9 Must-Haves for User-Friendly Web Design

By Susan Rust

These days, a good website is more important than a brick and mortar store, because it connects you with more than 2,267,233,742 web users in the world, while a store can only bring you a limited amount of customers. Therefore, a company must invest its money and time into developing a visually pleasing, functional and easy-to-use website. To get you started, I’ve created a list of the most basic website usability requirements.

A) Functionality

1) Quick Loading Time

First and foremost, you have to recognize that you are dealing with the most impatient group of people in the world – web users. In this environment, every millisecond LITERALLY counts. According to Microsoft computer scientist, Harry Shum, the slower a web page loads, the less often it will be visited. If your site loads slower than your competitors’ by a mere 250 milliseconds, the other site will have the competitive advantage.

Yes, I know those beautiful high-res images, flash animations and interactive elements are very tempting, but you have to control yourself! Don’t let them slow your site down. Remember “every millisecond counts!”

2) Every Page Serves a Purpose

Just like the goods and services you provide, your website should be created and customized for your customers. When people come to your site, they are most likely coming with a lot of questions, and they are expecting you to deliver the answers. Therefore, ask yourself these important questions “What problem does every page of my site solve?” and “Has my site answered all the questions my customers might have?” Every single page should serve a purpose.

3) Pure Flash Website = SEO Suicide

While Google has mentioned they are getting better at indexing Flash content, SEO best practices still shy away from Flash implementation. Yes, I know, those Flash websites are aesthetically stunning, but what’s the point if the consequence is to get buried in the results? You are limiting the amount of people that can view your site. Websites built with 100% Flash should be avoided at all costs!

B) Presentation

1) Clear Focal Points

Every single page of your website should have a focal point or a center of interest that presents the most important part of each page. This not only guides the visitor on where to start, but also helps them figure out the most important message of the page. To accomplish this, you have to make sure that piece of information is treated with extra care, either in a larger font size, more dominant color or better visible position.

2) Enough White Space

The most critical element when it comes to creating a clean layout is WHITE SPACE. It keeps the page from getting too busy and cluttered, but also provides the viewers with room to breathe. Don’t let your visitors get overwhelmed by information overload.

For more guidelines on white space, font choice and line height, check out these standards from the Information Architects we found via Will Critchlow’s awesome readability post.

3) Clean and Simple Background

Let the background BE THE BACKGROUND! Don’t let it overpower the content. Keep the background simple and subtle, allowing the content to shine!

C) Usability

1) No Orphan Pages

Orphan pages are pages that have no links back to where they came from. They should not exist in any situation. Full navigation should be visible and accessible at all times in order to increase the usability of the site.

2) Pop-Ups and Automatic Animations

Most of your users come to your site with a mission. They might be interested in your products or services, vetting you against competitors, or just looking for your company’s contact information. No matter what their mission is, they DO NOT want to be interrupted, especially by those unexpected pop-ups or animations that automatically start and never stop. Visitors will only get annoyed, and even worse, they might leave your site altogether.

3) Unrelated Banner Ads

Making some extra cash from ads can very profitable, but if the spaces are sold to companies that have nothing to do with your business or industry in any way, you may risk lowering the credibility and likeability of your site. For instance, web users don’t want to see design ads when they go to a sports website. Unrelated ads can turn off your visitors, so make sure to align your ads with your target audience, and continue providing products and services that meet their needs.

While this list is not all-inclusive, I hope it gives you a good feel for the “must-haves” you need for user-friendly web design. Stay tuned for next week’s post where we take a more advanced look at web design usability, including conversion rate optimization, A/B testing and more.

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Susan Rust

By Susan Rust

I believe we hear and learn to say "no, it can't be done, that's too hard" rather than say "yes, let's do it now!" I have many mottos, mine for now is "Run fast, break things."