A comprehensive look at how the design of a website should consider the user first and foremost and give them the best possible experience
When the Internet was in its infancy every website was devoured greedily by the hoards who were hungry for more information, to buy online or simply to browse and marvel at the wonder of it all. Obviously times have changed but sadly some websites haven’t made the cut and they are now wallowing in the bowels of Google et al and barely get a second glance. They are the Internet’s equivalent to those must have gadgets that are used for a short while before being condemned to the bottom drawer.
Obviously we can look at this story and think “well duh, it’s 2015, what do you expect?”, but how are you going to react when we tell you some of these websites have cost a fortune to develop and look absolutely bloody fantastic? It’s true, check it out yourself. There is one massive thing that the designers of these websites completely failed to take into consideration, and that is user behaviour.
To properly implement the principles of web design we must know how the users think, their behaviour when they visit a website and what experience they expect from it. The old saying “the customer always comes first” is as relevant today as it ever was, the only difference being it applies more to websites than any other medium. The following is a brief look at the basic patterns of user behaviour every good website designer should view as priorities.
What They See
In essence, those consumers who head to ecommerce website behave in much the same way as those who visit a bricks and mortar store. They want to see everything that is available instantly and short of picking it up an online store should replicate a real one. Online shoppers will browse through the pages, look closer at the content that interests them and click on the link that interests them the most. In short, they only take notice of the tiny portion of the page that interests them, they don’t even notice the rest.
Designing a web page that is interesting in its entirety isn’t difficult in the hands of a expert web designer. Less is definitely more as half a dozen items which all looking useful, interesting and are begging to be clicked is way more powerful visually than a few dozen all squashed together. Remember the only sense you are appealing to is vision, so get the aesthetics right and the rest will follow.
Never Cut Corners on Quality and Credibility
The design of the website, while important, pales in comparison against the quality of the content. In an ideal world you would have a website that ticked both boxes but this also explains why those websites that are pretty poorly designed but have killer content are on page 1 and have way more traffic. Proof if ever you needed it that content rules OK! Few website designers are also excellent writers, and most would admit to this and outsource to a freelance writer do this for a living. There are those who try and do both but very rare do they succeed. A client in paying for a top end website that ticks every box when it comes to user experience and their untrained eye may not notice the content is short of the mark but you can bet your bottom dollar the users will!
Satisfying the Demanding and the Impatient
Online shoppers spend less time browsing than ever before. They are so used to it now that they want to be on a site, find the key points they are looking for quickly and easily, pay for it and back out. If a web designer doesn’t meet the expectations of the users then he will have failed in his task. So basically, if a website does not offer the best possible user experience for those with extremely high standards they will simply leave and move onto the next site.
Users Don’t Always Make the Best Decisions
Users tend to take time finding the information they want as they don’t work systematically. They scan web pages jumping from one section to each other depending on what catches their attention. Every link may lead them to their ultimate target so they click like mad and want the results instantly. The problem with may websites is that they simply don’t tap into this psyche, and even the most addicted clicker will soon get sick of not finding the pot of gold at the end of the link.
Capture the Users Imagination
The likelihood is that browsers will browse quickly rather than reading the information. There is a simple reason for this; they don’t actually care what’s written on the pages. Maybe don’t care is probably a bit extreme, lets say that those stories, descriptions etc which drone on and on don’t interest them. Short, sharp and full of info is what they want to see on a website. “This kettle is the greatest one ever invented and does way more than just boil water!” Wow, what could a kettle do apart from boiling water? Click. Of course there has to be something good at the end of it or they won’t come back, so don’t promise what you can’t deliver but at the same time make the click irresistible.
Let The User Feel As If They Are in Control
Today’s users want to feel as if they are in control, and each web page of every website has been designed especially for them. You have designed that website just for them, how great are you? This is probably the hardest part of the users psyche to get right as, quite frankly, you can’t please everybody all of the time. This is where target audiences and demographics come into play. It’s impossible to create a website that is perfect for everyone but bringing the above into play, making sure every page is relevant and that is has top notch quality content goes a long way towards pleasing the vast majority.
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