User friendly and user experience are terms that are tossed around a lot online. But what do they actually mean? How important are they? And how can you implement them on your site?
A user friendly website can basically be put down to how easy a website is to use, especially for a first-time visitor. It’s probably something you experience on websites all the time, without actually consciously thinking about it. Not thinking about how to use a website is another sign of a great user experience! Your website should be intuitive to use – navigating and using it should come naturally to the visitor.
The goal of creating user-friendly navigation is to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find what they need on your site. If a visitor finds your site to hard to navigate or they are unable to find what they are looking for, they will quickly ‘bounce’ from your site. Considering how easy it is to find information online these days, if your site can’t provide what they’re after in the first few seconds, users are more likely to look elsewhere.
Not only is a high bounce rate bad for loosing your potential audience, but search engines will take a high bounce rate into consideration when ranking your pages. A high bounce rate tells Google that your website isn’t keeping its visitors, and they are more likely to downgrade your visibility in favour of sites that visitors stay on for longer.
Some simple aspects of creating a user friendly site include:
- Location of buttons
- Layout of menus
- Website and button colours
- How many clicks it takes for a user to find what they’re after
- Text size and style
- Use of images and video
When designing a website, think about how a visitor will primarily use it. What are they looking for? How did they land on your site?
What is the Primary Purpose someone would visit your site?
Take the main reason someone would visit your website into consideration to build a site that visitors don’t even have to think about when using. It’s like finding your way home from work, versus finding your way to a location in an unknown town. Driving home from work is automatic, and we often end up wondering how we got there when we pull up. Finding a new location can be stressful – you need to watch for road signs, seek help from a map and make split decisions all while keeping on the road. You want your website to be as easy to navigate as finding your way home!
Take the example of a mobile phone provider’s website. Let’s say the three main things a visitor is looking for would be:
To pay their bill
View phone plans
Access customer service.
With these three things in mind, the website might consider putting a bright button in the header titled, ‘Pay Bill’. This allows people to access the bill-paying function as soon as they land on the site without having to go through the menu such as Menu> Customers> Services> Pay Bill.
When Creating a User Friendly Website, use Website Conventions
When building a website, what also makes it user friendly is something known as website conventions. These are methods of navigation that you don’t even realise come automatically to you.
Examples of website conventions include:
- Clicking the logo to return to the home page
- The three horizontal lines (‘hamburger’) that signify the menu
- Small icons: you understand a house to mean home page, an envelope to mean email/contact page, a bag or cart to mean shop, a magnifying glass to mean search.
You probably have never thought about the fact that you already knew what these conventions were! This is how your website should be. Conventions work best when you stick to them, to make getting around a site intuitive for your visitors.
Now that you’re designing a website, there’s a bunch of conventions and user-friendly protocols you’ll want to stick to
- Make clickable words, links and menu items stand out by using a contrasting colour
- Use clear, easily recognised wording for navigating (eg: ‘About’ page, not ‘fun facts’)
- Place links on your pages to interlink your site – don’t let any page be an island
- Consider the user’s journey. After reading a page, where should they go next? Make the transition easy for them by adding links to the bottom of the page.
- Provide a search function
- Stick to popular website conventions such as your logo linking to the homepage on the top left.
- Create ‘island’ pages that are hard to find on your site or aren’t linked to other pages
- Get creative with your menu – stick to menu terms your users are used to seeing – home, about, shop, contact. A visitor shouldn’t have to think about what a page is about.
- Use multiple colours for linking. Stick to one colour that visitors can then recognise as buttons and linked text.
- Reinvent the wheel. Use widely recognised symbols for navigation.
- Use large bodies of text. Break it up into paragraphs, dot points and images to make it easier to read.
- Design your site how you like it. Think about how a visitor needs to use it instead.
- Overwhelm users with a myriad of links and menu items. Keep it simple!
Don’t be overwhelmed by these lists. You may be surprised to find a lot of them end up coming naturally when building a site, because of your own navigation experiences. Are there any other things you’d add to the list for creating a user friendly website? If you’re just starting out with web design, take a look at this beginner web designer mistake we still see people making.