18 Usability Tips to Help You Create a Better UX for Your Site

To say things bluntly, usability is when you make your website easy enough, so visitors can find everything they need, when they need it, as easy as possible.

A common opinion amongst web companies is that usability is pretty expensive to implement.

Sure, there are companies and people who spend thousands on usability research and tests, but for an everyday company, you can get good usability, without resorting to experts, and without spending money on expensive testing equipment.

If you’re a web designer, things are even easier. You can read through usability articles, and you’ll sooner rather than later have a good knowledge about the basics of usability, and how to incorporate them into a website. Below are a few tips you can follow.

Make sure you know your audience

The most important tips on how to design a good interface should come from the people who use the interface. If you’re planning on starting a website, you should have an idea of what the audience you’re targeting wants. However, laying things out is a whole different beast to tackle.

You should have a clear idea of what kind of necessity will get people to your website, and how the design will draw them further. If you’re a bit lost, just look at the competition. Look at the best websites in the field, and see what they have in common – this is often a good starting point.

If you use design patterns that your audience is comfortable with, it will make them feel welcome, and ease them into your site. Then, use your own take on their requirements.

Once you’ve identified your target audience, check how your design ideas work with them, and make sure you consider their feedback. The actionable feedback is very valuable, don’t neglect it.

Add a tagline

A tagline is basically a motto or a statement, which represents the website’s mission and philosophy.

Usability Tips

It should be one of the most obvious elements on a front page of a website, and it should give a clear description of the website in a single phrase.

According to research, each website has a mere 8 seconds to capture the user’s attention, if it expects said user to keep on browsing. Without a clear tagline, your website will struggle to keep visitors long enough for them to browse through the website.

Keep things simple and consistent

Simplicity is key when we’re discussing a great user interface. By this, I don’t mean just put a button or two, and add some animations for things to be interesting, but you should make things easy to interact with and understand.

Usability Tips

Your users shouldn’t need to struggle with navigation, and as an interface designer, you should be able to guide them from their current standpoint, to where they need to go. To achieve this, elements such as typography, colors and feedback messages should be used.

The interface is best kept consistent throughout the design. This means that you shouldn’t be changing things completely on each part of the website, and you should reinforce the main design facets at every turn.

As users navigate through the site, they should feel a natural progress, without their immersion being broken due to some jarring design choices.

Make use of white space

Even though a lot of people complain that all of that white space can be used for more advertisements, they seldom understand that white space is actually essential to a well-designed page.

Usability Tips

It makes your content much more legible, and it lets the user focus on the elements surrounding the text.

If you want to get a lot of content above the fold, too much white space might be getting in the way of some valuable information.

The most important thing? Finding a balance point between what you want to tell your users first, and surround that with enough white space to highlight the content itself.

Navigational ease

Intuitive navigation is key if you want to ensure that people can find what they’re looking for.

Going from point A to point B should be as easy as possible, and you don’t want people to overthink where they should click next – this should be intuitive.

Make those call-to-action buttons attractive

Your customers are usually used to following visual hints in order to figure out what content is important to them.

Usability Tips

A call to action which is clearly marked with an action word will let your user navigate your site more easily, and get where they should.

When you’re creating the buttons, you should think about the color, as well as the psychology of color. Different colors will convey different messages. You should think about the message you want to convey and choose the colors accordingly.

Next, think about the words themselves. They should include an action word, or a verb, that will cause the user to DO SOMETHING.

When you’re choosing the right words, they’ll act like a trigger, and how much action they trigger depends on the level of emotions the word prompts. If there’s no emotional connection, there’s no action. Keep that in mind.

Keep the headings well-designed and well-written

The headings and content are driven by what your potential customers are actually looking for. When you include keywords in the title, it’s also very important for conveying your message, and to the right audience.

A search engine will typically give an advantage to a heading, over other content, so the right heading that stands out will actually improve the searchability.

Even more important, the headings actually guide your user through the website, which means that intuitive headings will make it much easier for him to find content that he needs.

Make good use of contrast and color

Choosing the right colors for any kind of design is actually a science of itself. If you’re reading this now, it is very likely that you are at least somewhat familiar with the psychology of colors, so we won’t be getting into details there at the moment.

Usability Tips

Instead, we’ll focus on how you can focus on using the colors to their highest potential to get a stunning interface in the end.

Colors convey visual hierarchy, and you can use them to elevate your designs, establish a good relationship between the elements, as well as keep your users’ attention.

When you’re working with the interface, the colors you use should maintain some uniformity, in order to convey visual hints, and you should keep your color scheme as minimal as possible.

Use visual hierarchy

The visual hierarchy says that you should organize and arrange the website elements so users can naturally get to the most important elements first.

When you’re optimizing the user experience and usability in general, the main goal is to get visitors to complete the desired action. However, this should be done in a natural, enjoyable way.

When you adjust the color, position or size of some elements, you should structure your site in a way that draws your visitors to those elements you think are more important first.

