User experience is the most important aspect of any Web site design. Without a quality user experience, your audience can’t be properly engaged and won’t be coming back. Try these tips and tricks to designing and maintaining a user-friendly site.
1. Don’t be too creative
This is a tough one, especially for graphics-oriented designers. But in order to keep your site user-friendly, you’ll want to reign in your creativity a bit. Use the simplest means possible to provide what your users want. Don’t get too flashy or creative with how you organize everything or you’ll lose your users before they even get a chance to realize your brilliance.
Reinventing the wheel on a navbar is a waste of your time and energy and, it can potentially confuse your users to such an extent that they leave and never return. Don’t surprise your audience by flopping navigation in some bizarre place on your site, no matter how unique you think it looks. Particularly for navigation, but also for element placement in general, unique is bad; easy and clean is good.
2. Don’t overload your site or server
You’ll have to temper your creativity a bit here, too. While it’s tempting to slam as much into a single screen as you can possibly get in there, too much can really slow your site down. And a slow site, to the user, is a useless site. There’s so much competition online, if you make your audience wait an extra few seconds they’ll likely head somewhere else rather than wait.
Regularly test your page load speed and keep a handle on file size and photo resolution to keep your site zipping along. Instead of thinking of how elements will dazzle your audience, first consider how it will maintain functionality.
3. Keep it simple
4. Make text legible
Though you may like the look of light text on a black background, it’s tough to read and causes eye strain. Some users will blow right past any site with this fault. If you absolutely have to have light on black, use a white inset with black text for posts. Also, be sure to break up posts with subheaders so your users can consume your content in small chunks. Be sure to use simple fonts as well. Fancy curly fonts may be pretty, but if users can’t read what it says, all the pretty in the world won’t save your audience from heading further on down the information highway. Try not to use fonts that are too small for the average user to read. Though text and sites can be magnified, less savvy users may not know how. Anything you can do to enhance readability and usability when it comes to content is key.
5. Stay focused
It can be tempting to try to attract more users by adding more topics and more tools. But, you don’t want to fall prey to what I think of as the Greek diner menu paradox. There are so many items on those 20 page menus that I don’t know where to look or how to decide what I want in time. If your site gives your users too much choice and doesn’t let them focus on what you do best, they might not realize (or even locate!) the brilliance of your best offerings. Most users want to get on your site, order or read what they came in for and get on with their day. If they get lost in a sea of information or resources, they may never accomplish what they wanted and, thus, may never return.