Usability is one of the major and often overlooked aspects of web design. Indeed, it should be considered even prior to the commencement of designing any website be it an eCommerce site or one that just provides basic information about a product. Usability should be part of the entire website or software development process. But usability does not stop there. After the website is launched, usability testing should dictate what enhancements should be made to the live website. In this article, I will be discussing five simple ways in which you can improve the usability of your website.
1. Focus on Readability
Readability is one of the signs that indicate website usability problems. If your site has readability issues, then there is a high chance that your visitors will get annoyed and abandon it. This essentially means you lose potential customers. Hence, you must take the necessary steps to ensure that your site has no readability issues.
In an earlier article, we explained how you can make your site more readable and hence usable by following typography usability guidelines. Adequate amount of white space, proper paragraph formatting and displaying of lists using bullet points will also contribute towards making your website content more readable. Additionally, you can place your design elements such as sidebars, banners and text boxes on your site in such a way that they do not distract the users when they are going through the site.
2. Background Color, Texture and Contrast
There are various considerations that need to be made before selecting color. One of the main reasons is because of the ways in which different colors affect the user’s psychology and experience. Before selecting the background color of your site, spend some time and think what color your end-users would prefer. For instance, if you are designing a website for ecologists, you must go for colors associated with earth and ecology viz shades of green, brown or blue. The same goes for selecting the pattern or textures, used in the background.
Also, check whether there is a contrast between the background color and font color. Otherwise, it becomes difficult for the users to differentiate between the font and the background.
3. Selection of Images and their placement
Make it a ground rule to use high quality and relevant images on your site. Choose your images carefully so that they immediately appeal to your target audience and make the necessary impact on them. For example, if it is a food blog, you can use images of recipes which seem to have been torn out of an old cookbook. This will set your site apart from other food blogs.
Additionally, make sure that your images do not look out of the place; an image which is not placed properly, sticks out like a sore thumb on the website. This may distract the end-users and they will have a negative impression about your site. For more advice about optimization of images for usability, you can read this recent blog post from Chris Fernandez.
Nowadays, most of the users access the websites from their mobile devices apart from desktops and laptops. Therefore, you must make sure that your users are able to navigate your website easily on their mobile devices as well. To start with, you must select a simple layout and use it on all your web pages. Additionally, you must do away with horizontal scrolling which the users find really irritating irrespective of the device they use to browse the site.
5. Effortless Usage
Your users must use your site with ease. You can make this possible in a number of ways like:
- Limited scrolling – be it horizontal or vertical
- Making it easy for your users to accomplish their tasks such as taking a call-to-action with few clicks
- Not asking users to fill unnecessary, lengthy forms
- Making sure that users are able to identify links and call-to-action buttons easily
- Highlighting new arrivals or important products or services on the site so that your regular visitors can find them with ease
These were what I consider as being some of the most important areas where one should direct their effort in order to design and develop usable websites. Each point can obviously be expanded to open several other usability guidelines. Apply them the next time you design a website or when re-evaluating an existing website and I am sure that you will observe a marginal difference in your metrics. For more quick general tips on improving your website usability, I would suggest reading the following articles: