Summary: Usability and functionality, not aesthetics, define the success or failure of a website. Since the only person who clicks the mouse and consequently makes all decisions is the page visitor, user-centric design has become the standard technique for successful and profit-driven online design. Ultimately, if a feature is inaccessible to users, it might as well not exist.
The success or failure of a website is determined by its usability and functionality, and not by its aesthetic design. Since the only person who clicks the mouse and therefore makes all decisions is the page visitor, user-centric design has become a common strategy for effective and profit-driven online design. Ultimately, if a feature is inaccessible to users, it might as well not exist.
The design implementation details (e.g., where the search box should be placed) have been covered in a number of other articles, so we will instead focus on the main principles, heuristics, and approaches for effective web design — approaches that, when used correctly, can lead to more sophisticated design decisions and simplify the process of perceiving presented information.
Principles Of Effective Website Design And Web Design Principles
To fully apply the concepts, we must first comprehend how people engage with websites, how they think, and what the fundamental patterns of user behavior are.
What Do Users Do?
The habits of Web users are not fundamentally different from those of retail customers. Visitors examine each new page, click on the first link that piques their attention or somewhat matches the content they want. In fact, they do not even look at big portions of the website.
The majority of users look for something fascinating (or useful) and clickable; when they find prospective prospects, they click. If the new page does not satisfy the user’s expectations, they click the Back button and resume their search.
- Users value credibility and quality. If a page gives viewers with high-quality material, they are ready to tolerate adverts and a less attractive layout. This is the reason why poorly designed websites with high-quality content receive a substantial amount of traffic over time. Design is less significant than the content it supports.
- Users skim rather than read. When analyzing a web page, visitors look for fixed points or anchors that will guide them through the page’s information. Users skim rather than read. Observe how “hot” spots in the center of phrases are abrupt. This is consistent with the scanning procedure.
- Web visitors are impatient and demand immediate satisfaction. If a website fails to meet consumers’ expectations, the designer has failed to do his job successfully, and the business loses money. The greater the cognitive load and the less intuitive the navigation, the greater the likelihood that visitors would abandon a website and seek alternatives.
- Users make suboptimal decisions. Users do not search for the quickest approach to find the desired information. In addition, they do not read web pages consecutively, moving from one site part to the next. In lieu of this, users settle for the first viable option. When they discover a link that appears to lead to the desired destination, there is a strong likelihood that it will be clicked instantly. Optimizing is difficult and time-consuming. It is more productive to settle. Sequential reading does not work on the Internet.
- Users rely on their instincts. In most instances, people navigate without reading the information a designer has provided. According to Steve Krug, the primary reason for this is that users are indifferent. “If we discover something that is effective, we stick with it. It does not matter to us whether we comprehend how things function, so long as we can utilize them. If your audience is going to behave as if you’re designing billboards, then you should design excellent billboards.”
- Users want to be in charge. Users wish to have control over their browser and rely on consistent data presentation across the site. For example, people don’t want new windows to come up unexpectedly and they want to be able to use the “Back” button to return to the previous page, thus it’s advisable to never open links in new browser windows.
1. Do not force users to think.
According to Krug’s first law of usability, a website should be self-explanatory and straightforward. When designing a website, it is your responsibility to eliminate the question marks, or the conscious judgments users must make after weighing benefits, disadvantages, and alternatives.
If the navigation and site layout are not simple, the number of question marks increases, making it more difficult for visitors to understand how the system functions and how to navigate from A to B. A lucid structure, mild visual cues, and immediately identifiable linkages can aid visitors in locating their desired destination.
2. Don’t Waste Users’ Patience
In every project in which you intend to provide your visitors with a service or a tool, strive to minimize the user needs. Less effort required from consumers to test a service increases the likelihood that a random visitor will actually test it. First-time visitors are more interested in interacting with the service than filling out lengthy web forms for an account they may never use. Permit users to explore your website and discover your services without requiring them to disclose personal information. It seems unreasonable to require people to provide an email address in order to test the functionality.
Ideally, eliminate all obstacles and do not demand subscriptions or registrations. A user registration alone is sufficient to impede user navigation and reduce incoming traffic.
3. Try to Guide Attention Of Users
As websites offer both static and dynamic material, many components of the user interface draw more attention than others. Obviously, visuals are more captivating than text, just as italicized sentences are more appealing than plain text.
The human eye is a highly nonlinear organ, and web users can perceive edges, patterns, and motions instantaneously. This is why video-based adverts are so unpleasant and intrusive, but from a marketing standpoint, they serve their purpose of capturing people’ attention precisely.
Humanized utilizes the notion of attention to perfection. The only aspect that is immediately apparent to consumers is the term “free,” which is attractive and enticing while remaining calm and informational. Users are provided with sufficient information to learn more about the “free” product through the use of subtle clues.
By directing users’ attention to key regions of the site with a limited usage of visual components, you may assist them in navigating from point A to point B without their having to consider the process. The fewer question marks visitors have, the greater their sense of orientation and the more trust they can establish for the organization represented by the website. In other words, the goal of usability is to improve the user experience, therefore the less thinking required behind the scenes, the better.
