Many of my friends and peers have always been experimenting and innovating with new features and techniques to enhance the user experience on their respective websites. With the constant changing technologies and features available today for a website, many a times we tend to forget the basic parameters which are a must for a good usable website.
I thought of sharing my views and experience in this industry with you all on how to enhance the user experience on a website and hope you will find this information useful.
Following are a few simple yet most important parameters that one must consider while developing his website to enhance the user experience:
If your site takes forever to load, most people will just leave and switch to some other website providing similar information that the user is seeking from your website. The site load time not only depends on the server where it is hosted, but a lot also depends upon how heavy your opening web page is.
Though, you would always like your opening web page to be most attractive, but make sure it is optimized well enough to open up fast enough so that the user does not lose his patience.
It is extremely important to make sure that you choose the right color combinations for your text and background to ensure that the content is easily readable.
Avoid using dark backgrounds with contrasting text, though it might look good, but it makes the user strain his eyes to read the content.
Many a times you would be tempted to use a stylish font to make your website look unique and stand out, but I would still recommended you to stick to the commonly used fonts to avoid any readability issues.
Moreover, make sure that you use an ideal font size with adequate line spacing. This is really important since poor readability leads to frustration which would eventually lead to site abandonment.
Navigation forms an integral aspect of good usable website and thus should be carefully designed. The navigation should be well categorized with the main sections listed in primary navigation and subsequent sections listed as secondary navigation. It is a good idea to have dropdown menus wherever required instead of putting everything at the same level.
The navigation labels should always be concise and to the point. Do not use any marketing jargons as part of navigation menu which is difficult to understand.
Multiple Highlights on Same Page
I have noticed that many people wish to communicate too many highlights of different nature on the same page. Though it shows that your product / service has a lot of things you want to communicate about, but it is a deterrent for a good user experience.
You do not want your users to get confused what content to read first when there are too many things fighting to catch his attention. Moreover, at times users take it as a desperate effort to grab his attention.
It is good to highlight the USP or the main feature, but make sure the content is well categorized and the user is consuming one piece of information at a time. This, will certainly increases his attention to the content he is reading and will increase the chances of him taking the next action that you want him to do through your website.
Please make sure that your contact information page is easily accessible and linked to the main navigation because the user might lose confidence and trust in the site if he is unable to access the contact details easily.
Always make sure that you have clearly defined and primary Call to Action after the specific content on your website. Giving too many options to the user will only confuse him and delay his action on your website.
Clear and Consistent Headings
Most people do not read the entire content on a web page and judge the content by its headings. It is important that you use clear and organized content headings and the font and style used should be consistent across the entire site.
It is always good to use breadcrumbs on every page just below the title bars. These become very useful for the user to know where he is within the website and also helps him navigate to the previous page within the website hierarchy.
The URLs that you create for your web pages should be descriptive and meaningful. For example, if your 10th page on the site is about your contact information, then the URL of that page should be “contact-us.html” instead of “page10.html”.
This is not only helpful for the site visitor but is also a very important aspect for the Search Engines.
Avoid Long Scrolls
Always try to contain your content in a particular page without having a long scroll. Even lengthier content can be well managed in the same page by use of tabs or better navigation. But in any case, avoid long scrolls on the same page for a better user experience.
As far as possible, avoid using pop-ups on your website. Pop-ups are like “old school” way of throwing information on the user’s face and really annoys the user.
If required, use alternate ways to display such information like a lightbox
At times, it can get really monotonous for the user to read long piles of text written across the page. It is always better to reduce the monotony by use of images and slight but not contrasting color variations.
Consistency in Links
You should always make sure that the links used in the body content are clearly marked as links and should be consistent in look throughout the website.
Avoid Flash Animation
There is no doubt that your website can attract eye balls with the use of attractive flash animation but please remember that at times the required plugins are not installed in the user’s browser to load the flash correctly and people won’t wait 5 minutes for a plug-in to load.
Use alternate methods to attract your audience and as long as possible, stick to standard HTML / CSS for better search engine visibility.
Always make sure to put your logo / company name in the header, preferably on top left corner of every web page for the user to easily find and relate. The logo should also be clickable and lead the user to the Home Page.
This practice not only makes it easy for the user to navigate back to the Home Page from an inner page, but also acts as an important aspect of your SEO technique.
Custom 404 Page
Please make sure to create a custom 404 page with appropriate communication / redirection in case a page does not exist. This will help you retain your site visitor on the site even if he lands on a web page that does not exist any longer.
If you have a search box on your website, make sure it is placed at a prominent position on the web page and should be accessible preferable somewhere in the header. Further, please ensure that you use the search box consistently across all the inner pages.
It is always recommended to create your website as per the latest screen resolutions which your users are using on their monitors. Though there is no fixed rule for the correct screen resolution, normally websites are created for 1024 x 768 screen resolution these days.
The above are a few important parameters that I have always considered while developing or managing big websites and they have always worked for me in creating a good user experience.