1. Brand Message – make it clear
If you don’t know what your brand message is, your customers certainly won’t! Your brand message is how you want the world to see your company. Your website is a great way of controlling that image.
In terms of web design, this means making sure your logo is prominently placed in the top left corner of the site – where your eyes are naturally drawn to it – or if this is not possible, then within the page header is a must.
2. Easy navigation
This can be menus for an entire site, sub-page links or just how a user moves around a single page; it is vitally important that navigation is as easy as possible. A good use of colours, contrast, sizes and positioning can help make the navigation experience easy to follow and allow for a concise route.
Where possible, have just one primary navigation menu across the entire site, and use sub-navigation for different areas.
3. Intuitive – keep it simple!
Is your site a pain to navigate? Do you have to guess where to go to find information? You can guarantee that people will leave your website if it isn’t intuitive. Make sure navigation buttons are obvious and that their function is identifiable. Customers expect to find the navigation options towards the top of the page, so put them there.
Links between pages of your site are also important so that users can quickly move to areas that interest them. As a last point here, try to adhere to the expected functionalities. Underlined text typically means a web link – try to ensure that it is!
5. Keep it simple
We’ve mentioned it before, but you really do need to keep your website simple. Yes fancy websites look great, but they can often become a pain to use, and even harder to keep updated.
6. Easy to understand
Your website needs to be easy to understand, else users will leave it. This means that everything from the navigation to the copy should be understandable.
You can use all manner of design techniques to help achieve this; short sentences, contrast and colour, font sizes and so on.
That being said, there are some rules:
- Never use more than three typefaces/fonts
- Never use more than three font sizes
- Keep text in lines of around 18 words (that should equate to around 50-80 characters)
7. Accept older machines
Just because you are designing the site on a machine that only hit the shelves yesterday, via your 100MB/Sec internet connection, doesn’t mean that your users have the same ability! Make sure your design won’t fall apart at the first sign of an older machine or a dodgy web connection.
Your code should degrade gracefully, allowing everyone access to your site, even if it is at a reduced design. Certainly avoid causing your visitors machines to crash, or you’ll have to Ctrl+Alt+Del->Restart your relationship with them!
8. A target audience
When trying to write copy for a website, you must keep your target audience in mind. Don’t smother a user with everything you know, keep it to the point, and use basic terms if required – alternatively, a glossary is an excellent feature to include, especially if your website is for a more technical subject.
If you are using SEO then you will need to consider key words when writing the copy. Interweave these into the copy to make sure it flows, don’t just list a series of buzzwords.
Similar to the concept of accepting older machines, you need to consider the end user’s experience when they visit your site.
Create a list of the key features users will interact with on your site, and check that these all function, and are easy to find. Once you have completed your own tests, ask friends and colleagues to test the site for you.
10. and finally, Ensure Compliance!
There are, as with many things, guidelines you should adhere to if you want your website to be usable by all. These guidelines look at things such as your HTML code, CSS, scripts, images and so on. They help to ensure that the site is suitable and accessible for everyone.