There are no objective standards for web design, but that’s a shame. While new and inventive interface design should be encouraged, the most important thing for most sites is usability. When the design starts to lose its usefulness, the decisions are simple – make it easy for the user. Without going deep into the programming nuts and bolts of design implementation, we offer the following modest proposals:
1. Use consistent navigation
Give users consistent navigation throughout the site. The importance of this simple point cannot be overemphasized, as newbies invariably get lost. In addition, you should try to accommodate users with old systems and users with disabilities. Some users disable Java and others use text-only browsers, so provide text-only navigation buttons for all users (or provide an alternative site).
2. Provide a sitemap
Just plain politeness, if you ask me. When I’m in a rush, the last thing I want to do is search a digital marketing website structure to look for something I know exists on the site.
3. Specify a Contacts page
You would be amazed at how many companies have ZERO contact information on their websites. In addition, a generic email link is NOT enough; you have to give people addresses, phone numbers, etc. For the web to deliver on its promise, it must be used to increase the transparency of organizations.
4. Listen to the users
Give your users a method to provide feedback. It’s true, people rarely use the feedback option, but it’s also true that they really hate it when they don’t get the option. The usability of your feedback system is a key when problems strike; a good system relieves tensions and a bad system dramatically escalates tensions. (Should we point out that responding to feedback forms in a timely manner is also a necessity?)
5. Build an intuitive interface
The ideal interface should meet two criteria: (1) newcomers should be faced with an easy-to-learn consistent system, while, (2) experienced users should be able to navigate the site quickly – the design should allow navigation by an experienced user familiar with is with the site.
6. Provide FAQs
If your site generates a lot of questions, has complex content systems, you should include an FAQ that provides answers to the most common problems. Trust us, this feature will save you AND your users time.
7. Aim for engaging content
OK, so this isn’t really a “design” point, it should be mentioned anyway: you have to give users a reason to return.
8. Insist on quick access
Building a page that looks good and loads quickly is not the easiest task. Add to that the labyrinthine nature of some connections between you and the web page server, unsurprisingly, page load times vary wildly. Still, there are things your designer can do. Try the 15-second rule: If the page doesn’t load in 15 seconds, it’s too big. Tell your web team to reduce the file size.
9. Strive for Simplicity
Make simple, common tasks easy to do. If long procedures are required for new users, there should be meaningful shortcuts for experienced users.
10. Provide feedback
A well-designed site should provide user feedback in response to user input, errors, and status changes. The information should be communicated easily, with an indication of the options available to the user.
11. Be tolerant
The site must be tolerant of errors and unusual use. Beta testing of the site should include email marketing to a wide variety of erroneous or atypical user behavior. While it is probably impossible to anticipate all possible abuses, the site should handle errors with grace and, if possible, guide the user.