It’s easy to get hung up on aesthetics when making a website, or any design. You might ask yourself, “What colors should I use? Where should I put my logo?” But good web design is more than that. Whats the key to a good website then? The short answer is UX.
According to Understanding Your Users, UX or (User Experience) is the study of a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product. Simply put, UX is how a person interacts with your website. This is the number one thing you need to be thinking about when creating and designing a website. You could have a beautiful looking site, but if the buttons don’t work or it loads too slowly, users will not want to use your website. Heuristics are 10 broad principles you should keep in mind when creating for interactive design. The following 5 ways to improve your website are based off of Jakob Nielson’s Usability Heuristics.
1. Keep it Simple
Your website should be clean, simple, and support users’ primary goals. In most cases, users are going to your website in search of something. Clearly presented information about the site and its content helps with their cognitive load. Make sure when you are designing, to keep colors, typefaces, and graphics, to a minimum.
White space is your friend. Generally, users will scan a page for information, rather than reading through it. Presenting content in digestible sections, as I’ve done here, makes the content more approachable. According to Smashing Magazine, white space results in a well-scannable layout, which gives its content the dominating position it deserves.
Dove embraces white space and simplicity in their design. Like the soap, their brand and website feels fresh and clean.
2. Hierarchy is King
Visual hierarchy is the organized arrangement of website elements. Usually this is implemented in the navigation menu or the layout of each page. The goal is to lead website visitors to a desired action, so you need to structure your website in such a way that users will find those elements first. Hub Spot suggests that you plan out intuitive navigation. A visitor should easily move from point A to point B without much friction. Don’t make users dig too deep to find important content.
Users come to AirBnb’s website with the goal of finding a place to stay. The “Places to Stay” tab is front and center, as the first thing that users see.
3. Be Consistent
Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. Be sure that you are consistent and clear with your brand, colors, typefaces, and more. Each page you create should follow your brand’s standards and not be far off from your other pages. Not only should your website be consistent within itself, it needs to be conventional alongside competitors. I’m not saying your website needs to be boring or a replica of your enemies. Conventionality and consistency are essential in reducing the learning curve for users. Imagine if every website was vastly different and users needed to learn how to use every single one of them. Following established industry conventions will help reduce users’ cognitive load.
Each of Etsy’s page are consistent with one another. Bold images followed by simple pricing allow for easy browsing. The shopping experience on Etsy is similar to several other online shops.
4. Accessible & Flexible
The goal is to make a website that anyone can use. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines set the guidelines for web accessibility. These guidelines state that websites must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Visitors should be aware of the content on your site, the functionality on your site should work in different ways, all content should be understood easily, and accessible on different devices.
Flexibility with shortcuts can speed up interactions with expert users, without hindering novice users. Allowing users to tailer their actions provides for an enhanced user experience. Flexibility of your site design is also necessary. Many people are accessing websites from various devices such as desktops, tablets, and phones. Responsive website layouts are essential to allowing users to pick how they’d like to access your site.
American Eagle offers a nice responsible mobile option of their website. There is an “Enable Accessibility” button on the top right-hand side of the desktop version of the website.
Last but certainly not least, credibility. If users don’t trust your brand or your website, they won’t come back. If you are striving to build a website that provides a great user experience, credibility goes a long way. Be clear and honest about what you’re selling. Don’t make users dig through pages, read fine print, or be surprised by extra fees at checkout. Communicate clearly to users what you’re all about and build trust through open and continuous communication.
Spotify is upfront with their pricing, with a full page dedicated to information and choices for users.
The heuristics principles listed here are a great starting point to improving your site, and now it’s time to put them into practice. You can implement these guidelines on your website and test them yourself all day long, but what matters is the input of the end-user. The final key to improving your site design is to conduct user testing, gather feedback, and implement change.
Best of luck!