If you look at the way great websites design their header, you’ll notice that all of them use visual hierarchy well.

Typography is your friend

Usability Tips

Typography is a very elegant way of establishing the visual hierarchy we were talking about a minute ago. However, this isn’t as simple as picking a nice font and using it throughout your design.

To begin with, all the fonts have their own personality. And it’s very important to let your picks be influenced by the audience as well. Last but not least, size is also a key factor when you’re using fonts to design anything.

Add a site search

You may make your website as easy as possible to navigate, but you can’t exclude the option that someone still won’t be able to find what they need. This is where the site search comes in, as it lets the users search for whatever they need using the search field.

A good practice here is to make the search box 27 characters wide. This is a good width to keep the text easy to use and clearly visible. The search text field should be placed on the top of the webpage.

Research shows that most users tend to search through a website using the F pattern, from the top left to the bottom right, and a search field at the top is very convenient.

Usability Tips

In the text field, don’t use a search text such as “Submit” or “Go”, because that may be misleading, and a clearly specified search text is easier to understand. Add a search button too.

Avoid 404s

A search engine might not punish you too hard if there’s a Page not found (404) error, but a user certainly will. When they click an image or a link, they expect it to take them to the next place they should go.

Usability Tips

If instead, they get a 404 error, they will get easily annoyed. They will most likely re-think why they spent time on your website and turn to other websites for a solution.

404s are right next to a slow page load time in the line of things that can make things frustrating for a user that is browsing your website.

You should be responsive and mobile friendly

Nowadays more and more users access websites through their smartphones. The technology advancements let us do this nowadays, and you should keep up with the trend.

Usability Tips

Your website should be easy to navigate on any screen, including a smartphone one, because if a user can’t access it from his smartphone and enjoy the experience, chances are he won’t try that again on a computer and go to a different website instead.

Keep the workflow

And when I say workflow, I mean the operations that someone is doing on your website. Regardless of whether they’re registering on the website, or filling out a form, or browsing categories, these workflows shouldn’t be broken.

Instead, give the users an option to cancel any operation. If you don’t give them the option, it makes them feel like you’re forcing them to finish it, which isn’t very pleasant.

Not every operation is obvious, and descriptive tips can easily guide them through the specific workflow, such as filling out a form. A JavaScript link is a good example of something that easily breaks the workflow, so try avoiding them.

Not changing the color of a visited link is another mistake. This makes the user think about where he’s been on the website, and where he is currently, and you can take this off his mind very easily.

Make your forms simple

Usability Tips

Forms are one of the main methods your users will use to interact with your web projects. It is right next to clicking and, every once in a while, cursing at their devices because something isn’t really working properly.

The main problem is that a lot of users will hate forms which have a burning passion, due to a number of users. Therefore, you should integrate the forms as painlessly as possible, to stop your users from getting angry at their computers.

The first question to ask yourself is “Do I really need this form?”. There are a lot of situations where a sign up isn’t really necessary, so if you can avoid that, the user will be happier, and you won’t have to design an additional user interface, so it’s a win-win situation for both of you. In case, however, the sign-up is really necessary, make the forms as simple as possible.

Create a web page that is easy to scan

If you want to keep the visitors on your website, the website being easy to read and go through its pages is an important factor.

Usability Tips

The usability tests show that most of the users don’t really read through the entire web pages, instead just scanning them and looking for bold, emphasized text such as titles, and looking for lists.

Eye tracking studies also show that users will read content that looks like the letter F, with the start at the upper left, then moving down a little, and begin from the left again.

An important method that can be learned from a traditional, printed newspaper, is that a catchy headline, as well as a catchy first paragraph, will make you want to read through the whole article. The content is organized in an inverted pyramid format, where the broad base gives the most important information, and the information gets less important as you move down.

Make use of text formatting and bulleted lists

Bold or italic text, as well as a bulleted list, will make your user fixate there for a longer period of time. These style tools have a distinctive appearance, which garners attention and speeds up the reading by breaking down information and highlighting what is important with style features.

When you break up a paragraph into bulleted points, it makes things easier to go through. You can add up to that by highlighting information with italic and bold text.

Meaningful feedback is essential

Meaningful feedback is the main communication channel between the site and its users. Using feedback, you let the users know what is happening on the site.

In the case of an error, give the users a meaningful message instead of a generic error. The message should tell the user what went wrong and what they can do at that point.

Feedback is a two-way thing. When a user fills in one of your forms on the website, he is basically giving you feedback. Therefore, you shouldn’t make him fill in the same things more than once.

For example, if he has already registered and needs to fill a form, later on, don’t ask them for information they already gave you, like their name or anything else. These things already exist considering he has registered previously, and you can fetch them from the database, keeping things simple for the user.

Wrapping things up

Even though it might seem like an intimidating field, web design can give you an excellent opportunity to up your game.

Your website should be easy to use and simple to navigate and make use of the right colors.

The right fonts are also important, and feedback messages will keep your users coming back instead of pushing them away. And, last but not least, keep things consistent. It does help.

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