6 Usability Principles for Effective Web Design
Web design is a discipline where art meets business and data. On average, websites convert less than one percent of traffic into tangible leads. Given this competitive marketing landscape, business websites need to do more than look pretty. They need to promote sales by keeping users engaged.
To encourage sales, websites need user-focused designs. In other words, marketers and business owners need to understand their visitors. What do prospective clients value? How do they engage with their favorite products? How do customers decide what they’re going to buy?
Brand-building is only part of the UX equation. The best web designs are engaging, informative, persuasive, and helpful. Much like a brick and mortar storefront, a website needs to create a positive atmosphere. The following UX principles are essential for achieving that goal:
1. Every page element should fulfill a purpose
Web designers are limited on space. For this reason, every page element needs thought behind it. Even the most simple social media buttons and sign-up forms are quite complex beneath the surface. Every button, banner, form, and paragraph should help visitors make the most of their time.
Consider this blog post, for instance. The page’s setup (1) gives audiences useful information, (2) gives them the tools to share that information, (3) provides sources for additional resources, (4) encourages readers to join the conversation, and (5) gives Adhere a consistent personality and presence. All page elements cater to building substantive brand-audience relationships.
2. Calls to action should be clear
People don’t have time for guessing games. Do them a favor and tell them where to find information and sign up for offers. This approach will help get them from point A (interest) to point B (conversions) as quickly as possible.
Don’t make your guests sift through information to find what they need. Place calls to action throughout your site on the product pages, blog posts, and the homepage.
3. Conversions should always be a top priority
Similar to point #2, the best web designs need mapped-out conversion funnels. In general, visitors follow different paths to becoming customers. Think of these paths as a website’s skeleton, and create web designs around the components that are most valuable for driving sales.
The end result doesn’t need to look like an ugly sales pitch (think: flashing red and blue popups from the late ‘90s—yikes!). Rather, the design should be elegant, cohesive, and experience-driven. Consider your favorite store or boutique as an example. You’re there to shop, but you can have fun regardless of whether or not you buy something.
4. Navigation should make sense
This tip is a no-brainer that marketers sometimes forget. Not every bit of information deserves its own page, but if it’s really important, it might. Include multiple levels of navigation with keywords that help people find what they want. In addition to top-level navigation, include a less obtrusive sitemap near the page’s footer. If people need it, they’ll find and use it.
5. Designs and page elements should stand out and be memorable
Pretty websites are a dime a dozen with every business competing for audience attention. When investing in a new web design, the website’s goal should be to stand out from the crowd. On blog posts, use pictures in addition to chunks of text. Instead of picking boring stock photos, find images that are personable. If your brand can pull it off, be funny. Instead of matching your competitors’ designs, look outside of your industry for inspiration.
6. Elements should facilitate engagement
Encourage people to click, log-in, scroll, and engage with tangible elements on the page. Unlike other forms of media (like radio and television), online media is interactive. Online, people interact with pages and absorb information with more than just their eyes and ears. On blog posts, incorporate elements to get them commenting. Be careful not to overdo it, however, and don’t beat people over the head. More often than not, engagement is subtle.
Emotional appeal is the finishing touch
UX is a rational discipline, but remember that people are also driven by emotions. Through color combinations, graphics, and informative slogans, websites can keep visitors happy and energized. It’s these emotions that transform casual browsers into repeat customers.