An effective website depends more on its usability and utility than its visual design. User-centric design has been established as a successful and profit-oriented approach to web design due to the fact that only the visitor of the page clicks the mouse. The user may as well not have a feature if they can’t use it.
Not the visual design of a website determines its success or failure, but the utility and usability. Because the visitor of a page is the only one who clicks the mouse and thus decides everything, user-centric design has become a standard approach for successful and profitable web design. The user may as well not have a feature if they can’t use it.
We won’t be discussing design implementation details in this article, since we have previously discussed it in other articles. Rather, we will discuss the key principles, heuristics, and approaches that can lead to significant improvements in design and simplify how information is perceived.
These principles are used in the monthly website design service in the UK, which you can find more about by clicking the link.
How Do Users Think?
The habits of Web users aren’t that different from those of customers in a store. Every time they open a new page, visitors glance at some of the text and click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles what they want. The vast majority of the page they don’t even glance at.
A user searches for something interesting (or useful) and clickable; as soon as they find a few of these, they click. The user clicks the Back button if the new page doesn’t meet their expectations.
- Credibility and quality are important to users. If a page provides high-quality content, users are willing to compromise the content for advertisements and the design of the page. Not-so-well-designed websites with quality content gain a lot of traffic over time because of this. The content is more important than the design that supports it.
- Scanning is what users do, not reading. While reviewing a web page, users look for fixed points or anchors that will guide them through the content.
- Users scan, not read. The “hot” areas are abrupt in the middle of sentences. Scanning is a typical process.
- Web users are impatient and expect instant gratification. The principle is very simple: If a website fails to meet users’ expectations, the designer didn’t do his job properly and the company loses money. The higher the cognitive load and the less intuitive the navigation, the more likely users are to leave a website
- A sequential reading flow does not work on the Web. The right screenshot on the image at the bottom describes the scan path of a given page.
- Intuition guides users. Most of the time, users muddle through instead of reading the information a designer has provided. Steve Krug believes the basic reason for this is that users don’t care. “If we find something that works, we stick with it. We don’t care how things work as long as we can use them. If your audience is going to act like you’re designing billboards, then design great ones.”
- Control is important to users. Customers expect a consistent presentation of data throughout the site and are used to controlling their web browsers. They don’t want to open new windows unexpectedly and they want to be able to go back to the site they were on earlier: this is why it’s a good practice not to open links in new browser windows.
Don’t Make Users Think
It is essential that the web page is obvious and self-explanatory, according to Krug’s first law of usability. When you create a website, your job is to remove the question marks from the users’ minds – the decisions they need to make consciously, considering pros, cons and alternatives. Navigation and site architecture that aren’t intuitive cause a lot of question marks and make it difficult for users to understand how the system works and how to get from A to B.The goal is an easy to follow structure with visual clues and recognizable tabs and links that will help the visitor to find what they are looking for.
Here’s an example. Beyondis.co.uk calls itself “beyond channels, beyond products, beyond distribution”. In what sense does it mean? Since users tend to explore websites according to the “F”-pattern, these three statements will be the first elements users see when the page is loaded.
Although the design itself is simple and intuitive, the user must search for the answer to understand what the page is about. An unnecessary question mark looks like this. A designer’s job is to make sure that the number of question marks is as close to zero as possible. On the right is the visual explanation. By simply exchanging both blocks, usability would increase.