The goal is to provide for the needs of all your potential users, adapting Web technology to their expectations and never requiring readers to conform to an interface that places unnecessary obstacles in their paths. – Web Style Guide
The question is, how should someone go about reaching a goal that seems so daunting to the inexperienced web person? Consider our every day interactions with various web sites that we frequent. Better yet, open a new window, visit a web site that you don’t frequent, and browse around for a minute or so. Can you browse at the same speed and ease as your favorite web site? If so, then that web site has succeeded in designing a well-planned user interface. If not, then this article aims to cover a few specific reasons why you had some troubles. And it’s not your fault; it’s the designer’s.
Whether someone is a web designer or a graphic designer, they should have the know-how to properly approach the tricky craft of planning, proposing, and preparing a user-centered design – a design that engages, entices, and evokes an active or emotional user response. The only difference between the two is that web design requires a higher level of interactivity than a standalone creative piece. In the case of web sites, a user-centered design requires essential key pieces to bring the whole interactive experience together.
- Clear navigation aids – Make sure a user can find what they are looking for and return to where the site begins with ease. If navigation is complex or convoluted, a user will become frustrated rather than the happy customer we all want to have.
- No dead-end pages – This point fits like a glove on having clear navigation aids. Always remember every visitor will not always begin at your Home base. They should be able to navigate around just the same as someone who did not enter through the front door.
- Direct access – Keeping most, if not all, of your links to your core content right on the home page is a proven design strategy to increase usability among those browsing your website. Play up the special features and products that will help meet business goals, increase membership, and improve member/customer satisfaction.
- Bandwidth and interaction – Understanding that not high-speed internet is not yet a standard will uncover and help eliminate current and future performance issues. Accommodate the expectation of your target audience based on the design at hand by being generous with graphical and multimedia elements.
- Simplicity and consistency – Don’t get fancy with things like graphical navigation if that harms the visual communication of the site. As the saying goes: “Keep it simple stupid” and those users will know exactly how to engage. Maintaining a constant reliable layout with basic elements of your site, such as using a standard page title format and navigation placement, will also go a long way in maintaining a comprehensible function that users will catch onto.
- Design integrity and stability – Conceptualize, design, and develop. A thrown together web site will not bring confidence to prove that the information presented is worthwhile and legitimate. A site with broken links, spelling errors, and outdated information will make a user leave to find someone who is serious about their web site.
- Feedback and dialog – Any sort of visual cue that lets the user know they are where they intended to be is essential. Just as indirect conversation is necessary to keep a user interacting with the site, providing a way to access the creator of the site is equally necessary. Similar to how people form relationships with one another, after spending so much time developing a site, that person is capable of missing nuances that an unfamiliar user could spot.
No one should find out that countless opportunities have been lost all because users were not properly catered by functional and reliable interface design. You only have one chance to make a strong, memorable impression that will bring users back to your web site and share it with others. Just as a puzzle isn’t complete without all of its pieces neatly nested together, user-centered design cannot afford to be excluded from the whole web designing process. Don’t allow any of your necessary pieces be swept under the rug.