Our Top 10 Tips for Creating a User-Friendly Website
That’s a nice website you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if nobody could use it properly. A good website will look nice, yes, but a truly great website will look nice and provide a pleasant user experience for its visitors. Good user experience, or UX for short, is essential for any website owner hoping to see happy visitors and healthy conversions. Without it your customers will struggle to navigate your website, leading to frustration and the inevitable abandonment of their visit. Not ideal.
So how do you create a user-friendly website?
Good user experience is all in the details, and it’s more straightforward than you might think to get them right. The aim is to make your website meet the exact needs of your users with minimal fuss, and here are 10 top tips for achieving precisely this:
1. Put the User First
This might sound like an obvious point to make in an article about user experience, but you’d be amazed at just how many websites still value style over substance. You must put the user first when designing your website, both on the visual and structural side of things. Each time you consider adding a new element, be it a graphic, a button or a chunk of copy, put yourself in the user’s shoes for a moment.
Action point: Look at each new element of your website as if you have never seen it before; would you be able to find your way around? If not, you will know it needs to be adapted.
2. Use Accessible Language and Tone
Language is the most human element of any website, so it has to be right on the money. The key here is to know your audience inside out, and always bear in mind the ultimate goal you want all visitors to your website to achieve. The language you use will help them reach that goal, so it needs to be targeted to your audience and easy to understand. Avoid jargon or over-complicated language, and make sure your tone of voice is well suited to the demographics of your intended audience.
Action point: If you’re not sure about your use of language, get an impartial person from your target audience demographic to read it and provide feedback.
3. Keep it Simple
Often referred to as one of the fundamental principles of UX design, simplicity is a key factor in helping your website’s visitors get from A to B. Overcomplicated, overcrowded websites with too many buttons, images and blocks will inevitably confuse your visitors and can lead to high bounce rates (visitors leaving your website immediately after landing on it). At the same time, over-simplifying an aspect of your website can result in a loss of the original idea and a poorer user experience; who knew simplicity could be so complex? The secrets to mastering the art of simplicity lie in thorough research and iterations.
Action Point: Conduct extensive audience research and conduct user testing sessions where possible. Keep referring back to this initial research throughout your design process to ensure your original ideas are not lost to oversimplification, and be prepared to make several iterations before getting it right.
4. Use Information Chunking
If you’re given a list of 20 words to memorise in just 60 seconds, research shows you are likely to only recall around 5-9 of them in the short term. This psychological phenomenon is known as Miller’s Law, and can have a significant effect on the usability of information-based websites. One of the key concepts of Miller’s Law is that of information ‘chunking’, which essentially refers to grouping pieces of information together to create one cohesive, perceptual chunk. This fantastic article around the subject of information chunking has used the concepts of Miller’s Law to generate a UX design rule:
Always organise elements of information in categories no larger than 9, but preferably around 5 chunks.
his rule should help you organise and design any pieces of complex information on your website such as lists, navigation menus and toolbars. Organising them into manageable, memorable and easy-to-use segments will ensure you don’t overload the user and make tasks too cumbersome or complicated.
Action Point: Analyse your designs and look for any areas where more than nine pieces of information, buttons or lists are grouped together. Think about how these could be separated and organised into logical ‘chunks’ that make sense as a whole as well as separate elements.
5. Make Online Forms Efficient
Forms are commonly used on websites to collect user information and/or allow a user to complete an action i.e. payment information forms on ecommerce websites. But did you know that forms are one of the most common friction and drop-off points for web users? Avoid this by following these simple rules for designing efficient online forms:
- Order your form questions logically; start with the basics and work downwards
- Stick to a single column of information fields. More than one column can cause confusion
- Provide visual cues and tooltips such as colours, information pop-ups and example field text to help users complete the information properly
- Provide clear CTA buttons such as ‘Submit’ or ‘Pay Now’ to ensure the user knows what will happen
- Finish with a confirmation message such as ‘Thank you, application submitted’ to reassure users that the form completion was successful
6. Make your Navigation Logical
Navigation menus are often the main way in which users will find their way around your site, so it needs to be logical and easy to follow. Most websites consist of a series of key categories, which are then divided into one or two levels of subcategories.
To ensure a good user experience, all of your navigation headers and subheaders need to be clearly labelled (is it obvious what the user will find within this section?), organised into logical groups (do all of these pages belong together?) and visually separated (is it clear that these are separate categories or is everything bunched up too tightly?). A search bar function is also a key user experience feature for fast access to specific areas or pieces of information, so aim to include one of these.
Action point: Conduct user testing and challenge users to find a particular page or subsection as fast as they can. If they cannot find it or if it takes too long, you will know your navigation is not yet user-friendly.
7. Make it Mobile-Friendly
According to a mobile transactions report by IBM, 85% of online adults believe a brand’s mobile website should be as good as or better than the desktop version. Not only that, but we are now at a point where well over half of all internet searches are conducted via mobile devices. Therefore, if users are having to pinch and zoom to view information on your mobile website, you can essentially wave goodbye to those users who will abandon ship within seconds. Responsive design is a must for any brands hoping to provide users with a mobile-friendly experience and make content easy to navigate and view, so make sure this is built into your design considerations before you begin building your site.
8. Keep Psychology in Mind
Everything from the use of language and colour to the use of shapes, information grouping and authority taps into elements of human psychology for the best possible user experience. Each and every element of your website design can be tuned in to the way our minds work in order to achieve a desired outcome or simply to create an easier, more enjoyable experience for the user.
Action point: Read up on the 13 main principles of human psychology to gain an understanding of how each can be used to your advantage when designing your website. This will help you design your website to achieve the outcomes you want.
9. Design your Copy
Huge blocks of text, tiny font sizes and strange formatting can create a hectic and unpleasant user experience on a website. As we’ve already touched on, the human brain responds better to information that is split out into bite-size chunks that can be easily digested and easily seen. All of your website copy should be:
- Organised in a logical hierarchy: Use headings, subheadings and sizing to indicate importance and allow users to scan copy quickly if needs be
- Aligned neatly to create even-looking text without any ragged lines
- Limited to a maximum of three different typefaces, making sure they complement one another if using fonts from different typeface families.
- Effectively kerned to create a streamlined effect
- Arranged to a grid format to achieve visual harmony between copy and other visual elements on your website
Action point: Clue yourself up on the main principles of typography to ensure you can understand and apply its various design rules for your website design.
10. Make CTAs Clear and Appealing
And last but not least, your website should make use of clear calls to action (CTAs) to assist your users in completing tasks. A CTA button exists as an interactive element that induces a user to take a certain action, such as making a payment, making an application or submitting an online form. But having the button alone is not enough; it has to be visible, clear and appealing to attract the click. Pay attention to elements such as:
Size: A CTA button needs to be big enough to attract attention but not so big that it ruins your text hierarchy and layout
Colour and shape: Different colours and shapes hold different perceived meanings in the human psyche, so research these thoroughly before committing to a design. Most buttons are shaped as horizontal rectangles as these are most commonly perceived as being clickable buttons.
Placement: Buttons need to be well-placed in order to be noticed by a user who may be visually scanning a web page. Top left corners, bottom right corners and central portions of layouts are common, successful placement options due to the human eye’s natural reading patterns.
Microcopy: The label on the button itself contributes to the efficiency of the CTA. Make sure the instruction is clear, concise and compelling; it should help the user complete their task and tell them exactly what will happen when they click the button.
Now you’ve got the basics of creating a user-friendly website down, you should be left with a website that’s a real joy to use. If you’re looking for a little support on the finer points, however, the web design team here at Design By Day is always here to help. Contact the team on firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your project to get started.