In a previous article we discussed about the principles of effective visual communications. Those principles also apply in web design and are crucial in making the site appear visually appealing.
Both standpoints should be considered equally. Making a site that presents information in an efficient way and is user-friendly would be pointless, if it looks ugly or doesn’t fit the client’s brand and image. On the other hand none will wait to see your nice graphics if they take too long to load, or have to go through a labyrinth of clicks to get to that page.
So with these two factors in mind let’s see some quick tips to help you build a better website.
1. Users don’t like getting tired. All your content should be well organized and easy to reach, be it a text block or a link to other pages etc. Your design shouldn’t be a hindrance between the information and the user but the conduit.
2. Users don’t like to wait. Try to optimize your graphics loading times and your sites overall performance. That “nice” flash slider won’t do you any good if it takes too long to load. Your user will most probably be in another page by then.
3. Your navigation should be easy to find on the page, and it must be usable. Users must be able to know where the currently are but also how they will reach their next destination. I see sometimes corporate pages with menus 3 & 4 levels deep containing more text in their navigation than in the body of the page itself, and I do wonder if anyone ever bothers navigating that menu.
4. Each of the pages must look like belonging to the same site, changing style dramatically, in terms of layout, or colors or the navigation position etc. will confuse and make your users feel awkward.
5. Take into account the basic principles of design. Even if you think that your web site looks gorgeous because your 4 year old daughter drawn the graphics, it might not be exactly what your clients or your audience is looking for. It never hurts to also take a second and more unbiased opinion too.
6. Be aware of the emerging web technologies, CSS3 is definitely cool but might not work as well in older browsers. Best practice is to use it in non-critical spots of the site. So even if it’s not supported in an older browser it won’t harm or make your design unusable. But if it does the user can experience the better effects.
7. Try to make the site as much accessible as you can. Among your audience might be people with special needs or disabilities that you should take into account too. Web sites should be inclusive for everyone if possible.
8. Always remember that unless you made the site for your viewing pleasure or experimentation, it was created to serve an explicit purpose. Either to sell a product, or service, or showcase your work or distribute news etc., and to be appealing in a specific target audience. Make sure that your design do serve that purpose, and is appealing at that audience.
9. In the end, design is all about the end user. Try to think and feel as your end user would. He is busy, he is overloaded with info, and he has aesthetics.
Hope you enjoyed and found useful this article!
What you think makes or breaks a web site?
Do you use the above approaches or have any additional tips to share? Looking forward to hear your opinions!