Website usability is commonly referred to as the user experience (or UX). Basically, it’s how easy and intuitive it is for visitors to navigate and use your website. The layout and design of your website directly affect its usability.
Are your menus simplified? Do your users automatically know where to click for certain information? Can they get back to the landing page easily? These are questions that you can use to test the usability of your website.
However, website usability is more than simple navigation and intuition. When designing a website, you need to know what the visitor wants and where they are likely to click. The user experience (UX) needs to match the design of the site and the user interface (UI).
Usability is about understanding the user
Web designers need to know the basics of human thought processes and interaction. Their aim should be to create a design that directly matches and enhances the user experience. This requires taking a step back and looking at the interface from an outside perspective.
A web designer can’t simply assume that a visitor will understand the design and know how to use the website instinctively. They need to design with the user in mind to ensure that the UI results in good UX. Features of the site need to be created for the specific purpose of making navigation easy.
When launching your website for the first time, get some feedback from your users and listen to their opinions. They will best be able to describe what is confusing or misleading about the website. Use this information to refine and improve the design and UI.
Templates offer good usability but aren’t the only solution
But why is design being made into a complicated process? Surely websites just need to function – after all, you can download simple templates to sort out the design of a site. Indeed, website templates are a quick and easy way to ensure good usability.
Most website themes and templates look similar for good reason – they are built on formulas that work. The more a design element becomes used on websites, the more visitors will know how to instinctively use them. Think of the menu icon (three horizontal lines stacked on one another). This icon didn’t exist a few years ago but everyone knows what it’s for now.
However, a template only lets you take your design and UX so far. A template may work well for a teenager but it might not be simple for a pensioner still learning how to use the internet. A theme that works for photographers might be terrible for a content marketing website.
Every website is unique and needs to be designed as such
Every website has its own user base and unique offerings, which is why themes and templates designed for mass reproduction might not suit the website entirely. You may know your website inside and out, from the front end to the back end. Your visitors, on the other hand, have only a few seconds to understand your website and to find what they want.
If they find anything confusing or if the design is too cluttered, they will simply click off your site and never return. This is bad for SEO and for your Google rankings. You should never have to explain your user interface or design – it should come naturally and within the first few moments of being present on the site.
Points to consider for website usability
Have someone unfamiliar with the site sit down beside you and try to navigate their way around the website. They can give you their honest opinions and thoughts. Here are a few design elements that can make or break a website’s usability:
- Navigation – Is it intuitive and easy to find certain buttons, menus and information?
- On-page content – Is there too much written content and not enough visuals? Is there an overload of information, or not enough information?
- Website popups – Are there annoying popups that distract the user, or are they well-timed and subtle?
- Clarity of information – Is information immediately obvious to the user? Do they have to scroll and search for what they’re looking for?
- Calls-to-action – Are buttons (such as ‘Subscribe’) easy to find? Do they clearly state what action the user will take if they click on it?
- Page errors – If your page fails to load, does it clearly tell the user what the problem is?
- Continuity – Does your landing page correlate to the link on which the user clicked from another site or a social media platform? In other words, if someone clicks on an article about web design on Facebook, does it take them to the right page?
These are important elements to consider when designing a user-friendly website. Although it may be intuitive to you, it may not be the case for your users and visitors. Website usability is more complicated than most people think. That is why web design is such an important and intrinsic part of the usability of the website.
Sorted Design Agency is a creative company that constantly looks for solutions to other people’s problems. These problems come mostly in the visual format, such as graphic design, logo and illustration, but we’re experts in brand development, website design, and digital SEO campaigns as well.
Based in Pretoria and Cape Town, Sorted has been in the content marketing industry since 2006. We assist your company with its corporate identity by communicating core values through content and articles written for your website, blog and news area. This content is supported by AdWords and social advertising, which facilitates wider reach and audience growth. Turn your website into a business tool.
Sorted also owns two other businesses; InkFish Print Studio – a printing company that handles a range of promotional materials for businesses and other services for individual customers, and Pampiri + Kie – a gifts and stationery store selling online and in-store. Both of these companies operate from Cape Town and Pretoria.
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn for the best tips on design, marketing and web development. We also share the latest industry news and fresh content to inspire fellow designers, creatives and marketers.