Top 7 Tips for Making Your Website User Friendly
By Henry Adams
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Customer retention is a crucial element of any business and if your product or service is not user friendly, customers are unlikely to return for more. This is particularly true of the web where the shere number of options available in a typical site can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you make your Internet offerings more usable.
- Provide a consistent menu system (preferably with submenus) that clearly shows the user the structure of the site. This should be present in identical form on all pages where possible.
- Clearly label each page with a title that matches the link taken to reach it. You can do the same with images on your page that match the icon used to reach it. Images are also useful as landmarks for purposes of navigation. All this provides the user with a comforting sense of knowing that they're where they expected to be.
- Don't have so much clutter on the page that users can't clearly spot the content or navigation cues.
- Use language that the intended audience is likely to understand. This doesn't only cover the use of jargon but also involves appreciating your target readers' likely background knowledge.
- Always provide reversibility - the ability to escape any situation regardless. This enables the user to explore the site without fear of doing something awful. Sometimes, the browser's 'Back' button is sufficient to achieve reversibility but often, during form filling exercises, the user wants to be able to either cancel the operation without side effects or go back to correct previous forms. Where an action is irreversible (like a purchase) flag this to the user and ask them to confirm.
- Don't rely on the user's memory. For example, if an article extends over two pages, repeat its title - perhaps with the word "continued". Similarly, in transactions keep the key elements of the transaction visible to the user on every page.
- When designing the site, try to view it with the eye of an uninitiated user. Before buiding the site, create a story board and test it on typical users.
Before release, test out the site by having sets of two people try to use it and record their discussions - you'll be amazed at the mistakes they make.
Henry Adams has been working in the field of usability for consumer products and services since 1986 and has spent the last ten years focused on Internet technologies. He is now Creative Services Director for Net-Conception - a web design company.
Net-Conception web services: http://www.net-conception.co.uk
Article Submitted On: January 23, 2007