Usability is one of the most overlooked elements of Web design, however, it’s also one of the most important. When a user lands on your site, you want them to be engaged in your content and to set down a path that you’ve laid out for them. But each time a usability roadblock gets in their way you stop them from accomplishing that task and risk sending them to a competitors website.
Below are some quick wins for SMBs to follow to make sure you’re following usability best practices and helping users to navigate your site successfully.
Global Navigation is a fancy term which really just means that your navigation is consistent through your website. If on your homepage you’re using a top navigation system (for example, like we do at SmallBizTrends) then you don’t want to suddenly change on that interior pages and move your navigation to the left- or right-hand side.
Similarly, if your navigation bar shows Home, Management, Marketing & Sales and Finance as your tabs (again, like up above), then you don’t want to change those elements on other pages of your site. You want everything to be consistent so that its easy and intuitive for users to make their way through your website.
Breadcrumbs are a navigational element that helps users identify where they are on your website. Breadcrumbs are best used on sites with a clear hierarchal structure. Meaning, take a look at your sitemap. If you’re able to draw clear lines showing how users would navigate through your site to find information, then breadcrumbs may be an element worth adding to your website. If your site is relatively flat, then this may not be something that will benefit users all that much. By adding breadcrumbs to your site you’re essentially giving users a second navigation structure to help them move around.
Your images can be compelling and your articles can be top class, but if your users can’t read the text on your website, none of its going to matter. They’re going to leave and they’ll probably leave angry.
Whether you’re an eCommerce site with a long list of product descriptions or you’re a news-oriented site with pages and pages of text, your key focus should be on making your content as easy to read as possible. This means respecting white space, using formatting like bullets and text emphasis to make your content easy to scan, keeping paragraphs short, using simple backgrounds, and making your font large enough for your reader. These may all sound like common sense things, but readability is often sacrificed for “flashier” sit features.
Your website should be set up so that it’s easy to use. This may include things like allowing users to accomplish their tasks in as few clicks as possible, not asking them to fill out unnecessary forms, avoiding jargon terms in navigation elements, making sure links and call to action items are easy to spot, and other Web best practices. Remember, at the end of the day you are designing your website for users, not for yourself.
Above are a few simply usability wins that any small business should be able to incorporate on their website. Focus on usability and you focus on your customers.
Great tips here Lisa. The “Readability” one is huge. The rules for web and print are completely different and a website that is difficult to read is essentially black-listed in the mind of a visitor. Thanks for this.
Are breadcrumbs something that the “average” web user cares about, or is it something that more web savvy users understand and like?
Great question. I’d like to know this too. I’ve never heard of “breadcrumbs” and judging by the Lisa’s explanation, I don’t think my site could benefit from this – at least not with the purpose I have for my blog.
I think a good, clear website is key to a companies success. I don’t know how many times I’ve exited out of a website because I got frustrated not being able to find something. It’s also important that your info on the company website is consistent with everywhere else you put it. Ignoring that could hurt your online presence.
In the readability section font selection is not mentioned other than size. I have repeatedly left a site that I might have otherwise found interesting simply because I did not want to strain in order to read the words because of the unreadable font. Size and spacing is definitely important as well.
I would add watch for broken links and keep file sizes to a minimum. Nothing more frustrating to users than clicking on a broken link or waiting for some huge PDF to download.
Easy navigation and usability should be important to all web designers.
Jose Darrel Bella
I hope every website is easy to use and intuitive. I wanna add “Choosing the right color combo” for your website as another tip. Great post though.
Nice article – I shared with my clients 🙂