Important Characteristics of a User Friendly Website
If you’re smart, you care about things like making sure your website is user friendly. (Likewise, you’re a damn fool if you put your own selfish wants before that.) So we’ll start by saying the first characteristic of a user friendly website is just that… it shows you care.
Some Technical Characteristics That Matter
- The first thing a visitor notices is how quickly a page loads.
If you’ve ever lived somewhere where Fios isn’t available, you’ll appreciate the agony of waiting an extra 5 seconds for a web page to load.
For anybody browsing the internet, it is complete torture when it takes 7 seconds for a page to load.
If it takes 10 seconds to load, it doesn’t matter. I’ve already given up and gone somewhere else.
You can speed up page load time by keeping the design simple. Don’t assume that everyone has a high speed connection. Instead, cater to those who don’t and avoid relying on large files to keep the size of your page to a minimum.
- At this point, you might as well just stay away from Flash.
- Make sure your site is accessible for everyone.
It’s the little things that count. Little things like using alt tags for all images, allowing text to be resized by visitors, etc.
User Friendly Navigation
Navigation is whole-heartedly one of the most important characteristics of your website. Even if all the other criteria is met, having an ineffective navigation is self-destructive.
Task based navigation
is based on what your visitor wants to do next, and should contain multiple options. A good example of task based navigation can look like this:
- For more information, click here to send me an email or call (555) 555-5555
- If you’re ready to hire me, click here to book an appointment.
- Click here to see a schedule of upcoming events.
- Looking to kill some time? Click here to see my Blog.
It’s important to note that task based navigation can be in any format… including buttons, icons, or widgets. (Such as buttons that lead the visitor to: Book Now, View the Schedule, or Contact.)
The important thing is that they focus on asking your audience “What do you want to do next?” and your visitors a few different options to choose from.
The most common form of navigation is a menu, which can be on the top of your website or in a sidebar. There can be sub navigation for websites with a complex architecture. Don’t neglect a menu navigation by any means, but no matter where it is located this should not be the only way to move around your site!
Not only is it rude to expect your reader to have to scroll all the way back to the top of the page to go to another page, but it is also costing you the benefit of providing a navigational path… of guiding your traffic in the direction you want them to take.
Content based navigation
is the third most important user-friendly navigation option. Anchor text links aren’t just about SEO, they serve an even bigger purpose of getting readers to click on the links to read more about a topic that was mentioned briefly. Be sure to open external links in another tab so you don’t lose your traffic!
So which type of navigation should you use on your website for a user friendly experience?
a. Task based
c. Content based
Think outside the box. The answer is “D. All of the above.”
User Friendly Design
As mentioned earlier, loading pages quickly is a priority on user friendly websites. Excessive media is a no-no.
However, there has to be some form of media that quickly creates a visual association of relevance. Keeping it minimal and simple is important, but visual design makes a huge impact so choose a look that is unforgettable. (Not available in a generic template.)
Also, for common courtesy to the entire human race, please avoid these things:
- Video or audio that plays automatically.
- Excessive ads.
- Fancy fonts that are difficult to read.
- Pop up boxes. You’re-not-getting-my-email-address-if-you-get-all-up-in-my-face-like-that-about-it!
- Blinking text. Cursor glitter. Anything from the 90s.
User Friendly Web Content
Web content is the final straw. It’s as important as design in making that first impression. At a glance… it is intimidating or warm and inviting. Shorter sentences and paragraphs, more white space, and a conversational tone are more comfortable than looking at a textbook of words.
Use sub headers and lists to break up lengthy content, and bold / italic formatting also help “scanners” find the most important information without taking the time to read it all. Of course the most user friendly web content is entertaining to read and will have visitors hanging on from one word to the next. But if you can’t get that part right, the very least you can do it make sure your web content isn’t boring or useless!