4. Pursue Feature Exposure
Modern online design is sometimes criticized for its approach to guiding visitors with visually appealing 1-2-3-done steps, huge buttons with visual effects, etc. However, from a design standpoint, these characteristics are not necessarily negative. Such rules are, on the contrary, incredibly useful because they guide visitors through the site’s material in a straightforward and user-friendly manner.
5. Use Clever Writing Techniques
As the Web differs from print, it is vital to adapt the writing style to the tastes and surfing patterns of the target audience. Marketing writing will not be read. Long blocks of text without images or keywords in bold or italics will be skipped. Extreme language will be disregarded.
Talk business. Avoid charming or witty names, marketing-driven names, company-specific names, and foreign technical terms. For example, when describing a service and encouraging people to register an account, “sign up” is preferable to “start now!” and “explore our services.”
The ideal method for producing effective writing is to
- use short and concise phrases (get to the point as quickly as possible),
- use scannable layout (categorize the content, use multiple heading levels, use visual elements and bulleted lists to break the flow of uniform text blocks),
- use plain and objective language (a promotion does not need to sound like an advertisement; give your users a reason to use your service or stay on your website).
6. Try Simplicity
The “keep it simple stupid” (KISS) approach should be the fundamental objective of web design. Users rarely visit a website for the design, and in the majority of situations they are seeking information despite the design. Prioritize simplicity over complexity.
From a visitor’s perspective, the optimal website design is a text-only page, devoid of adverts or additional content blocks, that precisely matches the search query or the content they were seeking. This is one of the reasons why a print version of web sites that is user-friendly is crucial for a positive user experience.
7. Have No Fear Of The White Space
Actually, it is really difficult to overstate the significance of white space. It not only reduces the cognitive strain of the visitors, but also enables them to perceive the information displayed on the screen. When a new visitor approaches a design layout for the first time, he or she attempts to scan the page and break up the content area into manageable chunks of information.
It is more difficult to read, scan, analyze, and operate with complex structures. If you have the option of separating two design parts with a visible line or with whitespace, it is often preferable to use whitespace. Hierarchical frameworks minimize complexity (Simon’s Law): the more effectively you can present consumers with a feeling of visual hierarchy, the simpler your content will be to perceive.
8. Communicate Efficiently Using “Visible Language”
In his works on effective visual communication, Aaron Marcus identifies three key principles governing the use of so-called “visible language” – the text displayed on a computer screen.
- Provide the user with a consistent and clear conceptual structure. Consistency, screen layout, linkages, and navigability are crucial organizational ideas. All pieces should adhere to the same standards and regulations.
- Use as few cues and visual features as possible to accomplish the most. There are four important factors to consider: simplicity, clarity, distinction, and focus. The essence of simplicity is the exclusion of everything except the most essential parts of communication. Clarity: all components should be built with unambiguous meaning. Distinctiveness: the essential elements’ essential properties should be identifiable. The most essential elements should be readily perceptible.
- Communicate: adapt the presentation to the user’s capabilities. To effectively communicate, the user interface must strike a balance between intelligibility, readability, typography, symbolism, various viewpoints, and color or texture. Use no more than three typefaces in no more than three point sizes, and no more than 18 words or 50-80 characters per line of text.
9. Conventions Are Our Friends
A website with conventionally designed site features is not boring. In fact, conventions are really valuable since they shorten the learning curve and eliminate the need to figure out how things function. For instance, it would be a nightmare for usability if all websites presented RSS-feeds visually differently. This is similar to how we arrange data (folders) and shop in our everyday lives, where we tend to become accustomed to the fundamentals (placement of products).
With conventions, you may earn the confidence, trust, and dependability of people and demonstrate your legitimacy. Follow user expectations; comprehend what people anticipate from a website’s navigation, text layout, search positioning, etc.
Steve Krug advises that it is preferable to innovate only when you are certain that you have a superior idea, and to utilize conventions when you do not.
10. Test Early, Test Often
This so-called TETO-principle should be used to every web design project, since usability studies frequently provide vital insights into key flaws and concerns associated with a given layout.
Not too late, not too little, and not for the wrong reasons should you take a test. In the latter case, it is essential to recognize that the majority of design decisions are local; that is, you cannot universally answer whether one layout is superior to another because you must analyze it from a very specific perspective.
Several relevant considerations:
- According to Steve Krug, testing one person is one hundred percent better than testing none, and testing one user early in the project is preferable to testing fifty users late in the process. According to Boehm’s first law, errors are more prevalent during the requirements and design phases, and their removal costs increase with time.
- The testing process is iterative. That entails designing something, testing it, modifying it, and then testing it again. There may be issues that were not discovered during the first round because users were effectively blocked by other issues.
- Usability tests always yield useful outcomes. Either you will be pointed to the problems you have or you will be pointed to the absence of major design flaws, which is useful information for your project in either case.
- According to Weinberg’s law, a developer cannot test their own code. This also applies to designers. After a few weeks of working on a website, you can no longer observe it with a fresh perspective. You understand how it is constructed and, consequently, precisely how it operates; you have knowledge that independent testers and site visitors lack.
If you want a great website, you must conduct testing.