A bright and shiny surface on a superficial website can be so misleading. The real substance of design takes place in its deep undercurrents – in its effective usability. Designers overlooking this fact could be unknowing creating sites that talk a good game but fail miserably to deliver. How can you increase the effectiveness of your usability and why does it matter?
Let’s explain. If the most significant part of a website is the user, then it makes sense that the most important part of design is how well a user is able to use the site, so usability is a good site’s even greater engine. Without it, your shiny design goes absolutely nowhere.
Now then, the way forward for effective web design is obviously to increase usability every chance we get. Take a look at a few excellent principles for stellar usability.
The Thinking of a User
Ever wondered how users really think? Plenty of professionals have already done the work of investigating this for us. They’ve found that users want valuable content without complicated visuals – something of worth in a scan-able package.
Users also want control and up-front satisfaction. They are not interested in how a site works – its mechanics and the complex purpose, mission or goals of a decent design. They simply want something that works time and time again with very little, if any, trouble.
Giving Them What They Want
1. Eliminate the Mystery
Users follow and stick with only what they can understand. In other words, they are keen on taking cues from the look and feel of a site to get what they need from it. For example, most critics decry the easy 1-2-3 structure of modern websites, but actually these sites deal responsibly with a visitor’s need to quickly and easily decide for themselves what to do next or even whether to take action at all.
This means eliminating the mysteries and complexities of content and design. In short, steer clear of confusing design that makes keeps users searching for clues about the meaning of it all.
2. Give Them a Good Focal Point
The human eye is drawn to focal points, and the aim of effective web design is to do just that – catch the eye. Bold text works as well as it does because it creates a focus for the eyes and allows a user to, overlooking everything else, zero-in and read. Similarly, large graphics and images, videos and the like all have the potential to give the eyes a central focal point.
A great user experience, then, depends on the way the gaze of a visitor is attracted. Will the design stand out enough for users to focus? Will it require users to waste time deciphering what the content and site is all about? Remember; keep focal points free of too much mystery. If the visitor has to question the focal point itself, that focal point has defeated its own purpose.
3. Nothing Too Complicated
The simplicity of the following site offers a great insight into the power of simplicity in effective web design. It’s smooth and clean lines as well a clearly visible and functional navigation is not something that must be guessed. Rather, the straightforward design elements, though few in the number convey a concrete, clear message to any visitor.
Each of these are basic principles for effective design with an eye toward increased usability. The last piece of advice is to test all elements early and often to ensure that each principle remains intact so that each can pull together for a final design that gives the user a satisfying experience.