Focusing primarily on how your website looks will not solely accomplish your website’s goal. Users are not visiting websites just because they look pretty. They are visiting websites to obtain some sort of information. For example, let’s say a user comes to your website and the information they are looking for is just waiting for them. The only problem is that the user doesn’t have a clue where to find that information so they just end up leaving your site.
So how do you get that user and users in general to stay on your website? By focusing on optimizing your website for usability! Or in other words… Making your website easy to use. To help give you some ideas, below is a list of ways on how to start optimizing your website for usability:
Know When and When Not to Reinvent the Wheel
Internet users have become accustom to certain web conventions throughout the years. A few of those web conventions include:
- Logos being placed in the upper left area of the page
- The main navigation appearing across the top of the site
- Link styling to show the difference between links and regular text
While it is a great idea to stick to web conventions like the ones listed above for your website, that should not stop you from finding new ways of doing things to be creative. Ultimately you must weigh the risks of user experience when trying to incorporate new ways of doing things on your website. Going for too much of a new approach could confuse the target audience. Usually it’s best to stay with web conventions for large international corporations, but for fun new startup companies it might be a good idea to try new ways to be more creative.
Remember… Less is Always More
To ensure your brand’s message is being effectively communicated throughout your website, you need to remove any unnecessary clutter. Focus on the content of your website and not all the bells and whistles. Content is king! Only include elements on your website that serve a specific purpose. Unnecessary content will only act as roadblocks for visitors on their journey to find whatever content they are searching for.
Create a Visual Hierarchy
On average, 28% of text is read on a website. Users don’t tend to read everything; they scan for the information they are looking for. That is why it is important to create a visual hierarchy to lead users in a natural way to all the important elements on your website. You create visual hierarchy by positioning elements in a certain way and changing the size or color of elements on a page.
A great way to create visual hierarchy with your website’s content is to use text headings. Text headings help separate different sections of content, establish a way for the content to flow, and give an idea of what the content is about which helps to make your content more scannable. It is also important to make sure your text headings are consistent across your website so users know the difference between main content and sub content. Using text headings also creates better search engine optimization (SEO)!
Navigation is Key
A structured and intuitive navigation is crucial to lead visitors to what they are looking for. Visitors should not have to think or second guess themselves on where to click or go next to find something. Going from one point to another should be seamless. When planning your website’s navigation keep in mind the following:
- Keep the main navigation simplified and consistent on all pages of the website
- Make link labels clear and concise so users know where the link will take them
- Have a search bar at the top of the page
- Avoid too many navigation options on a page
- Include breadcrumbs when necessary to keep visitors aware of their navigation trail
- Add navigation to the footer
Make it Accessible for All
No visitor on your website will be exactly the same. A visitor could view your website on different browsers or different sized devices or the visitor could even be disabled. This makes it imperative that your website can be viewed the same way in all situations. To ensure the best experience of your website for everyone, consider the following:
- Test how your website displays on multiple browsers and devices
- Make your website mobile responsive
- Create and use descriptive alt tags
- Make the content on your website accessible via keyboard
- Add subtitles or transcripts for audio and video
Where to Go from Here…
At the end of the day, usability really comes down to your user’s preferences. While the items in this list are a great starting point, the key point to optimize usability on your site is to conduct usability testing on your website. Through usability testing, you can gather feedback and make improvements to your site based on what you’ve learned.