Many sites make some huge mistakes in their website design, and most site owners never even realize it. But these types of problems can be serious impediments to your website’s success. Here are a few things to consider when building or analyzing your own website. Hint: Have someone else look at your website with these things in mind as well. You may be too close to your website to be able to analyze it’s design objectively.
1.Navigation should be clear, organized, and simple. Don’t use images for navigation. Don’t use flash or complex dropdowns. Make sure everything is organized into logical groupings from broad to specific, with top-level categories leading to subcategories, which then lead to the most specific pages.
2.Users should be able to instantly tell where they are within a website. If a visitor is confused about where he is, or how to return to where he was, he’ll probably choose to leave instead. The use of breadcrumbs at the top of the content helps orient the user. Breadcrumbs are a visual trail such as Home > Widgets > Red Widgets > Bouncy Red Widget. Each part of the trail should link back to its corresponding page.
3.Don’t subject users to auto-starting audio or video in your website design. Users want to control their audiovisual experience. They want to start and stop when they choose. Don’t make them angry by taking this choice away from them.
4.Don’t overload users with ads or too many graphic elements with your design. Have you ever seen those web sites that bombard your eyes with so many colors and flashing doodads that you just want to run screaming from the room? Don’t be the person who made that web site.
5.Make sure everything with your web site design works! Routinely check all your forms, links, and processes. Go through the web site and fill out everything a user might fill out. Ensure that you receive all messages the forms and processes are designed to send. Don’t wait for a user to inform you that something on your website is broken. For every user that informs you, another hundred probably just left your website, never to return.
6.Keep the layout and design consistent (for the most part) throughout the website. Visitors appreciate being able to find similar features in the same general area across the web site. Changing the layout or site design in different areas can confuse users. Although you can make small changes for site design creativity, don’t stray too far from the general website design elements and layout.
7.Ensure the website loads fast. Users no longer have the patience they once did when dialup was the norm. Their expectations are set very high, and if the main elements of a page don’t load within about 4 seconds, they’re gone. Bonus Tip: In that four seconds, the user wants to be able to understand what the page is actually about. Make sure that’s clear to the user at the top of the page (above the fold).
8.Don’t hide the website from searchers. Make sure search engines can easily find and understand your website. SEO is a broad subject not covered in this article, but at the very least, make sure to use the words and terminology throughout your content that your users would likely use to search for websites like yours. Use these words in your page titles, site links, and content. Don’t go overboard and riddle the site with these phrases in a nonsensical way. Just naturally use them. This will help search engines, like Google, understand what your pages are really about, which will help them rank your site better for those phrases.
9.The ultimate goal is conversion. You want your users to do something. That something may be to buy a product, or download a whitepaper, or sign up for a mailing list, etc. Don’t hide what you want them to do in some far-off dusty corner of your page or website. Help your users know what you want them to do next. Give them clear instructions. A big bold button that says Download Here works wonders. Make it easy and clear so users don’t have to think or wonder. Be their tour guide. If the process takes more than one step, number them! Buttons with numbers on them are very helpful in leading the user through the process.
10.Make the website usable rather than difficult or confusing. Usability covers a broad area, and many of the above tips are a part of user-focused website design.
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