When planning out a website, it’s not the fifty colours, flash animations and fancy fonts that will get visitors’ attention. No — not unless you’re aiming for the sudden onset of adulthood epilepsy. The word on everyone’s lips (anybody who knows anything about web design) is usability. A visitor to a website should be treated to an easy-to-use, responsive experience.
1. Make It Self-Explanatory
The best websites don’t require much thought to understand. This is because when a visitor cruises onto the site for the first time, the last thing on their mind will be understanding the ‘cute but abstract’ icons that dominate the home page; or the site architecture that doesn’t make any sense. Human beings like recognisable patterns. That’s why Ebay and Amazon work so well, because they use a similar site architecture that people easily understand. Here’s a look at Amazon in more detail.
The way that Amazon lays out page elements has been emulated by e-commerce sites everywhere. Including:
- The shopping basket in the top right corner
- The neat right hand column of sponsored messages that are segregated from the rest of the text.
- The centre/top search functionality (we can also thank Google for this one too).
- The shopping sub-categories in a menu on the left hand side.
2. Remove All Barriers to Tedium
Don’t bank on people’s patience with filling out tedious forms, to get access to your website. Professional web designers should understand this irritation first hand. They should remove barriers like lengthy online forms, that hinder users from testing out the service. Rule of thumb – in order to increase sales conversions, don’t ask for lots of personal data. Stop meddling and just let users break on through to the other side.
3. Keep it Simple
When it comes to design and also copywriting – less is always more. So strive for plenty of white space on the page, and simplicity rather than complexity in design, navigation and communication. White space (or blank space on a page) makes it easier for users to handle all of the information and digest it all. Keep the layout consistent on all pages, keep the typefaces to a maximum of three sizes, and make sure that the text is uncluttered (about 20 words per line maximum).
4. Grab Attention and Focus It
The human eye is a fickle thing. It’s attracted to non-linear patterns. Humans instantly recognise edges, motion and patterns without even thinking. That’s why video is annoying from a user perspective, but very effective from an advertising point of view. To make users want to stick around, professional web designers should minimise the clutter and background static, and focus their attention on one particular element. For example, one word, like ‘Free’ or ‘Sale’ in bold 48pt Helvetica at the bottom of the screen is a good way to focus attention.
5. Use Writing Conventions
This means aligning the copy and tone of voice, to suit a particular target audience and the brand’s identity. It also means using the right conventions for web. When it comes to web writing, sometimes you need to call a spade, a spade. So ‘Sign up now’ and ‘Buy Now’, are always going to be more effective; compared to ‘take a wander through our stable of bespoke products’ or ‘begin the journey’. This is not Middle Earth after all!
The original version of this article was written by Athena Dennis and published on behalf of Total Web Design.