How to design a user friendly website

When designing online services same issues affecting the design and implementation are tackled several times. We decided to put together a list of some arguments and objections about usability.

Myth 1: You are the most important user of your website

Majority of the websites are specifically designed for externals – for example to customers or stakeholders whom all have their own motives and needs. Different user groups’ intention is to have things done the way they need as fast and painlessly as possible. For this reason the website should not be designed using organization-based approach or build the website structure similarly than an organization’s structure. In order to get information about the users and their needs involve them in the design process already at the beginning for example by interviewing them.

Lesson learnt: Do not tell about yourself but tell how you can help.

Myth 2: Icons increase usability

People find it difficult to remember the meaning of the icons and icons alone are not enough to tell about most of the functionalities, especially abstract ones. Communicating only with icons makes it difficult to get the meaning right and in this case a lot of user testing is required. Therefore it is sensible to use explanatory text together with the icons. There are some exceptions; universally understood icons such as print, pause, play, close, or share on Facebook work alone as icons. Icons can also enhance the meaning of the text, for example, as illustrations, bullet points in lists or in buttons as a supplement to the text.

Lesson learnt: The best icon is a text.

Myth 3: People read online

People read online only when the content is of interest or is beneficial to them. Such content could be for example publications related to one’s own work. Otherwise content is scanned and personally relevant points are searched through floating quotations and lists. For this reason when online it is good idea to go straight to the point and to split the content into short paragraphs with descriptive titles. Also the amount of shared pages does not correlate with the amount of read content but the content is shared carelessly just by reading the title.

Lesson learnt: Divide, do not witter.

Myth 4: Everything must be three clicks away

More important to clicks is that the user is constantly aware of where he is and that he feels the information is found from a logical place. If the user does not mind too much about the clicks those do not hinder the user experience. Sometimes more clicks can even improve the discoverability of things, providing each click is getting the user closer to the correct finish. Such use case could be for example in a web store when filtering products into even smaller amounts of desired search results.

Lesson learnt: Do not count clicks, but track conversions.

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