Site designers have their work cut out for them these days, much more so now than ever before with modern technologies and practices making site design cleaner, more functional and generally easier on the eye. While the majority of sites are very easy on the eye, looking good is not always easy – nor do aesthetics alone make a site even remotely usable.
Usability is hands down the most important part of modern web design, with aesthetics coming in second place (there is no point in something looking great if it cannot be used). Usability very often means the difference between a visitor staying and interacting in some way (filling out a form, making a purchase, reading an article etc.) or turning around and walking right back out the digital door again.
There are more than a few things to concern yourself with when it comes to the usability of your website, with some of them depending on the type of website and the services offered.
However, there are factors relevant to every website and some are more ‘crucial’ than others to get right. We recently sat down with the amazing guys at Think Zap who are one Glasgow’s leading web design companies and pioneers when it comes to UX.
Responsiveness is key
Remember the days when the internet could only be accessed via a desktop computer? Well, congratulations because almost nobody else does. There are now scores of different devices that can access the internet now, with even more different screen sizes not to mention the different operating systems.
Just for an example, here’s a (very) small selection of devices – we’ll ignore screen sizes, nobody has time for that:
- Desktop computer
- Smart watch
- Smart TV
- Games console
We could carry on, but these are the more popular ones so we’ll stop there and you probably get the idea. Test out your website on as many different devices and screen sizes as you can before your site goes live, to get a feel of what your visitors will be experience and make adjustments where necessary.
Logically constructed CTAs
It almost makes no difference what the purpose of your website is, you likely want your visitors to make a certain action when they get there. Whether that is buying, reading, downloading or something else entirely like picking up a telephone. Whatever the action happens to be, just like taking payments you should make it as easy as possible for that to happen.
The CTA (call to action) is the part where you convince the visitor to carry out the action you would like them to. This could be something as simple as a well constructed sentence or something a little more ‘standout’ like a button, a pop-up or a banner.
Whichever method you employ, place it in an obvious place and really make it pop… Also, in the case of banners, links, pop-ups and buttons you should probably make sure they work.
Make it snappy
Patience is a virtue but not one that should be tested – nobody cares if your visitors are virtuous or not. There are few things in this digital world of ours that are as annoying or off putting as being made to wait for a web page to load. Even some of the most popular websites are guilty as sin of this major no-no, but they won’t be mentioned – they know who they are.
A Kissmetric study discovered that just under half, 47% to be exact, of consumers fully expected a page to load in 2 seconds or less. There are several ways to reduce page loading times, and to discover just what is holding everything back you can feed individual pages through specialised tools such as:
These tools can identify potential issues so that you can get to work fixing them and improving your page loading times.
Christopher Columbus isn’t the only one to have problems with navigation, site users can easily either get lost in large websites with no obvious way to get back to where they were in previous steps, or can’t find a particular page, category, service or product. Make sure the website is structured logically and that visitors can find everything easily and the rest will follow. Job done.
Make sure every page satisfies a need
User intent is the reason your website attracts visitors in the first place so make sure that the intent is satisfied on the page they visit. Logical categories that easy to find and that the pages being found reflect what the visitor was expecting to find – meta descriptions will help a great deal here and so will manual descriptions when sharing to social media sites.
Menu systems play a role here too, and whatever device your visitors are using these menus and category lists should be easily accessible and arranged.
Conformity is your friend
Website construction is no place for anarchists, conformity to established standards is a good thing in this case. People expect certain things from the websites they visit and those not meeting those expectations are not going to be very popular. Here are just a few things that people expect from a site:
- Navigation is at the top of every page
- Any logo or header links back to the homepage
- Contact / about us pages are in specific places
Sometimes change is good, but not if it confounds and infuriates in the ways that changing the established order of things is sure to do. Others have tried and do you know who? Exactly.
Your content needs to be easily consumed
Do you know why readers like headers? Because nobody likes looking at a wall of text, even walls have windows so break up your text into sections with headers. Think of H2 tags as chapter titles. When you first open up a book, you may want to jump to a specific chapter that interests you, so you flick through until you find it. People do the exact same thing with web pages.
Heading tags also help search engines and SERPs, so there’s another reason to use them. Images and videos work too, in helping break the snoozefest of huge blocks of text, but don’t overdo it and only use images and videos that are actually relevant to the content.
Following these simple guidelines should result in a website that is easy to access, navigate and make use of. Watch those ads too, they really can affect loading times in a big way so don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy.