We all know that change is the only thing which is constant. Even if there are certain rules and regulations for designers, they too have changed with the passage of time. However, when it comes to usability principles, a few principles can be modified but cannot be changed. The reason behind these principles staying the same is because they have been adopted by human nature and they need to be kept in the same way for proper usage. If you want to change them, basics will always stay the same. As with any project from designing layouts for calendar printing to designing an online store, you should follow a protocol to make sure all important elements are included.
Let us take a look at few timeless usability principles for website designers:
As a designer, you are obviously spending a lot of time designing for others and when clients come to you, they have a certain kind of people in mind that they would like to target to. Therefore, you need to design the website keeping the target audience and their preferences in mind. Also, you will have to keep in mind if you have to design an e-commerce website where visitors can buy the product or if you have to simply design a website which provides information. It is also possible that your clients might want to target more than one kind and as a designer it is your responsibility to make a design targeting the right kind of audience.
So, the first principle is to keep the target audience in your mind. While keeping the target audience in your mind, you need to accomplish the objectives of your website. The objective of you website could simply be attracting more users to sign up for the website or buy products or interact. For instance, your website offer design services of marketing collateral like flyers, brochures, postcards, business cards, posters, booklets, rack cards andcalendars etc, then it should speak for its services in terms of design and usability.
Each and every step on the website should be well planned. If you want visitors to sign up for your website, give them half of the information they are looking for and rest of the information should be provided once they sign up. Always give them a good benefit of signing up.
Well, when a user visits a website, he obviously has a few questions in mind and he would like to have answers to those questions. You have failed as a designer if you are unable to answer a few basic questions of a visitor.
Whenever someone’s visit your website, he should be able to judge what your website is all about in the first glance because the most basic question that pops up in to a user’s mind is ‘Where am I’. Now, the name of website should be visible and clear enough. There should always be an ‘About Us’ tab highlighted on the main page of your website for user to get basic information about your products. Also, whenever a visitor visits other pages of your website, you need to highlight those tans so that he knows where he will land up if he clicks on the same tab again.
The second question that will pop up into user’s mind would be ‘what is his purpose’ behind visiting the website off course and will the website serve the purpose. Now, this depends on the objective of the website because if you have an e-commerce website, make it prominent that this website is for buying products. If it is not an e-commerce website and simply an informative website about your product, it should be designed in the same manner.
The third question would obviously be ‘Why should I read or buy from this website’. As a designer, your design will make the visitor stay on the website. Now convincing a visitor to buy stuff or read online, your writer has to work really hard. Your job is to provide a perfect design and space to the writer so he is capable of conveying information in a proper way.
There is a lot of difference in reading on a paper and reading online. When a user is reading online, he would like to get more information in a short span of time and would not really want to think. When it comes to online reading there is more of scanning and less of thinking. As a designer, it is your responsibility to design the page in a way so that it gets feasible for readers to scan and find the most important part.
Also, if you really want to build a user base, you need to make them think less and for this the designing and navigation of your website should be simple and easy yet stylish. The best way to do this is to put yourself in visitor’s shoe and if you find something complicated, obviously your visitor will find it to be complex too hence leaving your website. While designing you need to think from visitor’s perspective so that they can think less.
The text used on the website is also very important. Your writer might have an amazing vocabulary but your visitors might not so he needs to use layman language. Instead of using difficult words, he needs to keep things simple for users to be able to understand each and every tab. A simple example would be, you can use ‘Who We Are’ instead of using ‘About Me’ or ‘Contact Us’ would be better instead of using ‘Customer Care’. So the key is to keep things simple and understandable.
You need to think from your visitor’s perspective but for that, you need to know and understand your visitor really well. Only then you will be able to put yourself in his shoes and think accordingly. What you need to do is find the common traits of the people who visit your website and then try to think from those people’s point of view. Always keep in mind that you will not be able to satisfy everyone. If you have managed to satisfy 80-85% of your customer base, you have managed to come up with a successful website.
Even as a designer, you need to think technically at times so that you can grab the attention of right kind of clients and visitors. If you are designing an e-commerce website, your goal should be bringing the products and their information to forefront. Do not make your visitors go in circle in order to find the information of their favorite product. As said earlier, understand your visitor and think from their mind, not yours.
I have seen a lot of designers trying to make changes in the basic conventions of a website designing just to make their website look different. This idea will not work really well for every visitor because you are confusing them more. At times, you have to avoid experimenting and keep things simple and conventional. When a user visits your website, he should sense a familiarity and since users are quite used to conventions, they will find navigating through your website quite easy.
As mentioned earlier, users do not like confusing websites and if you are experimenting, you re forcing them to think which is highly disliked by them. Instead of understanding your website, they will leave it. One example would be keeping the navigation menu always above. Stick to basic principles of website usability and you will not regret it.