Living in a small (but wonderful) town, our local resources tend to be somewhat limited. Say you want to pick up a quick meal-we have approximately three choices (one of which is a gas station that just serves hot dogs). If, however, you drove a half hour, you would find ten times the number of options for a quick bite to eat. While our options are sometimes limited by location, the Internet provides a different story.
With such a vast number of websites out there, your site’s audience isn’t limited to only a couple of options. With a quick click or swipe, your users can go anywhere to find what they are looking for-be it vintage motorcycles or a new book. No driving required.
On the Internet you only have a few seconds to catch someone’s attention and make a good first impression which makes usability key. Excellent usability combines ease of use and function with pleasing aesthetics that keep your user engaged. While there are many things to consider when creating or updating your website, here is a checklist of key considerations to help ensure your users stick around awhile.
Layout and Graphics: Making your site pleasing to look at may sound a little abstract when considering usability, but the layout and graphics can make a huge impact, and first impressions are invaluable. Users actually perceive well-designed objects to work better and to be of higher quality. It also shows that you care about their experience and creates a feeling of trust with your brand.
· Logo: Placed towards top of page
· Consistent layouts: Keep page layout/navigation the same
· Important information: Include above the ‘fold’
· Fonts and colors: Make sure they are consistent on all pages
· Bold, italics and all-caps: Use sparingly
· White space: Use to keep site from feeling cluttered or overwhelming
· High quality images: Impactful, related to objective of site, and saved for web use
· Responsive design: Allows usability on all platforms and device sizes
Navigation: Keeping your navigation simple and clear is another key component of usability. If your site is beautifully designed, but difficult to locate information within, people will find another site to use.
· Consistent navigation: Same location on every page
· Simple and categorized by groups
· Search tool: Featured on every page
· Logo: Link to homepage
· Site map: Enhances navigation and search engine optimization (SEO)
· Contact/Company info: Easy to locate
· Links: Easy to identify (don’t underline text that isn’t a link)
· Visited links in text: Turn a different color
Content: The text supporting your images and graphics should be easy to understand, informative and easily digestible in small amounts, so users can quickly scan your headlines to see if they want to read more.
· Value proposition statement: Clearly state what your website’s objective is
· Relatable to user: Don’t use too much field-related jargon
· Informative and original
· Scannable: Use headlines, bullets and small paragraphs
User Experience: Overall, your site should create a good user experience. Preventing your users from becoming frustrated will make them happier and more likely to be engaged with your site.
· Fast load time: Compress images and graphics to reduce load time
· URLs: Should be user-friendly (website.com/shoes/sneakers)
· Required login: Don’t require a login to access initial information
· Horizontal scrolling: Don’t use it-it’s frustrating
· Video/audio captions: Help users understand what they’ll be viewing
· Alt tags: Description of image
· Test on all browsers
· Test all links (both internal and external)
While the Internet may not allow you to be the only choice available, improving your site’s usability for both function and design, can increase the positive experience of your users and help set your site apart from the vast number of resources online.