Information on Loughborough

Web Design In Eastbourne

Description:Web designers based in Eastbourne in East Sussex

Website:Eastbourne Web Design

Found in category: Loughborough Web Designers

Web Site Usability

It is an unfortunate fact that many web site owners spend vast quantities of time trying to promote their site using various Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in order to increase the number of visitors. However the reality for the majority of sites is that the time would be better invested ensuring that the design of their site is optimised for users by utilising solid research backed methodologies. Otherwise the site could be a waste of the visitors time. There are five main categories of items that should be addressed by any website developer or website designer: navigation, content, brand, feedback and testing.

Navigation

A good website has a clear navigation structure. This navigation structure should inform the user of three things:

  • Where am I?
  • Where have I been?
  • Where can I go?
  • However there are several other concepts that are essential to an effective user experience.
Consistency.

It is important that the navigation system should be located in the same place on every page. Visitors can get easily confused and frustrated if where they click to go to a different page changes. It is also important that the navigation of a site is similar to other sites – either on the left or at the top of each page. Users expect the navigation bars of a website to be located in these locations and unless you have a very good reason to depart from the norm, don't do it.

Appropriate text links descriptions.

A link should adequately describe where it will take the user. It is not up to the user to find out or guess, they neither have the time nor the patience trying to work out through trial and error the next stage. If ambiguity in a link is unavoidable, then the 'title' attribute should be used so that when the user moves their mouse over the link further information is displayed on the destination of that link.

Identify Hyperlinks.

Again users don't have the time or inclination to discover what is and what isn't a link. Standard HTML links are easy to identify even by novice users and again unless there is a real reason to depart from these then the standard should be accepted as the best option. However some designers, normally from a graphical background, object to these on aesthetic grounds. In which case the resulting style should again clearly indicate that the text is in fact a link.

Use Text Links.

There are some really cool effects that can be used for creating animated links using a variety of technologies such as JavaScript. However complete reliance on these can cause problems. Not only do you run into issues of whether the clients browser supports the features you are using, you could fall foul of Disability Discrimination Legislation by preventing users from using your site because they rely on different technology such as screen readers to use the site. It has been a legal requirement for UK websites to be accessible since 1999. Since then all websites have been expected to make “reasonable adjustments” to ensure their websites accommodate all users regardless of ability, disability.

Have a Human Readable Sitemap.

Large or complex sites should always have a site map that users can refer to. Whilst many website designers have got into the habit of providing a sitemap for search engines there is often little thought to a human readable sitemap that users can quickly refer to to find the information which they are seeking.

Have a Clear Home Link

Many websites typically make the logo on the page of each site a link to the home page. However whilst many experienced websurfers will be aware of this fact, there are a significant number of users who are unaware of that fact. When this factor is coupled with the situation that people may land on internal pages of the site from an external link rather than through the home page of the website there is a potential for the user to miss the main navigation pointer which should be on the home page. In order to accommodate both types of users it is sensible to have both a link using the site logo and a clearly labelled 'Home' textual link on the navigation bar.

Site Search Box.

For any significantly sized web site it is important to have a search box that provides the user the option of quickly finding what they are after. It is also important that this search facility provides the most relevant results foremost. It is also important that the system allows for common spelling mistakes and provides the user with appropriate suggestions if the term entered doesn't exactly matched. Carefull consideration has also to be taken of documents other than HTML on a site, such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, PDFs when providing an indexing and searching facility so that important information is not overlooked. There is no definitive size of site when a search box should be introduced, however if a user is faced by more than 3 page navigations to find what they are looking for it is probably time to consider adding a search facility.

Content

It is possible that you may attract visitors because you have an amazing eye catching design. However it is content that will keep visitors returning. Remember that a good website is an informative website. Most search engines also recognise this fact and will rank content rich sites higher. It is also important to keep the content fresh and up to date. The best sites slowly grow with new updated content replacing or adding to the existing content. Remember though that you are writing for humans rather than search engines. Your site should leave a good impression on the user so that they will consider coming back.

Best stuff foremost.

It is important to place your most interesting content in a prominent position. This applies to links to it from your home page and high up on the actual page itself. Take a lesson from the newspaper industry – most important information on the front page with the least important information towards the bottom of subsequent pages.

Scannable.

People actually have slightly different reading habits when using the web compared to sitting down and reading a book. Most people will rapidly scan over a page to see if it is what they are looking for. You should therefore carefully structure the content of your page so that it facilitates scanning. This can be done with the judicious use of headings, colours and even white space.

Use ALT and TITLE tags

Every image should have a descriptive tag associated with it. There are so many reasons for doing this. Whilst many people will populate these because of SEO objectives, think about disabled users who might be using screen readers or alternatively people on slower connections whose browser will replace the space to be occupied by the image with the text of the alt tag whilst it waits for the image to load.

Keep Contrast High

Keeping the contrast between the text of the site and the background of the site as high as possible is the most fundamental of principles if you want a legible, easy to read website. Every time you decrease the optimimum which is black text on a white background, you make it harder for people to read your text. Do you really want to drive people away?

Brand

A strong brand image creates or reinforces a persons view of a site. Branding websites takes considerable quantities of both time and effort. There are however some guidelines that can be followed to assist in the branding process. The major guideline is to be consistent throughout the site. The user of the website should never click an internal link on the site and because of different page layout, be left wondering if they are on the same site. There should be a common template for the site which covers the layout, colours and fonts. This should create a uniform appearance and allow the users to predict the location of important elements such as navigation after visiting a single page on the web site. The same template for a site should also be used for error pages. Almost all servers allow for the specification of custom error pages and these should use the same template of the main site. It is also possible with some carefull coding to analyse what the error was and provide the user of possible pages. Finally, there should be a good tagline utilised on every page. Nike said, “Just do it.” . Tagline, strapline, slogan… Whatever you choose to call it, it’s all the same. It’s the key phrase that identifies your business by capturing the essence of three elements: Your mission, Your promise and Your brand. To capture a reader’s eye at a glance, you need to combine all three elements of mission, promise and brand to create a great tagline that really works. Then you need to use that tagline on every page.

Provide For Visitor Feedback.

Remember that most users wont go to the trouble of looking up and email address and sending you an email to give feedback, either good or bad, so how do you know what your users think about the usability of your site? You should provide the facility for a user to provide feedback as easily as possible and you should solicit this in as many places as possible on your site. The best way of undertaking this is to use a form on the site. Don't however try to harvest more information than is absolutely possible. Remember every time you add a field to a form and it becomes more involved the greater the chances the user wont spend the time completing it. Rember also that over 99% of people who come across a problem with your site won't bother telling you so you ought to objectively assess each comment you get as potentially the situation is 100 fold greater.

Test With Real Users

Most website owners and all website developers tend to be extremely competent web users and also have a vested interest in their site. Because of this their view of how the site performs can be radically different from the intended audience. Because of this it is important to test the site (before it goes live) with real everday users. The type of testing that you need to undertake will depend on various factors. If it is an ecommerce site then you might want to test how easy it was to make a purchase. If it is a news website then you might want to test how easy it is to find an article on a specific subject. If it is new blogging software you might want to test how easy it is to create a user account. There are a variety of testing methodologies that can be used and the results of the testing should feed back into the design of the site which should then be retested.

Remember always that web usability means designing for your intended audience – the web site users rather than your own or that of your client. You need to create a site that conforms to your audiences expectations and is easy to use. Doing this will make the users more likely to make a return visit and recommend the site to their friends. Good usability is critical to your site's success.

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