Website Usability Tips - Part 1

October 29, 2010

Website Usability

It is widely known in professional web design and web development circles that website usability is the most significant factor that influences website design, followed closely by SEO. Usually website usability is overlooked when designing a website. Either the designer has had little experience in it, or the client just doesn’t get it.   From a clients point of view, website design is normally led by what they like and how they would like it to be designed, not necessarily what is best for the site’s longevity.   How then do you explain to clients and customers that usability needs to be looked at as a priority when it comes to designing their website? And that sometimes what they want and like is not really a direction that should be taken?   Helping them to understand that having this fundamental element sewn through the design process will keep visitors returning to the site, keep them on it for longer and ultimately leave your site having had a ‘good experience’ - even buying something or making contact.   When visitors can’t easily navigate around a website, the chances are, they will not utilise the information presented on it and they will just go to other sites - after all they are just a click of the mouse away from your competitor. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other online stores that offer the same services or products as you are, crowding the internet (unless you really are that niche!), making online shoppers more selective and choosy when concluding whether to stay and continue their purchase or just leave.   As the Internet offers online shoppers all the freedom in the world to move on, nobody will waste their time on a poorly constructed website where they can’t find anything, complete the checkout process easily or if it simply doesn’t present things nicely. So what is the secret… think of your prospects, clients and customers when in designing it. OK, there is a bit more to it, but that is the crux.   Unlike the real ‘bricks and mortar’ shops, a lot of online stores or websites do not permit their visitors to ‘walk through’ the site as they can in a traditional shop. While this may seem an unworkable task to accomplish, if done correctly, a user friendly approach to web design will easily accomplish this task. Work out this user journey before you even start the design or build.   When online shopping, all things must to be located where visitors expect them to be. Where is the search bar normally located on big name sites? Where is the navigation? Is the ‘buy now’ or checkout button aligned to the right or left normally? Can you present specific items in categories rather than one long list of products?   Flooding a visitor to your website with abundant item choices, such as a left hand navigation with loads of links to categories, all at the same time or making them search for certain items that they need, is most definitely not good practice of web usability.   Website usability is not just about the appearance of a website, but more importantly how your site performs and particularly, it gives emphasis to the experience of your visitors.   - - -    Part 2 available here > http://blog.toinfinity.co.uk/website-usability-part-2.

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