5 Key Principles for a User-Friendly Website

Inessa Ischenko
Inessa Ischenko
UX/UI Designer
Daniil Torkut
Daniil Torkut
Content Writer

Do you know that it takes a person about 50 milliseconds to decide whether to stay on your website or leave?

So how about your website - does it make visitors stay? And how can you make them spend more time on your site? A beautiful design or interesting content is great, however, this is not always enough to engage with the users. Your website should satisfy the initial users’ needs, as well as offer corresponding experience and convenient and straightforward functionality.

In this article, we provide 5 essential website usability principles which will help make your website user-friendly, increase average on-site time and improve the bounce rate.

What is website usability?

Usability is all about convenience and simplicity in using a website.

Usability describes how efficiently users can interact with a website. This covers everything a user would typically encounter on a website: any navigation blocks, lists, content, illustrations, videos, buttons, application forms etc.

Jacob Nielsen, Web Usability Pioneer and Consultant, Co-founder @Nielsen Norman Group, PhD in human-computer interaction, describes it this way:

Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word "usability" also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.

In order to be user-friendly, your website should be relevant to your target audience. Always bear in mind who your customers are and what goals they have. Have they got everything they require after visiting your website? It’s important to tune to your audience and know its behaviour patterns.

Why is usability important?

If your website is not user-friendly, the visitors may get into a mess in navigation, may not find the required button, and even may be unable to make a purchase. All of this may result in bad user experience for your website, and users will immediately leave it.

That’s why the principal goal is to make the site as easy-to-use and convenient as possible.

Steve Krug, a US-based user experience professional, in his book “Don’t Make Me Think” states the main usability goal: you make a user unhappy if you force them to think much. Everything on your website should be as simple and transparent as possible.

How to make a website user-friendly?

1. Easy navigation

Navigation is the cornerstone of usability. It is not important how exciting your website is if users experience difficulties when browsing it. Easy navigation allows a user to comprehend the website structure. This way, the customers understand how to quickly visit a particular page without any difficulties.

In case your users don’t understand how to move through your website or app, most likely they will not try very hard, and will leave the site. To avoid such situations, you should make the main navigation menu options clearly visible. Do not hide them in the dropdowns, let them take pride of place. Also, you should analyze what the most-viewed pages are and emphasize them in the navigation panel.

Additionally, one more critical issue is to make sure a user is aware of what page they are on. They must understand it accurately at any moment. Breadcrumbs are very helpful here, as they assist in website navigation.

Case Study

iExpedition is a web platform for booking voyages with the target audience aged 45+. So when we started developing the website, we paid much attention to the navigation panel and its elements, considering their target audience. The main goal was to make the visitors’ path as clear and easy as possible: starting with choosing a tour and ending with booking it.

To achieve this, we made the main navigation menu options bigger in size compared to other elements. The menu itself is located in the centre of the page, and additionally, there are breadcrumbs on the pages. In this way, the menu options are always available to a user and are easy to find.

Secondary menu options are smaller in size. Actually, users visit such pages to look for additional information after they have checked the primary options.

How to Create a User-Friendly Website: Easy navigation for IExpedition | Codica

2. A unified style for website or app

It’s impossible to make users bear your website structure in mind, so it’s highly recommended to arrange everything to maximize a user’s convenience. For these purposes, you can create a guideline for consistency of your website or app structure. The colours and style should be recognizable, and the website flow should be easy-to-use.

Additionally, all the pages should have a common template: from the heading font size to the identical signup form location. All this allows users to navigate quickly on a website.

Case Study

Digital Village is an online collaboration space assisting businesses to find programmers and designers and work on their projects online.

For this project, we have created a guideline where we specified the utilizable font, colours, button sizes and hover state. Thus, following the recommendations described in the guide helps to enhance the convenience of your website or app.

How to Create a User-Friendly Website: Unified style for Digital Village | Codica

3. Following industry design standards

During the website development process, it’s of utmost importance to uphold the standards for a particular industry. Valuable template for a travel agency website won’t fit a medical application. Supporting the standards will help enhance the communication process with the users.

