As of May 2017, there were approximately 1.2 billion websites in existence. Of course, that number fluctuates from minute to minute. Choose any given business genre, and there are multiple competitors to contend with. Add to that the rising costs of driving paid traffic, and you can understand how vital it is to optimize the design and UX of your digital properties.
This post is a reminder that as aesthetic trends come and go, there are seven essential UX-focused design elements you must keep in mind as you build or refresh your site.
1. Fast Load Times
About 50 percent of users think a site should load in no more than two seconds and will abandon a site that takes longer. UX designers understand that user experience is everything. If you want to reduce your bounce rates, you need to make sure your site loads quickly.
Design can have an impact on load times. Images should be compressed, CSS should be utilized, and plugins should be carefully vetted to make sure they are not bogging down your page’s load time. On top of that, even the server you use can make a difference in how fast your site loads for visitors.
2. Easy Navigation
There are some basic features of navigation that designers instinctively understand. For example, the majority of websites will feature navigation at the top of the page.
Take the time to look at your website like a visitor. Is the home button easy to find? Does the logo link back to your landing page? Do the main categories make sense for your target audience? Are you keeping the focus on the action you most want your user to take, or are there distractions?
By considering all these factors, you can make navigation almost intuitive for your site visitors.
3. Device Readiness
More people are accessing websites via their mobile devices. For a site with user experience in mind, scalability and device-specific behavior must be considered.
More than just making sure your site looks good on any size screen, consider mobile users’ context: they’re on the go, they want to make decisions quickly, and they don’t want to sort through a bunch of options. Keep things simple, clean, and streamlined for mobile devices so users can find what they need.
4. Easily Scannable Content
On the above note, because so many more people are accessing websites while on the go, they also have less time to dig deep into content. Many simply scan over posts to try to get the gist of a topic. To make your site user-friendly, you need to be sure content is scannable.
Some things that make sites easy to scan include subheadings, bullet points, and short block paragraphs. Avoid lengthy blocks of text, especially on mobile versions.
5. Focused Content
Another thing to consider is that users may have a hard time figuring out what you want them to look at if you have too many things cluttering the page. It is best to hone in and focus on just one or two main things. You can still feature navigation to other parts of your site, but creating a funnel that leads the user to a particular item on your website is often the best way to hook them into sticking around for a while.
As they finish that page, it should be clear where you’d like them to go next. The reader should never have to wonder what her next click should be. If you keep the reader moving through your site at a steady pace, you’re more likely to gain a long-term fan.
When you design your website, keep in mind the needs of a wide variety of users. Some people may have impaired vision, for example. Just as one example, let’s look at color blindness — 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are color-blind.
Consider your overall design and how it will be viewed by people with vision impairments. You also need to consider those who are legally blind and may need to have a device talk to them and read your website. How would your page translate for those people?
What about other cognitive impairments? The simpler you can keep your site, the easier time people with impairments will have accessing it.
7. Fast Response Speed
Another thing you need to consider in your site’s usability is how fast the site responds when a user completes a task. How fast does the new page load? Are buttons and links easy to click and responsive? Are there any broken links or other issues?
The user interface should respond almost seamlessly for the user. Response time can also be perceived based on how long it takes things to happen in the real world. If someone pushes a button in real life, they expect something to happen immediately. If they push a button to turn on the oven, the oven turns on in a split second. They expect that same response time if they push a button on your website.
Again, your web hosting company can have a big impact on how quickly your site responds to user interaction, but you’ll also want to keep the design simple enough that clicking is easy and navigates directly where you want the user to go.
Paying attention to these seven factors can take your site from unsuccessful to user-friendly. There are many other things that play into how well visitors will enjoy your site, but these basic elements are a great place to start. Pay attention to UX and give yourself a leg up on the competition.