How to create a user friendly website design?

 

Visitors are ruthless and give your website a valuation within first seconds. The first impression is critical and will decide how the visitor will act on your page. Why else would web developers put so much emphasize on design? To create the wow-effect. But this doesn’t mean a stylish website is all flashy, shiny and colourful, not at all. We are talking about user friendly websites that are gentle for eyes and easy to use. Here are 7 tips how to create a user friendly website.

Navigation and structure

Imagine yourself in a big mall you’ve never visited before. During the shopping you have lost your way and don’t know exactly which way is the exit. So what do you do? Probably look for a centre plan and navigation signs.

The same behaviour appears online. When surfing the web people look for clear navigation. When planning a website you should keep a logical structure and menu. Let visitors find information without effort.

Don’t forget that no one likes to feel lost – it increases the bounce rate meaning that people will abandon your page without any clicks as they don’t know how to move on or what to do next. It also causes negative emotions and decreases sales and number of queries.

It’s also a nice move to name pages with commonly known terms. For example the information about the company could be labelled as “About” not “Full Disclosure” or something else that people are not used to. This is not the place to show your creativity which most probably will result in confused visitors.

Content

Too often it is taught that a website is fundamentally ready when design and functionality is done. What can go wrong with content insertion? Well, actually a lot!

It takes 25% more time to read text from the screen than printed text and it’s stressful for the eyes. This means that the text readability decides whether the visitor cares to dwell on the page at all, or not.

Pay attention to writing style, text length and breaks:

  • Writing style – Use simple style that is easy to read and commonly understandable. Avoid technical terms and abbreviations that first time visitor may not understand. One idea per sentence is enough. Keep the text fluent.
  • Text length – The length of the text depends on what you have to say. Don’t write an encyclopaedia on your page. Too long and clumsy text looks scary. Think of your own perspective, whether you’d bother to read it again? Avoid other extreme as well, as not that much information will leave too many unanswered questions in the air.
  • Breaks – To make your content easy to consume you need to break it up. Add space between paragraphs and lines, it brings out more important statements and makes the text easy to scan. You have worked hard on your content so don’t ruin it with big text blocks that are impossible to read.

Font and text size

When choosing font for your website pay attention to the readability. For longer content pages use simple font types like Arial, Verdana or Trebuchet.

Common mistake done in website designs is using miniature fonts – small font may look great but if a 20+ visitor cannot read a line it’s pretty bad. In contrast, watch out for too big fonts that might affect the overall design. Find the golden mean.

Pictures

Pictures help break up the text and make it easy to read and more alive. The rule of using pictures is to avoid random photos. Even the prettiest picture in the world won’t make any difference when a visitor cannot make any conclusions what’s the company about.

Try to avoid typical stock photos. They are so overused and no one believes that this lady with million dollar smile works at your company. Use pictures of real people and products. They add credibility and distinguish you from competitors.

Colours

A hot trend in web design is tone on tone style. You can actually see it quite often – light grey background with darker grey text.

When creating a website it’s necessary to find colours that fit and complete each other. Tone on tone style is an easy way to go and it usually looks really stylish. But unfortunately on cost of user experience. Low contrast makes it hard to read the content. Remember, not everyone has eagle vision.

Choose 2-3 basic colours that you build up the entire website. The colours should fit in the colour palette and have enough contrast to be easily readable. You can check the colour match from colourlovers.com website. Set background and text colour. Use separate colour for hyperlinks so that they stand out from plain text.

Keep in mind that light background with dark text is a lot more user friendly than light text on dark background. Last one creates delusions and makes you feel like your eyes are bleeding. Not to talk about the desperate attempts to try to read something out.

Page Speed

Few years ago Google Vice President Marissa Mayer asked web surfers whether they prefer 30 results instead of 10. The users agreed that 30 results per page sounded like a good idea. So Google implemented it on some results pages. The result?  Pages that displayed 30 results each had traffic to them drop 20%.

What was the cause?

Page load speed dropped half a second.

Amazon saw a similar effect on traffic decrease when their page load speed dropped 100 milliseconds.

Internet users are impatient. So page load speed is critical factor of usability. Visitors don’t have the time to wait one minute to load the page, even a few seconds is too long. According to research made by Gomez an average internet shopper expects the page to load at least with 2 seconds. More than 3 seconds delay in page load means 40% of visitors leave the page. So a slow website has its own prize – lost visitors and lost revenue.

Remember that more content means a slower page. The easiest way to regulate your page speed is to resize the images. Make them smaller to fit the page, but not too small so that they wouldn’t appear blurry.

You can test your page speed with free tools like PageSpeed Insights or pingdom (more free tools from Six Revisions blog).

Pop-ups

Every web surfer knows that pop-ups are annoying. Especially those that appear right after you have landed on the page and block all the content. Usually they invite to join the e-mail list to get free advice. A great idea and maybe it will bring few subscribers but the possibility to piss off ten times more visitors is a lot bigger. How can a visitor judge your content when they cannot have a chance to read it?

Pop-ups can be used in a decent way. For example an e-mail list invitation that appears after a visitor has scanned the page for some time. This ensures the visitor had enough time to get an idea what’s your business is about and whether they like to subscribe.

Bonus: SEO

User friendly website has a great advantage. Google prefers websites that appeal to the users. Logical website structure which provides temporal content and value to the user, earns plus points in the eyes of Google and they get better rankings than those pages that leave visitors wander aimlessly.

Conclusion

When planning a website design keep the visitor in mind. What are they looking for and how they search the information? Crazy design might create the first wow-effect but if it lasts only for a second it will not bring you the results you need. A well planned website is equally good in design, content and user experience.