Visitors to your website should be able to navigate and interact with your site easily – thats called usability. Bring them back again and again by:

  • providing simple and clear navigation
  • creating a consistent layout
  • writing relevant and effective content.

Make a list of things you’d like people to do on your website, like find your phone number, fill out a contact form or watch a video. Then, ask a friend or relative (who hasn’t seen your website) to try to accomplish those tasks. If possible, watch them as they navigate your site. Can they do it? Are some areas of the site difficult to navigate? Can you find any places that might be improved?

View Transcript

Hello! Welcome to our lesson on website usability. That’s digital speak for making it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for and accomplish what they want. We’ll go over the best ways to improve usability, from how to provide simple and clear navigation to the importance of a consistent layout. We’ll also explain how your writing can make your site more effective.

Sound good?

First, let’s look at navigation: the stuff that guides visitors around your site.

Good navigation means arranging your site in a way that makes sense for your visitors.

If you have a physical shop, like a bakery, think of how your goods are grouped there. Big items like cakes and pies might be in one area, while individual treats like croissants and cupcakes are in another.

On your site, you can organize things the same way, and have the main menu navigation tell visitors what they’ll find in each section, like signs in your shop.

In spite of all of this, your site may not make perfect sense to everyone. That’s why including a search box might be a good idea, especially if your site has lots of pages or products. Put the search box in the same place on every page of your site, so it’s easy to find, and visitors who are in a rush will always be able to find it, and whatever they’re looking for.

One last thing to consider about navigation: When people visit any site on the web, they expect things to work a certain way.

Say you’re browsing a site and you want to get back to the home page—what do you do? Click on the logo.

This is something visitors will expect, and it’s common to nearly every website, so be sure your logo is clearly displayed on every page, and that a click on it takes them “home.”

That’s navigation navigated. Now let’s talk about style and the way your site looks and feels. Everyone has their own tastes, but there are some general guidelines to follow.

First, consider your page layout. It should be consistent across your site, with similar fonts, images and other design elements.

When it comes to color, you may be inclined to go bold to grab attention. But online, most people are used to reading dark text on a light background. You’ve worked hard to create your content—make sure your visitors’ eyes don’t cross when they try to read it.

You also need to be conscious of where on the page your content ends up. Don’t make people scroll down too far to see the important stuff. Use headers and bulleted lists to help them quickly scan your pages and decide if it’s worth their time to stay.

Write for your audience. Are they a highly technical bunch? Then jargon is A-OK. Otherwise, write for the everyman.

Another tip? Encourage visitors to take an action while visiting your site. This is called – can you guess it? – a “call to action,” and it can help them understand what to do next.

Want them to pick up the telephone? Tell them to “Call now.” Hoping they’ll pay you a visit? Point them to “Get directions to our store.” Or nudge them to make a purchase with a “Buy now!”

So, let’s review. When you’re creating a website, try your best to make it easy to use. Give visitors a clear roadmap to your site’s pages, keep design consistent throughout, write content that speaks their language, and give them the experience they’re looking for.

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