A man walks into a bar. He wants to get a beer ASAP—long day—, but right before he gets to sit down, someone pops up in front of him asking what his name is and if he can give him a surprise.
Slightly startled but determined to get his beer, he man pushes him out of the way and gets to the bar to place his order, which takes ages to arrive, because the bartender got stuck doing a performative dance for every guest walking in. Also, it’s two shades too dark in there, he can’t read the menu, and there’s music playing from different rooms, which stresses the man out.
After he’s had a couple, the man wants to go to the restroom, but doesn’t understand the funky signs on the doors and ends up in the kitchen. When he’s finally ready to pay, he’s asked for so much unnecessary information that he decides then and there that he will never, ever come back to this bar again—even if it’s the only place he could find in the middle of the desert.
You probably feel bad for this guy—and you should! But we all experience this, more often than we think. Because it’s not just offline businesses that can give us experiences like this. Imagine entering a website, and it does all the same stuff:
“We need a website”, the business owner shouts. Designers scramble around a table and pitch their portfolios. But who has the guts to asks him ‘why’?
All too often, businesses build their website because they feel like they need an online presence—which is right—and they need a place to show their product—which is wrong.
That would be like saying:
we need a window in the busiest street in London to showcase our products—what happens behind the glass comes second.
Without really thinking about the ‘why’ behind a website, it’s unlikely you’ll create one that fulfills not only your desires, but also those of your visitors and soon-to-be customers.
Simplicity and convenience. That’s it.
A great designer isn’t necessarily the person who can design the most impressively beautiful website. You need a designer who creates a website that helps you reach your goals, communicate your message and ultimately converts visitors into customers.
Sure, looks help in all that (from your website, not necessarily your designer)—but keep in mind that what makes a website ‘beautiful’ is always a matter of taste, so put usability and experience before that. Here’s how.
Don’t use the following list as a checklist to see if you’ve designed a user-friendly website after the deed is done.
Read it carefully before you start, and double-check every creative idea in your brain to see if it fits these commandments. Only abandon the list if you really, really think it will add to the user experience or if it’s absolutely necessary for your brand.
If you already have a website in place and get the idea that you’re leaving money on the table due to poor design, find out what the culprit is using this list.
Banners, videos, pictures, icons: it’s all fun and games, until your visitors get to your page and something doesn’t load, or doesn’t fit on their screen, or simply doesn’t really add anything to the whole experience.
Just because it looks cool, doesn’t mean you need it. Websites that are made up of mostly video on the full screen aren’t for all businesses.
If you desperately need to add a video, make sure people who lost their AirPods again can also follow it by adding subtitles. It isn’t rocket science; you can easily learn how to add text in iMovie and give your visitors the subtitles they deserve.
So keep it simple and go back to what your website is supposed to do. Cutting out unnecessary elements will not only give you a faster loading time—which is essential in this world in which nobody has time, ever—it will also make your website easier to skim and navigate, leading people to the ‘buy now’ button sooner.
It’s vital to test if your website works and flows the way you had in mind. Don’t just test it yourself, but let your target audience test it as well to get first-hand feedback from the people who matter most.
There are countless methods and tools out there that will help you collect feedback on your website in an efficient way. Check this guide on usability testing to see what tools experts recommend and find out some great usability testing questions.
Want to make your website the user-friendliest of all? Keep people in mind who have limited sight or hearing.
One example is creating a website that works for people who are color-blind—which is often overlooked, even though potentially 8 out of every 100 visitors to your site could experience content differently than intended.
Color is important to send signals, and if you don’t keep the color-blind into account with for example text on buttons or other indicators of what those signals are, you could be missing out on a huge client, just because they’re color-blind.
Do you ever visit a website’s blog and wonder why they even have it? Congratulations: you’ve encountered a classic case of ‘because we have to’. Countless businesses blog and create content because everyone is doing it, not necessarily with the reader in mind.
Let’s collectively put an end to that, once and for all.
Struggle creating content that reads naturally? Most entrepreneurs are better at speaking than writing, and that’s okay. If you have an idea for a blog but can’t get a word on paper—but can talk about it for a few minutes, check out Happy Scribe’s transcription services. That way, you can just talk in a flowing way and later edit the text to make a blog post that makes sense.
Now that you have a goal and ‘why’ in mind for your website, it’s time to ask your target audience what their goal is when they visit your website.
Why are they coming here? Knowing this is crucial for designing a new website. Are most people looking for information, to get in touch, for a quick shopping experience? This will help you determine what to highlight on what pages.
Another important aspect to keep an eye on, is how people visit your website. It shouldn’t be a surprise anymore that most website visits come through mobile phones—yet so many websites are still not optimized for mobile devices. Dive into your Google Analytics and check out what your website looks like on the most-used devices, and redesign accordingly.
Let’s say your website is a beautiful, tropical abandoned island. Rumor has it, there’s a treasure buried there. The best deals, a fantastic customer support system, a top-notch knowledge base—whatever it is, don’t make your visitors struggle to find it.
You don’t want your website to resemble an IKEA where people have to pass baby cribs and futons to simply reach the forks and knives.
Design your website using clear and straightforward roadmaps. How do people get from A to B in the fastest way possible? Use this structure when designing your website and determining what pages you need, and where to place the buttons.
Let people use their intuition, not their imagination.
Close your eyes and imagine a news website. A fashion webshop. A hotel’s website for reservations. An airline.
Chances are, you can quite clearly picture what these websites look like, regardless if you have a specific brand in name.
Truth is, we have all grown so accustomed to using online services and ecommerce, that we know how to navigate new websites, even if we haven’t visited them—as long as they follow a certain industry standard.
Boring? Maybe. But your designer can let their creativity run wild within the borders of those templates that people know how to work with. This helps people navigate websites easier and allows them to use their intuition, instead of having to go look for the menu bar and search bars in footers. Plus, it will make your design process a whole lot easier.
Make it unmistakably clear what will actually happen if people press a button. ‘Yes, I want that!’ sounds fun and catchy, but if people are afraid that this will immediately mean a purchase or even worse—a phone call—they might not even click it.
Think back on amazing and horrible experiences you’ve had on websites and use these when designing and testing your own website. Keep in mind that usability is ultimately what keeps people on a website, not just looks: if people can only look at it and not use it, there’s no reason for them to come back.