Author: Laura Spencer | July 2, 2013 | Vandelay Design
Having a user-friendly website is as important as having a beautiful original website design. Sadly, in our pursuit of excellence it’s all too easy to forget about usability and focus instead on aesthetics and originality.
Yet it’s the right combination of beauty, uniqueness, AND a user-friendly design that keeps our clients coming back for more. That’s because a usable website draws and retains readers, making them much more likely to become customers.
Don’t fall into the trap of forgetting about the end user experience when you design a client website.
What makes a website user-friendly? In this post, I identify four keys that will make any website design more user-friendly. Keep these handy tips in mind to design a more usable site.
Key #1 Navigation
Navigation is one important key to usability. Some would say it’s the most important key. Users need to be able to find what they are looking for quickly and with a minimum of effort on their part.
Studies have shown that most website users are not willing to stick around and figure out a complex navigational scheme. If your menu structure isn’t user-friendly, you’ll lose the user.
Here are just a few navigation mistakes to watch out for:
- Hard to find navigation. The user shouldn’t have to hunt for a way to navigate through the site. Menu bars should be visible and their purpose should be obvious.
- Odd acronyms in the menu. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms unless the meaning is obvious. (Remember that what is obvious to you may not be obvious to the user.)
- Multiple layers of menus. How many sub-menus must the user go through before he or she can perform the task or find the information that they came for?
- No search box. Users are used to searching websites to find what they want. A website without a search box is less navigable.
Key #2 Readability
Readability is another key factor that makes a website user-friendly. A user should be able to grasp the information on the website quickly and with very little effort.
In fact, studies show that most readers don’t actually read the information on a website at all. They scan it. According to a recent study from the Nielsen Norman Group, the most information that a reader is likely to read is 28%.
That statistic means that even in a best-case scenario most readers won’t read two-thirds of a website.
So, to reach an audience, a website must be scannable. Here are some design factors that contribute website scannability:
- Color. For a website to be readable, there should be enough contrast between the color used for the text and the color used for the background. Words should be easily read. Jennifer Kyrnin includes a helpful contrast table in her About.com post, Contrasting Foreground and Background Colors, that illustrates the difference between readable and unreadable color combinations beautifully.
- Font. In general, the simpler a font is, the easier it is to read. Fonts designed to look like script or made up of special characters are less scannable. Most design experts agree that san serif fonts work best for online design and serif fonts are better for print design. Also, avoid using too many different fonts in the same design.
- Formatting. The text on a page should make full use of formatting techniques such as headlines, bulleted lists, and bolding to increase scannability. Long chunks of unbroken text are less likely to be read than small chunks of text.
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