21 Mar / 2011
The website design and development process is wrought with distractions, primarily because web designers are undecided between aesthetics and usability. Web designers will usually build a new website, or modify/improve an existing one, caught somewhere between satisfying clients and creating a site that generates measurable results. Do quality of websites suffer in the process? It does, because where usability and user experience is concerned, web designers often create websites that are focused more on enhancing the attractiveness of design than user-friendliness.
Know Your Audience
Building a user-focused website requires an understanding of the target audience and their knowledge of the web. Example: A site on gardening and a site on web programming services will be vastly different in look, people they target, and navigational features they include.
A gardening website targets the general population of men and women who may or may not be tech savvy. Hence, the site’s design has to be simple and uncomplicated to appeal to its users. However, a web-programming site that mostly targets a technically sound group of people may include a navigation structure that is comparatively elaborate.
The general design of your website can be created/modified once you have a clear idea of who your target audience is. Some of the specific aspects of your website’s design that will need special attention are:
- Navigation – A clear, logical structure is imperative to usability. Without a simple, organized navigation, moving through the website becomes difficult. If visitors cannot easily find what they are searching for on your site, they will simple leave.
- Communication – Is it difficult to determine the purpose of your site despite looking through several pages? Does your site clearly communicate its niche to its first-time audience? Headlines, images, taglines, colors, and design styles – all of these tell your audience what your site is about. An effective website is one that consistently communicates your trade throughout the website.
- Design Style – Always focus on a website design that your target audience will find appealing. Factors like the right color-scheme, font styles, and layout is important. You will rarely have a rock band site with simplistic design, soft colors and italics fonts, or a lingerie site with a grungy layout and hard, metal colors and Gothic fonts.
- Content – Content has a strong impact on visitors. Because web users are primarily always searching for highly specific information, a poorly written, uninformative content will have a negative impact on users. If you know your target audience, be sure to dish out information your visitors are going to find useful, and easy to understand.
- Readability – What use is good information if your users cannot read it? Ensure you use the right font sizes and styles for your content. Also note, dark prints on light backgrounds are easier to read than light prints on dark backgrounds. And since most first-time users will only glance through your page instead of reading every sentence, remember to use bold texts, headings and sub-headings, and short paragraphs and bullet points to improve readability.
- Advertisements – These can be extremely annoying, and while they may be legitimate, a user-focused website should not include flashy and intrusive ads, pop-ups/pop-unders, etc. Not only do such interferences irritate, but they also destroy user experience.
- Customer Priority – A customer will always know when you are selling-hard and when you genuinely believe a product will help him. Although, understandably, the primary aim of your business is to make money, when you have a user-focused website, your business priorities should be secondary. Rather than designing a website around your product/services, create a website that is user-friendly and useful to your niche audience. Sales will happen naturally.
- Contact Page – When a site is especially useful to its users, a good number of visitors will try to contact the webmaster, either to compliment or leave a constructive feedback. Without a way to communicate easily, it can be extremely frustrating for the user. Besides, making yourself unreachable to your users shows you do not care for interaction, which doesn’t scale too well with people.
- Accessibility – Your site must be 100% accessible to your users. A Flash-based site or a site with a lot of video/audio snippets is guaranteed to load slow and eat bandwidth. In most cases, web users will go looking for other fast loading sites instead of waiting for your content to load. You wouldn’t want that.
- Customer Issues – Always have a non-tech friend/colleague/family member use your site once you have finished designing it. If they can use it with ease, you can rest assured, most web users will too. Any suggestions, feedback or difficulty in use can be implemented and dealt with to better user experience.