4 UX Tips to Make Your Website Users Happy

User experience is close to the most important thing that every website needs to get right. Of course a site needs to be accessible, standards-compliant, fast and much more – but if you don’t get things right for your users, your site will never gain or keep an audience. There are lots of ways you can improve user experience but there are a few which have a greater impact than others – yes, UX follows the 80/20 rule like so many things! So here are the top 4 ways you can improve UX on your website.

1. Make things obvious

Your website is incredibly familiar to you. You spent days planning it, designing it and coding it, if not weeks or even months. After a while it can start to get so familiar that you can’t see the wood for the trees. Your users are different. Even if they’ve visited the site before, they haven’t spent much time on it and they want to be able to do what they’ve come to do quickly and easily. Which is why you have to make things obvious. Avoid clever, unusual design tricks – they may win design awards but they don’t win customers, readers or fans. And stick to what’s familiar to your users – make sure everything is where they expect it to be and works in the way they expect it to. Here are some specifics for making things obvious:

  • Don’t hide anything you want users to be able to see or click on, whether that be by hiding text until the user rolls their mouse over an image, or by hiding content behind tabs. You don’t want to rely on the chance that visitors will find your content.
  • Identify the two most important aspects of your site (or maybe just one). In some cases those will be about selling or getting people to contact you; in others they’ll be about encouraging users to consume content. Make sure users can do those two things either on the home page or with just one click from the home page, and that whatever they click on looks like a link or button and is visible when the site launches.Take the Apple website below: at the time of writing, Apple want you to buy an iPad Air. That couldn’t be more obvious when you visit their website.

  • Make your layout intuitive. It doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s but if you do stray from the standard layout with a header at the top, footer at the bottom and content in between, make sure you’re doing it for a good reason, and that you use other visual cues to make things obvious.The Cafe Blend site below uses a non-standard layout but the box containing the navigation makes it obvious what it is.
  • Use familiar visual cues to indicate what’s what. These include buttons, underlined links, borders and margins to separate elements from each other and images only when they help to illustrate something, not just because they’re pretty. It’s tempting to use colour instead of an underline for your links but have you considered colour-blind users? Links in Google search results are blue and underlined – it may not look stunning but it works from a user perspective:

2. Make navigation quick and intuitive

Navigation is the most obvous way for your users are to get around your site, so it needs to be user-friendly. Make sure your navigation menu is where people are expecting it to be, that it isn’t hidden and that it’s logical. Some specifics:

  • Make sure navigation is visible when the site launches. That means having it at the top of the page and NOT hiding it until the user rolls over something.
  • Use text for navigation, not images. Images will slow your site down and may not work on all users’ browsers, as well as being bad for accessibility.
  • If you’re using a non-standard font, make sure you have a backup in your font-family declaration that all users will have and that won’t break your layout, for example:
    nav.main {
    font-family: ‘Helvetica Neue Light’, arial, sans-serif;
    }
  • In the example above, you’ll need to load Helvetica Neue Light using webfonts but if it doesn’t work for any of your users they will have a backup.The Camping and Caravanning Club site below uses webfonts for its navigation but has a backup just in case:
  • Make the text in your navigation large enough for people to read quickly. If you’ve got loads of links to squeeze in and have to reduce text size, rethink the structure of your navigation instead.
  • Make your navigation logical – ask users what they’re looking for and what they exepct your site to conatin. Use hierarchies, such as having a ‘products’ and ‘services’ link in the top level with a list of services and products in the submenus. Or split your products into categories – for example a clothing retailer might have top level links to menswear and womenswear with specific clothing types in the submenus.
  • ALWAYS include a ‘home’ link in navigation. Even if your logo is linking to the home page (which it should do), a link must be in the navigation menu as well. Some users don’t know that it’s common to have the logo linking to the home page.
  • If your site includes secondary navigation, put that somewhere logical and familiar. This will normally be one of three places:
      • horizontally below the main navigation
      • vertically to the left of the content
      • vertically to the right of the content.

    The Guardian website uses submenus in each section, immediately below the main navigation and in the colour of that section: The Marks and Spencer website has internal navigation to the left of the content:

3. Include a search box

This is simple but very effective. Make sure your site has a search box somewhere nice and obvious. Some users prefer using search to links and navigation; others may not be able to find what they’re looking for via the menus. Even if your site is small, a search box will help UX, and for a large site it’s essential. The Microsoft site has a large search box at the top right, exactly where you’d expect to see it:

4. Don’t exclude users

All users are important to the success of your site. Whether you’re trying to sell a product, encourage people to contact you, make money from advertising or just have a simple blog, you have no way of knowing exactly how every user will access your site and what challenges they may face.

  • Make sure your site is accessible: good UX and accessibility go hand in hand. By using clear visual clues, ensuring everything on your site is as it appears and by using text instead of images for navigation, you will be partway towards making your site accessible. You’ll also need to follow other accessibility standards in terms of coding images, use of styling and more. For full guideleins see the W3C accessibility standards.
  • Ensure your code is standards-compliant and works on modern browsers. Avoid using plugins such as Flash which don’t work on all browsers or devices, and limit the use of javascript to avoid alienating users who have it switched off or for whom it causes performance issues. You’ll find that many of the effects traditionally acheieved with javascript can now be done using CSS.
  • Design your site to be responsive so it works across devices, whether they be smartphones or tablets using whatever operating system. As the sale of smartphones and tablets incerases, a growing number of users dpn’t have access to the web via a desktop computer but use their mobile device as their only way of accessing your site. If they can’t access your site or if it’s too difficult to navigate or read, they won’t hang around.
  • Don’t give users on different devices a different experience without a very good reason. There’s nothing more frustrating than visiting a site on mobile only to be faced with a limited number of pages based on what the website owner assumes you want to consume. You can no longer make any assumptions about how mobile users access the web, so don’t shut them out.

Summary

User experience is crucial: without it, your website won’t attract and hold onto users, won’t sell anything, provide a service, get any fans or make money from advertising. So it’s important that you give your users the best possible experience you can, while still meeting the core objectives of your site. The top four methods above will take you most of the way towards having a great, user-friendly site. Oh, and a final tip – once you’ve implemented all this, do some user testing – even if you ask a couple of friends for their feedback, you never know what you might find out!

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