Media Contour is a multi-disciplined design studio that works and writes about issues, trends and strategies that affect businesses and the design industry. Our goal is to deliver cutting edge, usable information that will ultimately add to your online success.
Published on July 30th, 2009 by Alexander
Web designers and developers are continually gaining new tools to facilitate effective website creation. Compatibility, usability, interaction, visual appeal, and support for a website’s users are all important aspects for a designer or developer to consider when looking to present the most interesting and user-friendly site possible. By implementing these simple suggestions, you can dramatically improve your users’ experience and the overall performance of your site.
1. Optimize the search function on your website or blog to make it easy for your users to find the information or media that they are looking for. Tag everything from articles to pictures and videos so that all of the content on your website is searchable. You want your users to spend a lot of time on your website, but you don’t want that time to be spent digging around for information that should be readily available.
2. Include links to all of your social network profiles on your homepage. Visitors who are genuinely interested in you or your business should be able to easily connect with you via social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. By including these links, your users can get more involved in learning about your company and will get the feeling that there are real, compassionate people behind your website.
3. Create landing pages that direct users to the content that is most relevant to them. Landing pages are convenient for your users because they can cut down on the time it takes for them to navigate through your website. Landing pages can dramatically improve conversions from website visitors to leads by providing users with a direct path to the page or form you are hoping they will use.
4. Optimize your website for the iPhone and other mobile devices by creating a version of your site that is readable and usable on the popular mobile browsers. Make sure that all text and media is formatted correctly for the smaller screen size and that your website’s style stays intact. Media Contour has an informative iPhone tutorial to get you started with making your website mobile-friendly.
5. Incorporate a text-to-speech application like Odiogo that allows your users to listen to an audio version of your website’s content. This is especially useful for users who are blind, illiterate, too busy to read, or simply lazy. Many people do not want to devote their time to reading a long blog article—by listening to it, they can browse through other sites or multi-task in other ways while they are enjoying your words of wisdom. Media Contour has implemented this application so that you can try it out for yourself—just click the “listen now” button above this or any other KaBlog! article.
6. Create text alternatives or captions to describe the content for all of your website’s media (images, music, video, etc.). This text alternative ensures that blind individuals can understand what a picture or photograph is portraying. Similarly, it also allows your hearing-impaired visitors to understand what is being played within an audio file.
7. Allow your users to navigate your site using keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts can save time and prevent early onset of carpal tunnel syndrome. Many users prefer not to use a mouse and some are unable to do so. By installing keyboard shortcut compatibility, you will ensure that your website is usable for the widest range of visitors.
8. Provide your website’s users with helpful tools like an automatic spell checker, help or FAQ section, and bookmarking buttons. The Help and FAQ pages can save time for your users when they encounter a problem or an error on your site or when they have a specific question. The bookmarking buttons help users to easily remember and share your website within their network of friends, family, and professionals.
Tips specifically for e-commerce websites:
9. Provide an option for one-click checkout on every page so that users to do not have to spend time going back and forth between pages, potentially losing interest in purchasing your product or service as they waste more time navigating.
10. Include testimonials on your homepage, products page, or portfolio section that give your business a good reputation and help prospective customers gain trust and respect for your company’s products or services. You want to be able to choose which reviews your users see—without testimonials on your site, you will force your customers to look elsewhere for reviews of your business. These reviews, unlike the testimonials on your site, cannot be moderated by you.
While these suggestions are not appropriate for every website, they can be very valuable for a designer or developer looking to improve usability on multiple levels. By optimizing your site for many diverse types of users with their own preferences, tendencies, and handicaps, you can increase traffic to your site and raise the standards by which designers and developers create their own works. The Internet is for all to enjoy—you should make your visitors’ experience as pleasant and pain-free as possible.