An attractive and user-friendly Web site is crucial to attracting prospects and holding their interest. Seems obvious, yet poor design and even more poorly written content clutter the Web.
The basics of a good web site are simple. Generally, if the purpose of your web site is to convey information, the emphasis should be on clear navigation and engaging text. If however, your purpose is to showcase a portfolio or develop a brand identity, then it will be more appropriate to limit the amount of text, and concentrate on the graphics.
However you define the purpose of your web site, following a few basic guidelines will keep your web site user-friendly.
Keep It Simple.
This is the most important rule of Web site design. Keeping things straightforward from a user’s perspective requires some thought and planning.
If people find it difficult to get into or move around your site, they may not stay for the show. Ditto if you make it difficult for them to contact you or place an order. A little research into what your visitors will be looking for when they click on your Web site will help keep them happy.
Make Your Links Clear.
An important part of keeping it simple is making your links clear. If you use icons or pictures for your links, be sure to give them text titles. It may sound boring, but your site visitors don’t want to waste their time trying to guess where to go next.
Also, make sure that your links are easily visible. Don’t make your visitors have to scroll across to find them. Typically, links are found across the top of the page, or vertically arranged on the left.
Use Straightforward Navigation.
Make sure your visitors always know where they are by providing a navigation bar or map on every page. Also, try to arrange your information so that it is never more three clicks away. Make it easy for your visitors to find what they’re looking for, and to get around your site.
Tell Them What to Do.
Web users like to know what’s expected of them. If you want them to order your product, sign up for a newsletter, or contact you – tell them. And then give them an easy way to do it.
Give ‘em What They’re Looking For!
Your home page should include enough information about your site to let your visitor know they have found what they’re looking for. Nothing annoys users more than wading through click-thru’s, only to find that you don’t have the information or product they’re seeking.
Clear, engaging, value-driven content is essential to your web site’s success. Lame language and garbled grammar will ruin your professional image.
Minimize Download Times.
Big graphics, flashy animation, intricate images – they all take time to download. Take care when using whistles and bells. Again, consider your typical visitor. Will they have access to the latest technology? Or will they be dialing up from their rinky-dink home desktop? All the flash technology in the world won’t impress your visitors if they don’t stick around until the page loads.
Use Images Sparingly.
Images are a great way to add some pizzazz to a Web site. Too many, however, can detract from your site’s appearance or message, and they can make your site slow to load. Try using images that support and add value to your text, not as a substitute for information. Remember too, that although JEPG files are better for photographs, GIF files are quicker to download.
Avoid Unnecessary Forms.
This is especially relevant for e-commerce sites, but applies equally to subscription forms for anything. Long forms complicate the ordering process, and prospects may not be willing to fill in what they see as unnecessary details.
Use color with restraint in your Web site design. Too many colors may make your site look garish and incoherent. Stick to two or three complimentary colors to make a better impression. The same goes for textured or colored backgrounds. Often such backgrounds make text difficult to read, for example, a light blue background with yellow text or a black background with light blue text is virtually unreadable. (Don’t laugh! I’ve seen ‘em both.)
Different browsers support different fonts, and not all the same ones. So that unusual lettering that you think looks so good as your font choice, may show up as indecipherable gobbledy-gook on your visitor’s screen.
But all is not lost. There are a few fonts (called “true type” fonts) that are common to all browsers. The ones most commonly used are Times New Roman, Ariel, Helvetica, and Verdana (which was designed specifically for the Web).
Also, allow plenty of “white space” on the page. Spaces give readers a visual break, and allow them to focus more fully on separate elements of the page.
Following these simple guidelines, or using them as a checklist for your existing web site, will save you time and money. More importantly, your site visitors will feel understood and appreciated. And that’s a good thing!