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Is your website user friendly?

Updated on July 5, 2008

How you can improve your websites usability

I'm a freelance Web Designer and created this lens to help you improve your website so it can be more user friendly. The more user friendly, the longer people will stay on your website and the more likely they are to bookmark it and send to their friends.

The are several things you can do on your site to make it enjoyable and accessible for all. For a business this is crucial as it gives people a better opinion and appreciation of your product and/or service.

Is it inviting and comfortable? Are you considerate and leave everything they need like shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, hair dryer? Is it clean with fresh sheets, vacuumed carpets and a sparkling bathtub? Did you take the time to decorate with pretty artwork, fresh flowers and a pleasant colour scheme? Did you invest in a good mattress so they have a comfortable sleep? Are you thoughtful and leave a guide to restaurants in town, numbers for taxis and bus schedules? Do you always keep your guest bedroom nice expecting to have visitors?

Or is your guest bedroom dusty, dated, wallpaper peeling off the wall, bed piled high with papers books and other junk? Is the closet so crammed full of crap they can't hang their clothes? Does the mattress have busted springs sticking out? Does the bathroom have a broken toilet you never bothered to fix? Do you make excuses to your guests like you plan to fix it up but you've just been so busy? Is your guest room this way because you didn't expect any visitors and therefore didn't invest any time or money into fixing it up nice?

Your website also needs to be inviting and comfortable. It should look like you made an effort to ensure it's functional and aesthetically pleasing. That you are thoughtful of your customers and created a website with useful information and made it easy to find what they are looking for. Your websites should look like you expect a lot of visitors, are professional and proud of your business.

Your homepage

This is where users will decide whether to look further into your website or hit the back button. A visitor to your website should be able to know exactly what your business is and what they can find in your website just by your homepage. This should all be accomplished in a short, precise paragraph of text, a good header and meaningful images.

Avoid using "welcome to my site" it is meaningless. Sum up your website in that welcoming heading. For example; I designed a website for a company that delivers farm fresh blueberries to offices. So for their main heading it reads "farm to office blueberries in under 32 hours"

The homepage content should be freshened up on a regular basis, feature a service or product, let them know of an upcoming event or sale, give them a reason to keep coming back to your site to see what new things you have to offer.

Examples of great homepage design - Get inspired

Provided are links to a few website I feel have excellent homepage design. Not only do they look great, they are clear, uncluttered and sum up the site well.

Navigation

It's important for your navigation to be organized, easy to use and clearly labeled. Menu's usually go on the top of the page under your logo and header or on the left hand side. It doesn't have to be on the top or to the left however that is the place most users look to find the main menu. Regardless, your navigation needs to be consistent on every page.

If a main page has subpages, the first page users see should be treated like a homepage, brief, concise text that explains what is there and each subpage should be easy to see and click on.

It is a good idea to have a different colour for visited links so your users know where they have been. The title of each page should have the name of the page they are at, so if it is services at the top it should say services. If your site is very large with many subcategories then it is a good idea to let them know where they are for example: products>books>fiction>new releases.

Web bloopers

Learn common mistakes made in websites so you can avoid them in your own.

Get to the point, remove the fluff

Resist the temptation to use hyped up marketing language or "marketese". It is meaningless and says nothing of real value about what you do. Make your content meaningful, concise, clear and to the point.

People scan websites quickly to find the information they are looking for so keep your paragraphs short (up to 5 lines). Use bulleted lists and subheadings to break up text. There is no need to go into lengthy descriptions, only include relevant content.

Use laymen's terms

Try to use laymen's terms when describing your product or service so anyone can understand. I recently visited a technology website for my father, he wanted me to explain what they do. I spent 20 minutes going through their site (it was only 5 pages) and I couldn't figure out what service their business provided even in their services page! They used a lot of "marketese", vague descriptions and industry terms only an expert in the field would understand.

When describing your product and services be specific and clear. Remember not everyone knows what you are talking about so use language everyone can understand.

