Every website is different, and because of that, every enterprise takes a unique approach to optimizing their interactions on their various digital properties.
A big part of this is the way they design their websites for the user experience, which can also vary significantly based on the site and the resources at its disposal. Some bigger sites design everything from scratch in-house, while many sites will use a content management system (CMS) or e-commerce platform, which come with their own structure, requirements and challenges, but also provide powerful user controls over the design experience.
Regardless of how a site is built or operates, there are a number of design tactics that always work to optimize the user experience. Below are 10 common design techniques that Web pros can utilize to optimize the site experience for users.
Hyperlinking is a great way to share content with your readers, either from other sources or from your own site, but it’s not going to be useful unless you make the links easy to find and to click for users. Highlight the hyperlinks and make them stand out from the rest of your text by going into the HTML of your page and giving them a color that stands out and is easy-to-read. Also, make sure that your links are big enough to be clicked on without a lot of hassle, because if they’re small they can be hard to access and, thus, pretty much useless.
Images, pictures and brand logos are absolutely essential on the Internet these days, but they can easily be overdone. Make sure that you use images in a way that highlights or shares important information, without bombarding users and affecting their ability to navigate your website.
In order to make your site usable for people on mobile devices, meaning it is easy to read and navigate on smartphones and tablets, enact responsive design techniques that will automatically resize the site to operate effectively no matter what screen it’s on. Luckily for you, Website Magazine has already compiled list of CSS frameworks that make responsive Web design easy.
One highly important design consideration that often goes overlooked, but plays an essential role in readability, is the choice of font. There are a number of standard fonts that always work, like Times New Roman or Arial, but many designers like to use special, brand-specific fonts, especially for headlines. In these cases, you must make sure that the fonts are clear and easy to read, meaning the letters are clearly separated and each one is legible. This is where the importance of testing (and testing and testing) comes in, so you can make sure that the fonts your experimenting with work for readers.
Speaking of readability, the other big part of making sure content is easy for users to digest is to include plenty of whitespace between letters, words, lines, images, etc. to reduce the complexity and make your content easier to read, scan and analyze.
These days, there is little excuse for not putting an entire piece of content on a single page, as opposed to splitting it among multiple pages with links at the bottom to continue forward or go backward to view all of it. This is inconvenient and kind of a turn off for most users these days and unless they’re really engrossed in what you have to say, there’s a good chance that once they see that, they’ll leave your page before they’ll click “Next.”
Look, I’m sure you took a lot of time and effort to craft a really great homepage for your website, but for many visitors, they come to your site for a reason and want to accomplish their goals quickly and efficiently. If you can’t offer that to them, there’s a good chance you’ll lose them. That’s why you should include search functionality on your website, and start with a clearly labeled search bar at the top of the page (and maybe even in your footer) that is easy for any visitor to find and use.
Another fine method for helping users quickly maneuver around your site to find the content or page that they came looking for is to include navigational tabs at the top or side of your homepage. These tabs can either link directly to another area of your site, or they can represent different sections or categories that pull up a drop-down menu with links whenever a user scrolls over them. This allows them to browse through your site and track down the information they desire, which is especially helpful if they don’t quite know exactly what they’re looking for.
Many websites have various things they want users to sign up for; this can be a newsletter, website account, social media profile or something else. However, to increase the likelihood of conversions (e.g. people actually filling out the form), don’t waste their patience by making the form as simple as it can be while still gathering the information you need. For instance, try making a form that just requires a username, password and email address.
The best way to get users to do what you want is to ask or tell them to, and the best way to do that is to use call-to-action buttons. These big, easy-to-see and read buttons can ask visitors to “Add to Cart,” “Check Out,” Sign Up Now,” “Read More” or whatever else it may be that you want them to do while they’re on your site. For more information, check out this old Website Magazine post on creating effective call-to-action buttons.