We all know that the way a website looks matters a lot. Web design is, in the minds of many, there to act as a visual calling card for businesses selling or marketing their services or products online. As such, having a website that is visually pleasant is doubtlessly important – but it’s not the crux of web design.
No – the most important factor in a website’s design is its usability. More than looks, what matters most is how intuitive the website is. Web designing then is an exercise in human and consumer psychology.
But when hiring a firm to do your web design, you shouldn’t necessarily be looking for a company that does nothing but look into your customer demographic to figure out what to do – all you need are professionals that know what NOT to do, preserving the flexibility with which to create a website that pleasantly surprises, yet cuts out annoyances and inconveniences in design.
So let’s look at some of the facts you have to keep in mind about web design – and let’s explore how this information will change the way you look at user behavior and your own online habits.
Don’t Make Users Think
It’s a simple rule, and an extremely effective one. Basically, users hate to think. When we’re looking for something, our search process is pretty simple – we look for information that fits our pattern, we investigate, and if after scratching the surface we haven’t found what we’re looking for, we hit the back button and go again. The less your website asks of a user, and the more your website tells the user, the better.
That means don’t be ambiguous. Be clear about your intentions and your product, and be clear right off the bat.
Design According to Existing Expectations
It’s always good to break some conventions and create something new and exciting – but it isn’t great just to create something new. Confusing your web users is the last thing you want to do. Instead, designing your website with a navigation system that is familiar but pleasant is a much better way to go.
Basically, your website should be so easily navigated and intuitive that if it were in a language users can’t understand, they’d still be able to find out basic information like your About page, or contact details.
Understand the F Rule
The F rule is in regards to how users scan pages. We start roughly at the upper middle or upper left corner, and after scanning the header, we move down the page and stick increasingly to the left side. Our attention is drawn by simple design differences in the text – headers, bullet points, bold words – but almost never does a user spend his or her time reading full sentences.
Let’s say that again, slowly: users don’t read, they scan. Make sure that the important information is easily scannable, then.
Put Your Cards on the Table
Don’t be coy about what you’re doing or what you’re out to do – talk with a customer, not at them. That means if you’re selling something on your website, make sure to use a lot of website real estate to ensure that your visitors know you’re selling that thing. And in the same sentence, make sure to explain succinctly what it is. Don’t just promise “Roof Tiling Like No Other” or “More Than Sealed Floors” – say: “Offering the best roof tiling in Arizona, period.”
The final takeaway point for what’s truly important in web design is this: time. Users want instant gratification. They’ve got less patience than a spoiled brat on Christmas, and about as much of an attention span as a candybar-sized fish.
If you can’t impress someone instantly, they won’t bother knowing anything else about you. If you’re offering a web service, for example, cut out the registration process in favor of an instant free demo mode. Users want to play – and they hate forms.