10 Tips for Designing a Website with Usability in Mind
Sure, a stunning website with a modern, aesthetically appealing design is nice, but it’s not as essential as usability. If users can’t find what they’re looking for on your website, they’ll quickly leave and go to a different site.
You may be surprised to know that designing for usability doesn’t start when you begin building your new website. It starts in the planning stage. Usability should always be a driving force in your decision-making – from the planning stage to development, and even after your site is launched.
Designing with users in mind is a deliberate effort. There are steps you can take to ensure your site is designed for an optimal user experience.
1) Know Your Audience
Before you begin creating your website, you need to know who you’re creating it for. Who will be visiting your site? What are their wants, needs, and goals?
Getting to know your audience will require some user research. This can be done several different ways. You can start by interviewing people in your company who have direct contact with your audience. For example, sales team members or customer service representatives are great people to start with. You can also create a short survey or questionnaire for a segment of your target audience. If possible, you can even interview users to gain insight into their wants and needs.
Knowing your audience will help you to create content that is relevant. It will also allow you to make decisions and create a design that is data-driven instead of assumption-driven.
2) Categorize Products and Topics
The attention span and patience of users has continually diminished over time. Users don’t want to take the time to search your whole website for the information they need. They want it to be easily accessible.
With that said, don’t make users hunt for products or information. Instead, categorize products and topics to make it easy for users to find what they’re looking for.
3) Write Clearly and Concisely
Going back to tip # 2, the attention span of users is going the way of the dinosaurs. According to Venture Beat, humans have an average attention span of 8 seconds. This means that you need to make every word count. Remove any unnecessary, flowery text from your content. Only include information that is essential and clear.
Try using bulleted lists, when appropriate, to communicate information more succinctly. You should also try breaking up your text into smaller paragraphs. This will make your content more readable.
4) Use Visuals
Visuals, such as images, infographics, and screenshots, can be used to support and clarify text. They also can be used to attract a reader’s attention and sum up information.
Visuals help to make content more engaging. Most people would rather read content with visuals than just plain text.
Although visuals can enhance text, remember not to go overboard. Too many images or graphics can distract readers from the message you’re trying to communicate.
5) Include Headers and Subheaders
Readers no longer read text word for word. They scan text for the information they need. In a study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group, researchers found that 79% of users scanned text when reading from a website.
Instead of allowing your readers to get lost in a sea of text, make it easy for them to find what they came to your site for. Adding headers and subheaders to your text can do this. Headers and subheaders allow readers to scan text and jump to the information that’s relevant to them.
6) Strive for Quality over Quantity
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of debris scattered along the Internet highway nowadays. More and more people are creating websites and publishing blog posts, but a lot of them are churning out useless, low-quality content. Don’t fall into that category. Strive to create high-quality content that’s relevant and addresses the needs of your audience.
7) Optimize Images
Most images are needlessly very large and can slow down your website while loading. Images not only contain pixels, but they also hold metadata that describe the image. You should optimize your images to make sure they don’t slow down your website and make your visitors wait.
Optimizing an image involves removing any unnecessary data. It also involves reducing the size or compressing the image without compromising the quality of the image.
You can reduce the size of an image yourself by using a tool like Photoshop or a free online image optimization tool. PNG Crush is a free online tool that can be used to reduce the size of your PNG images while also maintaining image quality. PNG Crush also offers a JPEG optimizer.
8) Make Whitespace Your Friend
Whitespace is sometimes referred to as negative space. It’s the space that’s left blank or unmarked between elements on a webpage. As Treehouse puts it, whitespace doesn’t have to be white. It can be any color as long as the space doesn’t contain anything else.
Whitespace can be used to build a simple, but effective design that’s not cluttered with unnecessary elements. The use of whitespace can also improve readability and website performance, creating a more positive user experience.
9) Create Navigation That Is Intuitive
The more simple and intuitive your website is, the more people will use it. Your navigation plays a big part in that. Your navigation should allow visitors to seamlessly move around your website, visit different pages, and see what you have to offer.
Intuitive navigation breaks down webpages into logical hierarchies or categories. It is consistent and appears in the same location on all pages. Intuitive navigation also uses navigation best practices, such as relevant headings and links that are a different color than regular text.
Remember, the goal is to help users find what they need quickly and easily. Intuitive navigation helps to accomplish this. It also helps to increase return traffic to your site.
10) Conduct User Testing
It’s essential to test your new website before it’s launched to ensure that users can find what they need and successfully complete tasks on your website.
To start, get your project team together and come up with a plan. Your plan should include the scenarios you want to test, the metrics you want to capture, where the testing will take place, and how many participants you’re going to use. A great example of everything a plan should include can be found at usability.gov.
Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to implement the testing. During the testing, you should have a checklist of the tasks or scenarios you plan to test.
Once the testing is complete, carefully review and analyze the results. Try to identify any patterns among participants. Once you have analyzed the data, make changes, modifications, and improvements based on the results.