I’d like to start today’s piece off with a story.
Let’s say there are two stores next door to one another. The one on the left is a little mom and pop shop. While it may not look especially modern or impressive, it’s got a sort of quaint charm to it. More important, the proprietors have a reputation for going above and beyond to help the people who shop there.
The one on the right is a big box retailer – a poorly managed one. It’s bright and shiny on the outside, but the aisles are pure chaos. Nobody knows where anything is on the shelves, and the employees couldn’t care less about helping customers find the items they’re looking for. Sure, the big box store has a better selection, but where would you rather shop?
There’s a reason I’m sharing this analogy with you. It applies more or less perfectly to web design. Too often, people tend to get ahead of themselves when creating a site for their business or building a digital storefront. They get lost thinking about conversions, about SEO, about all the cool stuff they can do to make their website pop.
And amidst all the bustle, they forget the most important feature of all: usability.
Presumably, your website’s goal is to help customers move down the sales funnel, either by providing them with more information about your brand or allowing them to directly purchase your products and services. If your website is confusing to navigate or inaccessible on mobile devices, it does not accomplish that goal.
Matter of fact, you could argue it has the opposite effect – that it drives prospects right into the arms of your competition.
The challenge, I think, is that usability isn’t like speed or SEO. It’s not something that’s easy to effectively test with a few automated systems. You need to subject real people to it in order to know whether or not it works.
That said, there are a few things you can do to give yourself a leg up in the design process.
- Make sure the menu is easy to find, and break down categories into the broad strokes your customers are likely to be looking for.
- Consider your color palette. Avoid pure black, neon colors, or hues that are at opposite ends of the color spectrum. Don’t put light colored font on light backgrounds, and avoid making your website too bright.
- Speaking of fonts, choose one that’s readable, and make sure it’s not too small on mobile devices.
- Keep your copy bite-sized. There’s no need to write a novel for each page on your site.
- Don’t underestimate the impact of well-utilized white space. A busy website is confusing and frustrating in its own way.
You could have a state of the art site with all the bells and whistles your audience could possibly want. You could have copy that’s perfectly-targeted at your demographic, and products priced to sell like hotcakes. None of that matters if your website isn’t usable.
None of that matters if you aren’t designing for how your audience browses from the ground up.