Taking A Closer Look At Website Usability And How Website Design Elements Can Improve User Interaction
Successful website design involves a lot of depth and consideration, by applying design theories such as user interaction and user experience. Website design isn’t simply to do with making a website look good. User experience (UX) and website usability can be complex issues and a lot of research is required to create effective, successful websites. When designing or redesigning a website, every design decision either comes from analytical data or is part of the wider SEO strategy.
But the theory is not rocket science. The more enjoyable your website is to use, the longer people will stay on it. A website might look brilliant but if it’s difficult to navigate, your user is going to click off and submit another search term and potentially head to one of your competitors.
Because of this, website design and usability go hand in hand. Website usability is one of the most essential elements of good web design. In fact, 60% of consumers rate usability as an important design characteristic for an online shop (Statista, 2020).
In this blog, we’re going to look at website usability and user interaction and how they affect the website design process. Let’s start with some definitions.
What Is User Experience (UX)?
User experience (UX) is a broad field of study and design related to providing positive user experiences with a product or service. UX involves researching, developing and testing all areas of a product. It’s not just about web interactions, but the theory is heavily applied to website design.
UX is about looking at how the user can achieve their goals and how your website will help them to do so. We’re aiming to help the user reach their goals as easily as possible.
One of the biggest UX principles is to put your user first. You really need to consider the end user. User experience is about how the user feels and their experience of using your product.
What Is Website Usability?
Website usability is a set of standards for websites. It is a field of thought within UX and specifically relates to websites. ‘User centred design’, as it is sometimes referred to, shapes the design and development of a website around the end user.
You need to understand your consumer’s behaviour and their expectations of their online consumption. Good usability builds trust. How will they behave when looking at your website? What do they want to click on? What is their end goal? Think about these questions and base your website design around them.
Make sure your website is easy to use for the people who will use it, not the people who designed it.
And these concepts are inextricably linked. Poor usability leads to poor UX. According to Amazon Web Services, 88% of website visitors are less likely to return to a website after a poor experience.
We also often refer to ‘user interface’, which is the appearance and interactivity of a website. The interface must make the user’s experience of your website efficient and make it easy to accomplish their goals. We’ll look into this when we look at designing homepages.
What Is User Interaction (UI)?
A user interaction is an interaction performed by a user on a website’s interface, such as a mouse click or typing a word. It’s about how your customer interacts with your website and how your website interacts with your customer.
Understanding what UI is and how it works on your website can help you with goal achievement and leads to higher conversion rates.
How do you interact with your customers? We think a lot about in-person customer service in shops and hospitality, but online interactions with customers are just as important for ecommerce and service-based business. Often a website is the first interaction your customers will have with your brand. We must consider every online interaction as important as a phone call or someone stepping through the shop door.
Improving user interaction on your website builds trust with your audience. UI can be good navigation, clear call to actions (CTAs) and high quality content that encourage click throughs.
To help the UI of your website, consider asking your website designer to build a live chat. It will offer a very personal customer service and can be considered a very engaging and informative user interaction.
Have a good look at the different user interactions on your website and which ones are underperforming. Look at buttons, links, forms and pages and identify which ones aren’t converting into sales or enquiries.
Design elements to improve Usability?
First and foremost, websites must function effectively. Websites must be easy to use and navigate. 42% of people will leave a website because of poor functionality (Top Design Firms, 2021). But aside from functionality, let’s look at some of the ways website design elements can affect UI and UX.
A good navigation helps guide people through your site seamlessly. Pay attention to where you place your navigation elements, how you name them and how you distinguish between primary, secondary and utility navigation. Users shouldn’t have to think about where to click next – you need to make it clear.
There are a few different design elements to aid navigation.
- Have your main navigation links in the footer so that they appear on every page.
- Use what we call ‘breadcrumb navigation’ so visitors can remember their ‘trail’. This can be a secondary navigation bar that shows us a linear list of pages you’ve been on to get to where you are. They are separated by a >. It makes your landing pages more findable.
- Submenus can quickly give your user what they want.
- Try to avoid putting important navigation links in moving features such as images or scrolling text.
- Avoid organising your items or services into alphabetical order – prioritise related groups. Remember that how you view your product or service structure is not always the way a target customer will see it.
