Often times, as a client or even as a web designer, how a website looks is given way too much weight over how well it actually functions for the user. Let’s make no mistake, the way a website looks is incredibly important, first impressions count, a lot. People process images and visuals much faster than text, so the very first impression of your business will be determined by the aesthetic design of your website. However, arguably more important, is the websites user experience.
A website visitor’s patience is incredibly low, they expect to find the solution to their problem or questions easily and without delay. If the user experience is confusing, clunky, or too time-consuming, not only will this be a direct reflection on your business but the visitor is more likely to go elsewhere.
All website designs must have a strong grounding in user experience. Here are five of the more fundamental guiding principles of user experience for website design.
1. Communicate Clearly
When a visitor arrives on your website you have less than five seconds to engage with them in a way that they will continue to invest their time on your website. The bottom line is that they need to know that they’re in the right place. You need to clearly and succinctly communicate who you are, what you do, that you understand them, that you have a valuable solution to their needs, and offer them a clear next step.
2. Logical and Intuitive Navigation
Once they have decided they are potentially in the right place, what follows is how the visitor navigates their way through with your website. Having a clear, logical and intuitive navigation is crucial to enable users to find what they are looking for.
Here are some fundamental tips to ensure that the design of your website’s navigation is optimal:
- Keep your primary navigation easy to find and as simple as possible
- Make effective use of sub navigation to organise your pages
- Do not unnecessarily overload the navigation with too many pages
- Include your navigation in the footer of your website
- Keep bread crumbs intact on every page of the website so that the user can know the trail they are following
- If the website is large keep a search box at the top right or left corner for users who are looking for very
specific information. This is important for high content websites and blogs.
3. Obey the Basic Conventions
Over the years, there are some web design elements and their placements on the website that haven’t changed and that visitors have come to expect. These are web design conventions which are now considered best practice. Such conventions include:
- Keeping the main navigation at the top middle or left of a page
- Keeping the logo at the top left (or sometimes centre) of a page
- Clicking the logo should always bring the user back to the home page
- Having call to actions or links that change colour/shade when you hover them
- Ensuring the footer includes navigation links and also the links of all social media channels
- Adding a copyright disclaimer at the bottom of the page below the footer
- If there is a phone number, having it in the top right of the website header
- Phone numbers and email addresses should all be clicked to engage
- Contact details in the footer
- All links to external pages should open in a new window
Although your average user may not be able to name each of the above, they intuitively expect them and changing or omitting them can interrupt the flow and experience of the user.
4. Minimalism and Simplicity
Although Minimalism may have started as an aesthetic design trend, it has remained for very practical reasons. Simplifying and minimising the design, layout and choices of a visitor achieves a number of things: it visually creates space and psychological breathing room for the visitor, it enables the options and choices to be easily assessed and made, and by limiting the options a visitor has means you have more guiding control about what they can and will do.
As pointed out by Magicdust, when it comes to good website design, it is important to be very ruthless when it comes to the priorities of what information and options should be included in the design of a website and what is better left out or organised in such a way that it will be available later on in the users experience.
5. Responsive Website Design
It’s 2019 and there should be no debate that we need a responsive website design which is accessible on all kinds of phones, tablets, laptops or computers. It’s so obvious that it even seems like a redundant section to have in this article, but there is still a huge proportion of websites that are not mobile responsive and if they are it’s not done well. Over 50% of all your visitors will be on mobile devices! So it is essential that you provide a good user experience for these users.
Google’s primary directive is deeply rooted in user experience – to provide users with the most relevant and highest quality search results. Google considers mobile responsive website design so important to the user experience that it is now penalizing websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. Google will now rank your website lower in the search results if it isn’t optimised for mobile.
Here are some alarming statistics that emphasise the importance of user experience. According to a report by Magnetic North, bad UX costs UK brands £234bn a year, 92% of website visitors had a bad experience – and one-third of these visitors were likely to abandon a purchase because they couldn’t find the information they needed. So, it’s high time we start taking usability and UX web design as seriously as we do design aesthetic. The bottom line is to put yourself into the shoes of your website visitors and then design your usability and UX strategy accordingly, step by step.