Declutter your website

Each page should be clearly laid out and easy to read. Cramming as much information, images and ads as you can into your site will overwhelm and confuse people. Have a focus and stick to it. Although Google ads and other affiliate ads are a good way to earn extra money from your website, don't let them take away from your content by stuffing as many in as you can.

Don't make me think - Excellent book on how to make your site more user friendly.

Accessibility

Accessibility in your website means it accommodates those with disabilities whether it be visual, hearing or mobility. If you feel it's important for your site to be accessible then consult your Web Designer to make the necessary changes. If you manage your website yourself there are several online resources and books you can read to improve equal access to your site.

Some simple things you can do to make your site more accessible:

  • Font size - Avoid using tiny text that is hard to read. Also use relative font sizes (such as %)instead of absolute (pixels). Relative font size allows the user to resize the text using their browser
  • Consider those who are colour blind - avoid colour coding your navigation
  • Use greater contrast between text and background colour - for example; avoid using light grey text on a darker grey background
  • Subtitle videos for the hearing impaired

Contact and F.A.Q

Allow your customers to contact you, provide an email address or phone number that is easy to find on the site. Have you ever visited a site and had more questions but couldn't find an email or any way to contact them? It can cost you business if clients can't easily contact you at any point in your site.

Frequently asked questions are a great way to answer anything a client might need to know about your business. However do make it actual frequently asked questions!

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    • PonyChitChat profile image

      PonyChitChat 4 years ago

      A very useful lens - it is essential for any website to be user friendly :-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have been asked to review my website (WORKink Alberta) and would love some suggestions. I have recently had Accommodations added. I have also added videos and broke my users down into separate sections.

      But feel it is too busy and not user friendly. What are some suggestions you might have?

      WORKink.com

    • profile image

      tamal10 5 years ago

      Hello,

      it's uses basically a Make User Friendly website , and it can take a server timestamp to start with. The css can also be easily modified to one's own likings.

      http://www.phphunt.com/78/how-to-make-a-website-us...

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 5 years ago

      I have just read your series on webpages and have to say I learned a lot! Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with those of us that need some tutelage. Excellent articles -- All of them! :D

    • photofk3 profile image

      photofk3 6 years ago

      Well written, useful lens. Thank you.

    • profile image

      TVUStudent 7 years ago

      Hello

      This is a very interesting post. I am a postgraduate student who is researching usability of blogs and blogging tools as part of my thesis, and to do this I have set up a blog at http://tvustudent.wordpress.com where I will post my research findings as I progress. My research project will include heuristic usability evaluations of blogging tools such as Blogger.com, and usability tests of blogs created by those tools. Your insights here are very interesting, so I will create a link from my blog to this. I would welcome any views or comments as and when I publish my research findings. Thank you!

    • profile image

      JennySui 7 years ago

      Very well written. Excellent lens.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

    • profile image

      Dean-ReviewGuy 8 years ago

      like the part that website is like my house guest bedroom....;-)

    • ckennedy lm profile image

      ckennedy lm 8 years ago

      It's always good to see the "simple is better" approach promoted. You've also brought up some excellent points - this was a nice refresher for me - thanks!

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image

      RaintreeAnnie 9 years ago from UK

      Excellent advice and well presented. Adding to faves and 5 stars. Thank you :)

    • profile image

      scottywott 9 years ago

      Very well written collection of information, Shannon. I shall recommend you!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Very good advice. Layout, using laymen's terms etc, it's all very important. I know what turns me off a web site, so I try to avoid the same in my own. 5***** for some very good advice.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      Very informative. I have 3 websites and have built several for friends. You're right. It has to be user friendly or a click in and out is all you'll get.

      Great lens.

      5 *

      Lizzy

    • profile image

      thomasa 9 years ago

      Hi, I am trying to figure out what is a subpage?

      Do you have it here?

      I hear people talk about subpage all the time on squidoo but I don't know how to find it?