criteria of good web design

Or Does Your Current Website Suck?

Useability means that everything works well: that a person of average (or even below average)ability and experience can use the website for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated. If something is hard to use, people just don’t use it. 

Some rules we abide by:

  1. Nothing must be more than 2 clicks away.
  2. Don’t make your visitors guess. Every page must be self-evident, obvious and self-explanatory.
  3. Avoid visitors having to ask questions like: where do I start? what does this mean? Why did they call it that? where is the …? and more.
  4. Stay way from jargon, cute or “clever” descriptions. (Search vs Quick Search). There is no other search. Brevity and straightforward language is best.
  5. Don’t make your visitor have to think!. When people use websites, every unanswered question you add to the user’s cognitive workload, distracts his/her attention and increases frustration. It also decreases the time they spend on your site. Lack of clarity causes confusion. People do not like to puzzle over things.
  6. Eliminate as many questions as possible. Carefully test everything. Recognise and avoid ambiguity.
  7. You cannot make everything self-evident.Thus, the appearance of things, headings, sub-headings, imagery, the layout of the page and appropriate amounts of text should all work together to create near-instantaneous recognition. When there is nothing more you can add to make the site self-explanatory, and there is nothing you can take away without impeding clarity you have hit the sweet spot. No more. No less.
  8. Why this is important: Google. Google’s primary objective is to offer their clients the best and most effective search results. Google aims to understand what a person is looking for – then deliver the best answer it can find in the least number of clicks. Google updates algorithms to increase user experience. Focus on offering your customers a great experience, not finding Google loopholes. SEO is not the endgame, it’s the method. 

References: Para 1-7: Don’t Make Me Think! by Steve Krug. Para 8: Authority Content by David Jenyns.

Scanning, satisficing and muddling through.

People tend to scan some of the text and click on the first thing they see that vaguely resembles whatever they are looking for.They almost read a website like page like a billboard – at 120 kilometers an hour. NOBODY reads everything on a page. The SCAN them. If a web page is going to be effective, it has to work at a glance.

How satisficing works:

1.We do NOT make optimal choices, we saticfice – we don’t choose the best option, we choose the first reasonable option. A lot of research has gone into how web users make high stake decisions in real settings with little time, vague goals, limited information and changing conditions. If you don’t pass their quick mental test, they move on to plan B – your competitors.

2. Web users do not look for the best choice. They are in a hurry.Optimizing is hard, satisficing is more efficient. Whether or no users click depends on their frame of mind, time on hand and how much confidence they have in the site. 

Reference: Don’t Make Me Think! by Steve Krug.

People use things all the time without understanding how they work. People do not read instructions – they muddle through hoping they will succeed without too much effort.

  1. Why people muddle through: It’s not important to them how a site works (or a kettle). They just want to find what they’re looking for (or have boiling water). If they find something that works, they stick to it, even if it works badly. If they stumble onto something better, they will switch (we hope).
  2. On the other hand … If your users “get it” they will probably find what they’re looking for; they will understand the full range of what your site has to offer; you have a better chance of steering them to the part you want them to see; and the will feel smarter, in control and successful. You have just pushed an emotional “like” button.
  3. Solution: if the audience is going to act like websites are billboards, then we design our websites like billboards. They must know their next move within 30 seconds, and find it within 2 clicks.

Reference: Don’t Make Me Think! by Steve Krug. 

There are 5 important things we do to make sure they SEE and UNDERSTAND as much as possible, as quick as possible:

  1. Create a clear visual hierarchy through prominence, grouping and “nesting”. At first glance, all the visual clues must clearly and accurately portray the relationships between things on the page – what is related and what is not. What things are part of other things. Conventions determine that the more important something is, the more prominent it is, things that are related logically should also be related visually.People need editorial guidance. The web designer or publisher knows what content on the site is more important, valuable and popular, so show them.
  2. Conventions are your friends. At some stage we all learnt to read a newspaper or a magazine. Not the words, but the conventions. We came to understand that a phrase in very large print was a headline that summarizes the story beneath; that the text beneath a photo is a caption relating to that photo, and if it is in very small type, it is a photo credit.The same conventions of newspaper layout and formatting are used by all newspapers because they make the paper easier to read.The web has taken over many of these conventions. Once people become familiar with conventions (recognisable icons for search buttons, shopping carts, social media, etc.) it becomes safe for designers to use. They are extremely useful. They are reassuring because they are familiar. Innovation for the sake of being different without testing its useability is foolish. Unless you KNOW you have a better idea, take advantage of conventions.
  3. Break up the pages into clearly defined areas. It allows people to decide,  quickly and accurately, which areas of the page to focus on.
  4. Make it obvious what is clickable. Clicking is what people do on websites. Make sure they can distinguish clickable links at a glance. No point in squandering the limited reservoir of patience and goodwill each user brings to the site.
  5. Keep the noise down! One of the greatest enemies of easy-to-grasp websites is visual noise. There are two kinds of noise: a) Busy-ness: when everything on the page is clamouring for attention; and b) Background noise: like a cocktail party, where too many little bits all over the place, wear the user down.

Reference: Don’t Make Me Think! by Steve Krug.  

What happens in vagueness, stays in vagueness. People like easy, unambiguous choices. Two clicks is the ideal, but people don’t mind clicking when they feel they are “on to something” – on the “scent of information”. This is the one thing that makes a sight easy to use. Clarity. 

  1. Omit needless words: Vigorous writing is concise. Be ruthless about it. It reduces the level of noise. It makes useful content more prominent. It makes pages shorter.
  2. Happy talk must die: Unlike good promotional copy, happy talk conveys no useful information.
  3. Eliminate instructions: When absolutely necessary, use aggressive pruning.

Reference: Don’t Make Me Think! by Steve Krug. 

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