:: By Velly Angelova, Puzl ::
A good website is a rewarding outcome of several important elements encompassing design, content, navigation and functionality. Nowadays running a business website is one of the most important facets in the life of a company and therefore has to be intuitive, not overly complicated and engaging. Keeping your website user-friendly will greatly improve its performance, entice more prospects and boost sales for your business.
Being a part of the fast advancing digital era, we are all aware that creating a professional website is no longer an issue to ignore. The real question is how do we make our websites popular and user-friendly after its creation? What are the basic principles to follow?
Keep these handy tips in mind to create a more usable and responsive website and provide a seamless experience for your visitors:
1. Concise content and readability
Content is the most critical factor convincing users to stick around your website. Delivering content that is fresh, easy to read and interactive, is the stepping stone to making your website more user-friendly.
✓ Make content easy to scan -The average Internet user simply skims through the content instead of reading it all. Keep paragraphs to a minimum in length. Formatting text in columns similarly to the newspaper style is a good way to make the text easier to scan. Correct use of headings, sub-headings, paragraphs, bullets or lists help to break up text, making it easy for readers to go through the key parts of the page and quickly discover what they need. Breaking content with images also helps visitors digest it faster. Long passages of unbroken text are less likely to be read than small chunks of text.
✓ Contrasting color scheme - Finding the right contrast between the background of your website and the content is one of the basic, yet most important tasks to do. Lack of contrast, makes content complicate to read. Make sure that you pick up the best color scheme so content stays highly visible. Pay special attention to colors on black backgrounds since they can complicate text readability as well.
✓ White space is always a good idea - White space is helpful for highlighting elements and making them more prominent. Giving content some room to breathe out of the crowded visual design, white spacing also keeps users’ minds focused on the essentials. According to the latest Web design trends, leaving plenty of white spots is not extravagant but vital to make design clean and less cluttered.
✓ Readable font - Although elaborate styles may appear more enticing, using more recognizable and easy-to-read fonts is a better decision. Keep in mind that San serif fonts are most widely accepted to work best for online design while serif fonts are most appropriate for print design. Also using too many different fonts in the same design, makes the content less scannable. Highlight or bold keywords or links to make them stand out.
✓ Eliminate broken links - Broken links are confusing and unprofessional. They bring negative impression and lower the credibility of content. Make sure you test every link, button and page before launching your site. Double or triple check if needed or try to get another pair of eyes on your site to catch any broken links. Also it is advisory to monitor your links regularly and make sure that they are working properly and leading to the correct pages.
2. Improve Navigation
Еffective navigation means simplified navigation. Having a clear and clutter-free navigation is the best thing you can do to make your website friendly for your visitors. Try to limit the number of menu items as far as possible. Not overcomplicating the things and configuring navigation equally on each page, will greatly facilitate browsing the site.
Discover several ways to improve your website navigation:
✓ Clean your layout first - Confusing layouts are one of the primary reasons why a website loses customers. Ensure your navigation is simple and clear. You can highlight your “Contact Us” or “About Us” pages to make them more visible. If you need to use multiple layers for separate categories, do it but just try to keep them clean and organized so that the user finds it easier to navigate.
✓ Place it strategically – To enable your visitors easily spot their options to navigate through your site, the best place to locate your navigation is at the top or left-hand side of your website. What also matters is to make sure that your navigation is above the fold, regardless of the devices used.
✓ Site map does the trick - Site map is a great asset not only in terms of search engines but also for helping users find specific pages. Giving them a better orientation in the content, makes your website friendlier in the eyes of prospects.
✓ Search bar is a good move - Adding search functionality to your website is a smart way to assist visitors in handling the information they are looking for. It will help you not only cope with search quires and track the searches on your site, but also get a better understanding of what visitors are most interested in.
✓ Avoid abbreviations and acronyms - Avoid odd acronyms and navigation titles in the menu unless their meaning is obvious. Otherwise you risk confusing customers and spoil their experience on your website. Applying the common words like “home, about, contact us, offers, blog, support”, helps users effortlessly dip into the content of each page.
3. Speed Up Your Site
Time management is crucial and once landing on your webpage, visitors are really impatient to get the job done. That means only one thing - if not focusing on the load time in your Web design; you forget one critical element of a user-friendly site. Make sure that your website loads within 4 to 6 seconds. Proper speed is a truly important feature of site usability and also one of the main reasons why visitors would stop sticking around your site. Not to mention the fact that it greatly affects search engine rankings as well. Right, Google looks at your page speed, so speed it up!
Explore tips to improve site speed:
✓ Limit/avoid large videos, photos, flash and other files - Tempted to make the website more enticing by adding up another multimedia, we are neglecting the fact that pages become heavy and slow to load. Keep that in mind before rushing to integrate another audio/video file.
✓ Compress to minimize load time – To speed up your website, a good thing to do is to compress images using the right file type. Resize images before uploading them. A piece of advice here: You better not resize images using height and width but using Photoshop, Fireworks instead.
✓ Reduce the number of redirects where possible - There is a risk that with the time some pages become outdated or altered by new versions. As a result, some external links keep pointing to the old pages. The problem is that not wanting to spoil user experience, we often decide to use internal redirects. However, do not disregard the alert that having too many of them can drastically slow down your webpage. To minimize redirects on your website, ensure that the internal linking is properly working. Also cut the amount of redirected external links if possible.
Sticking to these tips will help you ensure that your site stays user-friendly and functional. Websites can be powerful tools working effortlessly for your online success. However, it all takes time and care. If you want to achieve great results and deliver exceptional performance with your website, tuning and improving it should become an ongoing task. The best you can do - keep testing its usability, keep optimizing its content, keep exceeding your users’ expectations!
Passionate about marketing, entrepreneurship and start-ups, Velly works for Puzl – a new generation business website builder, helping SMEs, self-employed and entrepreneurs, create 100% free and fully customizable professional websites. She is also keen on blogging and social media.