The Ultimate 20 Usability Tips for Your Website

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.


  1. says

    Great tips, Little confused concerning Item 4: “Make your contact info or form easy to find”

    Just read a post on a blog that recommended putting it in the Header section?


  2. Efie says

    Thank you for this article – Great points, simple and direct.

    Lol @ #16 – Seriously, there should a law against it!

  3. M. R. Van der Gaag says

    User Controlled multi media:
    If your site has audio (narration or music) or video, (movies, animations or rotating (slide show) content), make sure it is user controllable and especially easy and obvious to opt out of.

    It is a real annoyance to open a website that blares out heavy metal when the user is in the office, or in the library. Better to provide the dynamic content as an option that the user can turn on or off at will.

  4. says

    Great checklist to keep in mind. I’d also add: “have a mobile version of your website” because there are more and more mobile users I think each website should starting thinking about a mobile version.

  5. says

    “The reason for these? Accepted conventions – it’s what most web users expect.”

    Sure – but don’t blindly follow accepted conventions if BETTER solutions can be formulated.

    For example, placing an asterisk next to every form field label is an accepted convention, but it could be argued that an upfront statement saying, “Answer all the questions unless stated” would mean that you only have to show the exception to the rule, as opposed to stating it everytime with an asterisk.

    It’s fine detail like this that creates an overall user experience – so yes follow conventions, but also remember that part of being a good UX Designer is to ask “Why?”.

  6. Mfreeman says

    Some really great tips here. But I think that following these tips ALL the time will lead to cookie cutter websites. I agree that there are certain conventions to follow that help the user have an easier time interacting with your site, but some of this seems to sacrifice individuality. So I guess my question is “where do you draw the line for usability and design?” The web would be a pretty bland place if all the sites had the same blueprints. Food for thought.

  7. Matt says

    Good article, I also agree with Mfreeman and Richard Payne.

    Specifically regarding points 2, 6 and 10. For point 2 extending the car metaphor I’d point out that cars can be either left or right hand drive, or even central (Racing cars and the Maclaren F1), whilst convention is useful, well considered design can always work even if it’s very different, when done well it can be more useable then if you’d simply stuck to convention.

    It’s important to remember that decisions and behaviors are also contextual, so for point 6, yes few menu items may reduce choices making it ‘easier’ to decide where to go next, but this can also depend on your site’s hierarchy (and numerous other factors).

    For point 10, again sometimes having a drastic change can highlight that something important has changed, e.g. holiday sites where I might be looking at skiing holidays, click a link to ‘cheap flights’ and the entire design changes slightly to reflect the fact that i’m no longer in the context of ‘winter holidays’ but now in a more general ‘flights’ context. Though largely I still agree that being consistent within a site is very helpful for users.

  8. says

    I disagree on not using splash pages. Yes, they can be very annoying. Used correctly though, they can be quite effective. And sometimes your home page is just not the best place for a promotion. If you are running a promotion, the best thing to do is test it both ways and see which has the best conversion rates. This will tell you what your users really think.

  9. Rodrigo García says

    I would like to know the reasons, investigations or principles behind every point. Links to the sources, references. Something more than just tips, because that´s the only way to get the knowledge. Don´t get me wrong, I appreciate the tips but Usability is a principle and a vision based on knowledge, investigations and tests that produce principles or guides, not tips.

  10. says

    Very Nice and usable article, in my opinion this is a top of most important usability checklist every Web Developer/Web Designer should follow! Thanks for the article.

  11. says

    Thanks for the tips. A lot of this is (or maybe SHOULD be) common knowledge more or less, but there were definitely a few things on there that I hadn’t thought of yet and will be using in my own website development from here on out. :)



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