be as good as it gets, but if it is poorly presented, retaining visitors on your website will be quite a challenge.
Here are a few basic tips for an on-page arrangement of your text-based content:
- Avoid huge and dense chunks of text, most people tend to feel intimidated with large portions of information thrown at them;
- Split your text into several smaller parts to make the whole thing more digestible. Divide it into logical paragraphs and make use of subheadings;
- Numbered and bulleted lists are good for keeping your audience’s attention;
- Highlight the most important parts of the text with bold font or italics where necessary;
- Introduce images in between the passages to make the content more engaging.
Did you know that the average human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish? Only 8 seconds! This means you have to make your content as approachable as possible to ensure the best user experience.
Long and complicated forms are one of the reasons why people abandon websites early on. However, forms are very important for generating leads and ensuring the best user experience on a website. To make them more approachable, follow these simple tips:
- Minimize the number of fields;
- Give the fields accurate titles;
- Add informative tooltips;
- Show messages of confirmation;
- Apply simple validation methods.
The more effortlessly users can go through the process of registration, the more user-friendly your website will be.
Display ads in moderation
The last but not least, online advertisements can drastically affect the usability of your website. Needless to say, ads are important for your website economy. They can even be the main source of income. But let’s face it, they can be insanely irritating.
If you show too many ads and they interfere with user experience (e.g. pop-up ads that suddenly appear every time you interact with a website), many of your visitors will be too annoyed to continue and will simply give up on your site. This is why you always have to make sure you don’t cross that thin line where the commercial interest starts to erode usability.
Creating a user-friendly website is a doable task as long as you approach it from a user’s perspective. Think what you’d want to see if you were a visitor to your website. And remember, the easier and faster people can find the necessary information, the higher are the chances that they will eventually stay and interact with it.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Keep it clear and intuitive, and you’ll be proud of the results.