“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs
Usability, or User Experience (UX) can be defined as user-centric design, and is at the core of creating an effective, successful website. Website usability is like magic. You don’t notice it, but everything you want to do, works without any effort.
Here are five key principles that, if adhered to when designing a site, will help ensure a positive experience for your users.
Optimize your website for any device
Your website should be easily accessible to your users anytime, anyplace, and on any device. According to comScore, 60% of digital media time is now spent on smartphones or tablets. In addition, Google now rewards responsive web design and has made it an integral part of its SEO algorithm.
Don’t make them think
Clarity and simplicity are essential features of website usability. Think through your user’s preferences and goals when they come to your site. Avoid distracting images and features that have no tangible purpose and are not in accord with your brand message. Keep elements consistent and unified in look and feel as well as navigation and architecture throughout. Show your visitors what to do next by providing calls to action that lead them down the buying path or to the information and detail they may be looking for.
Make it Easy
Intuitive interfaces that don’t need instructions or explanations are key to designing a website with a great user experience. Don’t be afraid of familiarity and stick to web conventions. These provide visitors with a sense of comfort and confidence. For example, your website’s navigation is NOT a place to be creative. It needs to be front and center so visitors can move around your site with ease. And if you’re a business that relies on customers contacting you through the phone, be sure to include your phone number prominently in the header. There is nothing more frustrating than a website without prominent contact information.
Help your visitors solve their problems
Probably the most important aspect of an effective website is relevance. If the content is not relevant to the visitor’s needs, all other key principles are irrelevant. The objective of creating a business website is to drive visitors to spend time on your site, take action with your business, and return often. If you are not providing relevant, focused and helpful content that helps users achieve their goals and solve their problems, they will leave quickly and not return. If you understand your target market, you’ll know how to speak to their needs.
Test and Learn
User testing, research, analysis, and learning is an essential underlying theme throughout all stages of the website design process. Conduct usability tests to discover what is working and what is not; make appropriate changes and refinements based on the findings.
In conclusion, if you ensure that the site you are designing is accessible, clear, intuitive, and relevant, and you are testing the effectiveness of usability features, your chances of creating a website that provides a positive user experience is high; and you will reap the rewards of a loyal and engaged audience as a result.
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