To date, most people have sufficient experience of interacting with the sites. They already have certain expectations about the location of each element on a website. If you try to reinvent the wheel and change the elements’ location, this may negatively affect the customers' experience. Common concepts and standards have been discovered a long time ago, and it’s highly recommended to follow them.

Case Study

Galith is an online jewellery store. Like with any E-commerce projects, there are several rules that should better be followed.

The search option should be available on every page so that users could find everything they need at any moment.

The shopping cart button should be located in the top right corner (as shown below). The reason for this is obvious: the community got so used to it that if you change the button position, this will most likely confuse the users. As a result, you will lose potential customers, as they simply might not be able to complete their purchases.

However, if you still want to bend the common standards, then you should be aware of the possible risks, and make sure that your changes are executed consciously and reasonably within your project.

How to Create a User-Friendly Website: Following industry design standards for Galith | Codica

4. Using pictures and illustrations

It is easier for our brain to process visual information. For this reason, using pictures and illustrations will help you to attract users’ attention. When they see other people, this makes a good impression.

It’s important to utilize the pictures that fit your website or application theme. In case you choose the wrong content, it may confuse the users. And of course, the pictures must be of high quality.

Moreover, one of the useful methods to attract users’ attention is the illustration. It helps to display the website theme and subject.

Case Study

When we were working on Codica website illustrations, our primary goal was to make sure they clearly demonstrate our values, services, and the tech stack. All of these add to the website freshness, making it more interesting and user-friendly.

How to Create a User-Friendly Website: Using pictures and illustrations | Codica

5. Mobile version

A big part of users visit websites via mobile devices. From year to year, this amount will only increase, and it forces to initially create a mobile version for your site or app. Thus, It allows covering the larger number of users worldwide.

According to Statista, the number of mobile users worldwide from 2010 to 2020 has raised almost twofold. The global amount of mobile users is projected to amount to 9,038 million in 2020.

Statistics: Number of mobile users worldwide 2010-2020 | Codica

Concerning the mobile version of your website, there are specific recommendations as well.

To begin with, try to avoid using a large amount of text on a page. It’s better to break the text into small portions with additional “Read more…” sections. Robert Gunning in his book “How to Take the Fog Out of Business Writing” says that most sentences should be 20 words long or less for comfortable reading.

It is also important to adhere to the optimal font size - approximately 16px, and it should be larger for headings. Add more line spacing to make the text more readable.

Also, it is recommended to make the website webforms mobile adaptive. It will improve the user experience when entering data on your site.

Case Study

Africar is an online multi-site marketplace for buying and selling cars in Africa. The majority of the target audience in the geographic area prefers using smartphones and tablets for browsing websites. Consequently, creating a mobile website version was critical to cover a larger number of users.

How to Create a User-Friendly Website: Mobile version | Codica

Testing is everything

In case your colleagues and friends use your website without any problems, it doesn’t mean that potential users will clearly understand how it works. It is preferable to conduct interviews and survey your real customers to follow their behaviour pattern.

User experience vs design: Testing is everything | Codica

We create websites and applications for potential users, and not for ourselves. You should define what initial goals your target audience will have while visiting your website and what information they want to see on it.

Here is an exciting video with Jakob Nielsen. He covers the topic of think-aloud user testing and discovers both the benefits and drawbacks of this technique.

Conclusion

We have described 5 fundamental principles to enhance the website usability which will help you make your website more user-friendly. You can take them into consideration while developing, testing, or analyzing your website.

Summarizing all mentioned above, we can emphasize the main important points for improving website usability:

  • Know your customers and try to solve their issues in your web solution.
  • Provide users with a clear navigation panel.
  • Provide an easy-to-use style for the user experience.
  • Try to follow the common web standards.
  • Add pictures and illustrations that simplify users’ perception.
  • Create a mobile version to engage with more users.
  • Test your website by conducting interviews and surveying your real customers.

Finally, customer orientation is always the key to success regardless of how much effort is put into the improvement.

Are you looking to create a user-friendly design for your website or to improve user experience of an existing solution? Contact us for an interview with our UI/UX experts.

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