User-friendly design - or usability - is crucial to the success of any website. It plays a great role in improving the performance of your site, meeting the needs of your audience and increasing user satisfaction.
What is user-friendliness?
User-friendly is a term that describes features and functions that make using a device, system or a website easier. There are many ways to define 'user-friendly' and many more ways to put this concept into practice across your website or application.
Examples of user-friendly elements may include:
- graphical user interfaces (GUIs)
- descriptive navigations
- visual cues
- online help systems
Tips for building a user-friendly website
Here are some essential characteristics you should include in your website to make sure your visitors find the information they need quickly and easily.
While you are planning your website, think about:
- who your users are
- what they will want to do when they come to your site
- how they will want to interact with your website
- how can you use links to help the user navigate around your site
Use linked text and short descriptions, and organise links into related topics. When using internal links, make sure that the user always knows where they are and what they need to do to return to the higher levels of the site. Remember also to follow best practices for accessible websites.
Hierarchy of information
Don't make users navigate through too many layers of the site to find the information they want.
Provide clear navigation aids so the user can quickly find the information they need. A standard navigation bar that is in the same place on every page enables the user to move quickly through the site. Follow accepted conventions for website navigation - this will help make your website more intuitive for the user.
Amount and placement of content
Consider how much content you should put on a webpage. Avoid putting too much, as it may prevent the user from locating the information they need. Use links to divide content between pages. Use elements like headings and subheadings to help users scan the page before reading it in more detail.
Also, think about where you place elements on the page. For example, marketing messages or 'calls to action' may be more effective if placed 'above the fold'. This refers to the area of the page that is immediately visible once the page has loaded and before the user has scrolled down the page in the browser window. Find out how to plan your website content and structure.
People are increasingly using mobile phones and tablets to access the internet, so optimising your website for mobile is a necessity. See more on mobile website design best practices.