2. Homepage Layout
Your homepage layout is an essential component of good website usability and will aid user interaction. It must be simple and well laid out. When looking at a website for the first time, 38% of consumers look at a page’s layout or navigational links (Top Design Firms, 2021). One of the ways we often structure a homepage is by defining the three tasks that we want the user to achieve and giving each one its own section on the homepage.
3. Search Function
Rather than clicking around a website and a menu, sometimes users will immediately try and find a search tool. This is particularly true with ecommerce websites. If a user can’t immediately find what they’re looking for, they will also look for a search box. If there isn’t one, they’ll click off your site and find a similar product elsewhere.
4. Content Usability
How easy is it to read your content? You must carefully balance your content – text, graphics, images, videos – with plenty of white space.
The layout of your content must be intuitive and easy to read. Poor content structure is one of the main reasons for leaving a website.
- If you have a lot of content, don’t ram it all on to one page. Split it over different pages and link to it from your main article.
- With this in mind, images help readability. They enable you to skim the content and skip to the bits you’re interested in.
- Fast loading content is important for website usability. If an image isn’t loading properly, not only will it affect SEO, it will put off your user from exploring the rest of your website.
Prioritise your colour scheme when designing or redesigning your website. It should fit with your brand but also be easy to read and aesthetically pleasing. Think simple and limited. After all, 39% of consumers appreciate colour more than any other component of a website’s design (Top Design Firms, 2021).
When asked what visual elements they value on a company website, 40% of consumers said images, 39% said colour, and 21% said video (Top Design Firms, 2021).
The design should be consistent across all pages – backgrounds, fonts, colours and tone should all be generally the same. It’s okay to change the layout depending on the content, but keep the layouts grouped depending on their theme. Have different layouts for different types of pages e.g. landing pages, information pages. This will help the visitor to understand the kind of content they’re about to consume.
- Avoid unnecessary design elements.
- Prioritise readable fonts and typefaces.
- Don’t present too many options – it will take your visitor longer to decide between them and you run the risk of them bouncing off your site. If you have a few different options, consider using a slider to display one at a time.
- Clarity is very important. Don’t distract or confuse your user as it might make them forget the reason they clicked on your website in the first place and they’re unlikely to come back.
8. Clear Call-To-Actions (CTAs)
Let’s think about those end goals. What do we want the user to do? Think about your CTAs and make them stand out. Structure the content so that it leads visitors to complete a desired action (we sometimes hear this referred to as ‘visual hierarchy’). Consider the position, size, colour of the elements you want to stand out. For example, if your website is membership-based, you may want the ‘login’ button to be incredibly clear.
9. Conventional Website Design Elements
We assess a website for at least a few seconds before we decide whether to stay on it. There are certain website design elements that users simply expect when they are browsing. We’re very accustomed to them now and a site can feel untrustworthy when they’re not there. For example, we all expect a clickable logo and main navigation in the top left or centre or a shopping trolley symbol to signify an ecommerce basket. They make a website feel more credible. Familiarity is reassuring. We must meet people’s expectations of websites.
It’s essential that people with disabilities or limitations that affect their browsing experiences are able to use your website. All content and alerts must be easily understood. Your website must be usable across all devices and browsers. Assisted technologies are different products and systems that support and assist individuals with disabilities, restricted mobility or other impairments. Your website must comply with these.
11. How Fast Is Your Website?
It is absolutely essential that your website is accessible and displays your content when a user clicks on to it. Hosting problems can sometimes cause loading or accessibility issues, so ensure you have invested in your hosting. You’ll need to check how compatible your website hosting platform is with the devices that are accessing your site.
Have clear credible references, contact information, locations, beliefs, images of real people and transparent pricing. It will build the credibility of your brand. If a user has to dig deep to find out who you are or where you’re based, they’re more likely to think you’re not real and lose any trust you have built.
Website design elements to avoid to improve your website’s usability:
- Get rid of all broken links on your website. These can occur when you change a URL slug and forget to change the internal links.
- Take down pop-ups that obscure content.
- It’s generally considered bad for usability to force your user to open a new window when clicking on a link. It breaks the back button functionality.
Understanding UX and UI is essential for good website design. We’re looking for user-centred website design. By keeping things clear, consistent and readable, you’re helping your user to take the action you want. By gently guiding your user through your site with considered design elements, you’re working towards more conversions. Don’t let your web development and promotion go to waste with poor UX or usability.
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