The Importance Of Usability In Web Design
Usability can often be overlooked, but a critical part, of the design and functionality of a website. All too often it can be easy to go ahead with a design because it looks beautiful, but doesn’t offer the right functionality for the user.
A user doesn’t care if the website they’re on is the most striking and wonderful thing they’ve ever seen if they can’t find the information they want. How many times have you gone onto a website with a specific task in mind, can’t find what you’re looking for, and then left to find it elsewhere? Time is precious and people no longer have the patience to search for ages to find what they want.
Don’t lose your customers because you value design over functionality. Follow these basic steps to make sure that your website looks great, but works perfectly as well.
Understand What Your Customers Want
You first need to understand what your customers are trying to achieve when they visit your website. Different customers probably want different things, so come up with the various scenarios your website serves – if it’s an eCommerce website, your customers might not only want to buy products, they might also want to research products, find out more about the company, find delivery information or return an item. If you own a restaurant, users might visit your website because they want to see the menu, discover opening times, find out the location or book a table.
Make sure to consider all your different audience segments, and figure out what each segment might want to achieve when visiting your website. Only then will you be able to design a functional website that delivers on user expectations.
Plan Your User Journeys
Once you’ve discovered the different goals your users might want to achieve when visiting your website, you can begin to plan the different journeys. This will ensure that regardless of who visits your website and what they want to achieve, they’ll be able to find the content they want.
A good usability tip is that a user should be able to find what they’re looking for in three clicks or less. As soon as it takes longer, then something needs reviewing.
Take one journey at a time and plan it out, so you know how to structure your website. As an example, if you’re an eCommerce store, plan out the journey for someone trying to find out delivery information. Perhaps you need to add a link to the delivery information page in the footer, as well as adding links on the product pages.
You should remember that not all users will enter your website on the homepage and that regardless of what page they land on, they should be able to find what they want in those three clicks or less.
Think Of Usability Best Practice
Once the various user journeys have been designed and you have a site structure in mind, the design can begin. Make sure that your website designer is thinking of usability and not just the way it looks – this can be a common pitfall of a website with poor UX. Focus on what the user wants, not what you want to see.
Never shy from typical conventions in fear that you become just like everyone else. We are now programmed to expect things in a certain way and as soon as something differs from this, it can become frustrating. For example, on an eCommerce store, you expect to find the shopping cart in the top right-hand corner of the page. If you do something different and fail to make the change clear, you can annoy your users.
Be simple in your design, focus your user’s attention and never make users think; everything should be as simple and as easy to use as possible!
It’s The Little Things That Count
It’s not just about making things simple and following conventions, there are smaller usability best practices that you should follow too. When something seems small and inconvenient to a design, it can be easy to dismiss it as something that doesn’t matter or won’t make a difference, but everything adds up.
For example, the little arrows next to drop down menus are really important. It signifies to users that this menu has sub-categories and that the ones without the arrow don’t. By not putting these in it can confuse users who might not be aware that the sub-categories exist.
Another great example is ensuring that your call to actions is a separate color to anything else on your website; this helps them stand out and makes them instantly recognizable as links to click.
The Bigger Picture
Whilst a properly functioning website will first and foremost make your users happy, a usable website will benefit you in other ways too.
Most importantly, a well-functioning website will help you with your SEO. A website that is usable will be perceived by Google as high quality, helping it rank higher in SERPs. How users interact with your website will also affect your results; if a user clicks onto your website, then immediately leaves and goes elsewhere, it signals that the website might have been difficult to use.
Finally, you’re more likely to get quality backlinks if you have a fantastic and functional website, again signifying to Google that your website is of high quality, pushing your site higher up in SERPS.