Usability is ridiculously important to your website. It doesn’t matter how cool your website looks or how amazing your content is if visitors can’t quickly, easily, and enjoyably access and use it. Many of them will eventually just give up and look elsewhere.
So how do you make your website as usable as possible? Well, you’re in luck, because this article features 20 usability tips for your website. Technology will always change, thus changing the usability tips. So make sure you share your own tips and tricks with the rest of us.
1. Structure your website design around update frequency
If you’ll post new content less often, have a more static and feature-focused design. If you’ll post more often, go for a blog-style design.
2. Put the logo in the top-left, menu to the right or below
Place your logo in the top-left, and put the menu either to the right of or below it – and make sure the logo is clickable and takes the visitor back to your home page. The reason for these? Accepted conventions – it’s what most web users expect, so there’s no need to get creative deciding where to place the steering wheel in your car design, so to speak.
3. Have the search in the upper left or right
Include the search bar in the upper left or right (if applicable of course ie. you have enough content to warrant search). Also, include the word “Search” in-form so people know what that type-able bar is for.
4. Make your contact info or form easy to find
Either have the contact info or form as separate page with a dedicated link in the menu or footer, or include the contact info in the sidebar or footer.
5. Make help page(s) easy to find
Have your help page(s) – things like FAQ, technical support, documentation – easy to find, either in the menu or most likely in the footer.
6. Have as few menu items as possible
The more choices your new visitors have, the greater the indecision-paralysis they’ll have (ie. the more likely they won’t click on any navigation menu items and instead will bounce out.)
7. Include state-changes in links and buttons
You increase the likeliness of your visitors clicking on desired links and buttons – as well as making them feel less lost – when you reinforce the click-ability and actionable-ness of things. Do that by including state-changes in links and buttons ie. change the appearances when hovering and clicking.
8. Highlight the active form field
When a visitor clicks inside of a form field, highlight it to reinforce that when the visitor starts typing, that’s where text will be inputed or an action will result.
9. Make link colors as noticeable as possible
Make link colors stand out so that it’s obvious that that piece of text is clickable. This is especially important and usable for those with accessibility issues (ie. have a hard time with low contrast items.)
10. Keep everything as consistent as possible
Eliminate surprises for your visitors by avoiding inconsistency. Keep the following and anything else as consistent as possible (and that includes full-width pages vs. sidebar-included pages): colors, link colors, structure, interface, and where the elements are.
11. Make forms easy to follow
Group forms in a way that makes them easy to follow. For example, the first and last name on one line, city and state/province on another, and so forth. Also, make it obvious what each one is with titles before each form (Name) and what you need to input included in-form (First Name, Last Name).
12. Add breadcrumbs near the top
Add breadcrumbs near the top of pages for the checkout/signup/etc. processes. This is so visitors know how far along they are and what’s left. Visitors hate guesswork and not knowing how much longer something will take, so eliminate that for them. Here’s a tutorial on adding breadcrumbs to WordPress without a plugin.
13. Be “window shopper”-friendly
Show price/specs/description right away in your grid/list/index pages. Don’t require hovering or clicking and going to another page in order to see them. The faster your visitor can browse and find what they want, the happier they’ll be and the more likely they’ll keep coming back for your stuff. You no doubt know the feeling of getting fed up with an inefficient website design and stopping using it all too well – don’t let your website be one of those.
14. Always have your name/logo/tagline at the top
Unless you’re Nike or Apple or Sony or a instantly-recognizable-worldwide brand, always have your name/logo and tagline at the top so people know where they are at all times. This is especially important if they directly came to one of your pages/posts from an outside link.
15. Keep animations and form-over-function graphics to a minimum
Don’t use animations or graphics that hinder navigation. Visitors want to access content and information, not figure out how to click on a menu item or watch some animation for the hundredth time.
16. Just say NO to splash pages
1997 called – it wants its splash pages back. But seriously, unless your entire website is essentially a splash page (a single-item promotion site, like for a movie), don’t annoy visitors by surprising them with a full-page ad when they’re expecting your website. Put the promotion content on your home page instead, so it’s still immediately-visible while giving visitors the choice on whether to act on it or not – for example, they’re in a hurry and want to click on a menu item, not be greeted with a full-page ad.
17. Break text up with images when possible
This helps to increase readability. There’s a reason magazines are constantly breaking up text with images and graphs – it makes reading that 6000-word article much easier.
18. Space text out with headlines, segments, and lists
Space text out with headlines, segments with images, and bullet lists to increase scan-ability. This lets your visitors find what they want on a page/post and read that faster, as well as letting them get a quick gist of something before committing to reading it.
19. Have your own domain
Yes, forehead-slapping obvious. But this is essential for two reasons: to confirm to the visitor that not only you are professional and legitimate, and to reassure them they’re on the right website, rather than a subdomain of some free service or something. And since domains are ridiculously affordable at around $9 USD/year (or cheaper depending on when you’re reading this), there’s absolutely no reason not to have your own domain.
20. Have clear permalinks that are as short as possible
Having clear and short permalinks on your website not only makes it easier for people to share the URLs – since they fit easier in places where they’re pasted – but you reassure them what they’re reading or about to read, since they can clearly see what the page/post will be about, rather than a bunch of gibberish like numbers and symbols.
Any More Usability Tips for Your Website?
Your turn: what are some other usability tips that are inexplicably missing from this list? Share your most essential ones in the comments section below.