5 Basic User Design Principles Every Business Owner Should Know
Open up your current business website. Now, leave your home page and start exploring your product and service pages. Does your site’s design and content illuminate the way from those pages to a specific action, such as your site’s Call to Action (CTA), Contact Us page or shopping cart?
If that navigation isn’t streamlined, you risk losing prospective customers and not serving your existing customers. To learn how you can improve your site’s user experience, follow these five basic user design principles.
1. User Interface and User Experience Are Inextricably Linked. But They Aren’t the Same Thing.
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are terms that frequently get misused and misunderstood. UI is about how a website looks. It includes visual design, behavior-focused interaction design, and information architecture (see #3 for more about this). By contrast, UX is about how a website works.
To put it simply, UX encompasses UI. UI is one of many usability factors in a site’s UX.
Why does this distinction matter? It’s critical for any website builder to prioritize UX above all else. A site’s unique visual components — its font, colors, graphics, and branding — must contribute to, not take priority over, the site’s overall functionality.
As you’re building a website for your business, remember that beauty does not trump function. You may fall in love with an eye-catching website design that takes forever to load, doesn’t scroll well on mobile devices, or doesn’t communicate your brand message effectively. Despite your love for this design, it is probably an impractical choice. Stick to a website design that works cleanly. Your customers will thank you.
2. Minimize Your Site’s Number of Navigational Options, and Highlight Recommended Options.
In the early 1950s, psychologists Ryan Hyman and William Edmund Hick studied the relationship between the number of stimuli present in any given situation and the time it took for people to process and make decisions based on that stimuli. Unsurprisingly, the more stimuli present the longer it took for people to decide. Just like a restaurant menu with too many options, their study participants got waylaid by too much information.
How does this relate to your website and its design? To prevent confusion, don’t give your site visitors too many navigational choices. It will increase the amount of time they spend trying to make a choice, instead of intuitively following the path your design lays out for them.
For some businesses, such as larger corporations, limited navigation isn’t an option. In those cases, highlight the most likely navigational choices, which will guide the majority of your visitors.
3. Structure Your Information Architecture In Advance.
Think about your business website. Other than the home page, what will you label each page? Where will each page be placed on the navigation menu? Will you include subpages and dropdown menus?
Information architecture (IA), the categorizing and structuring of your website’s content, presents a big-picture view of how information is displayed on your site, including the navigation menu, any dropdown menus, as well as the labels of pages and subpages.
Though it’s typically the work of professional web designers and content strategists, you can build a basic user-friendly structure for your business’ website content. Take the time to plan how you want your customers to move through your site, page by page, and where you want to strategically place the most relevant content. Build wireframes for your site. Ask your staff and, if possible, your current customers to test the prototype.
Whatever you do, do not label pages and create menus in an ad hoc way. It will diminish the user experience and force you to revise your entire site’s information architecture at a later date — after you’ve annoyed your customers.
4. Your Site Should Load Quickly.
Have you ever thought about what the optimal speed is for a web page to load? In 1979, Walter Doherty, Manager of Systems Performance and Technology Transfer for the Computing Systems Department at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, implemented a computer-user performance study that determined the optimal speed for productivity was 400 milliseconds or less.
This measurement, now known as the Doherty Threshold, is the gold standard for how long a web page should load. Anything longer than 400 milliseconds will decrease your site visitor’s attention and, if they’re already a regular visitor, decrease their productivity as they use your site.
What’s the takeaway for your business website? Use free tools, like Google Developers’ PageSpeed Insights and Uptrends, to analyze how fast each page on your website loads. Most of the tests will provide you with a report outlining which design elements may be slowing down your site speed.
5. Keep Your Site’s Style, Colors, Fonts, and Themes Consistent, But Make Sure to Differentiate Navigational Labels from Text.
Your website represents your brand. Therefore, it is paramount that every page adheres to the design elements you’ve decided on. Don’t mix up color schemes between pages. Don’t change fonts inexplicably. Your colors, graphics, layouts, and other design elements should be more or less the same throughout the site.
The one exception to the rule of consistency is the differentiation between navigational labels and site text. Your website should use the same typography for navigational labels (specifically, the words on the navigation menu and the dropdown menu), but it should use a completely different typography for headlines, captions, copy, and blogs.
Why is this difference so important? The two typographies force your users to mentally group navigational elements together and informational text together, effectively streamlining the user experience.
An Impactful User Design Starts with a User-Friendly Website
Before you start building a new website for your business, review these user design principles. Your website’s user experience must be easily navigable, efficiently driving your customers from product discovery to checkout. Browse iPage’s web hosting plans, which include a free online store, mobile-optimized site builder, and hundreds of user-friendly templates and themes. If you’re unsure which website designs will benefit your business, reach out to our team of design experts.