Immediately Applicable Design Tips for a User-Friendly Website

A user-friendly website is a successful website. Here are a few tips to get yours going:

Search Feature

Provide a search feature so your users can easily find what they’re looking for. This is especially important for weblogs with archived articles. Archives are usually sorted by date, so having a search box saves your user time. Also consider categorizing your blog posts by topic instead of by date for this same reason.


Light vs. Dark Contrast

For your overall website design, it is best to use a light-colored background with dark text for the body of articles. Dark backgrounds and lighter text should be reserved for small feature boxes (i.e., sidebar features) or ads. White text on black background is eye catching, but nobody wants to read pages of it.

Consistent, Clear Navigation

Keep your navigation the same across all pages within your website. It should be clear to your users when they click a link whether they are being taken to another page within your site or if they are exiting your site altogether. (Also see below regarding link titles.)

Copy what Works

 

When in doubt concerning the design of your website, take a hint from your competition. Find someone who is successful in the same or similar industry as you and copy their design. This doesn’t mean copy it exactly. If the structure and layout of their site makes sense, then use that as a foundation. Do not copy colors, fonts, and other signature or branding aspects. You want to stand out in the crowd. Once you’ve copied what works, then one-up the competition with better service, more eye-catching design, and richer content.

Contact, Help & Feedback

Your users should easily be able to access your contact information, your help desk, and easily give feedback. If there is a problem with your site or if the user has a question, they want help now. Consider using live chat help or giving your users a toll-free number to call for 24/7 support.

Faster Page Loading

Try to use smaller image files whenever possible. It will help your page load faster and will avoid turning off your visitor. (If users have to wait for your page to load, they will most likely click the back button and explore another website to find what they’re looking for.) Also avoid slow-loading flash presentations before entering your site; although they are pretty, these too are offensive to your user.

Don’t Annoy Your Users

Avoid pop-ups and other distracting annoyances that may turn visitors off of your page. It is annoying to find a page, start reading, and then get a window popping up in your face. Some businesses may use this tactic as a means to get users to fill out a form or buy a product, but if it offends the user they are not going to take the desired action anyway. Instead, consider creating an eye-catching box on your sidebar that asks them to fill out a form or that promotes a certain product. This is much less intrusive than a pop up window. Other annoyances to avoid include abrupt background music, flashing advertisements, ugly color schemes, and too much text.

Use Link Titles

Links titles are brief descriptions that pop up when the user scrolls over a link on your web page. It should clearly describe in a few words the page they will find themselves on if they were to click on that link. (Note: The text in the link itself should also be descriptive, but if it is within an article sometimes it is not enough to give the user an idea of where that link will take them. Use link titles to give them supplemental information for the page they will be viewing.)

Open In-Text Links in New Window

Design your website so that your in-text links open a new window instead of taking your users away from the page they are viewing. This way, it is easy for your user to follow that new link, get the information they need, and then click back to the original page when they are ready to

return. This avoids them having to click the “back” button several times to return to the article they were reading or the product page they were viewing.