Does Your Website Design Make People think?
Most sites do! Web usability expert Steve Krug gives us valuable insight into what makes a website successful in his book, “Don’t Make me Think." The first thing Krug elaborates on is “Krug’s First Law of Usability."
This law states: websites shouldn’t make their visitors think (hence the title, “Don’t Make Me Think”).
Krug explains the need for websites to be self-evident and self explanatory to visitors. Web designers should always create websites with the goal of eliminating as many of the visitor's questions as possible. By thinking through the target audience’s potential questions and building the site to answer those questions without having the visitor dig for those answers, we create a simplified, positive, and satisfying experience that very often creates a new customer. At Your Creative People, audience analysis is our guiding principle, one that most web agencies don’t give much attention to. It should be obvious to users where they should click to find what they’re looking for, how to use the site’s search engine, etc. You want your site to feel effortless to users, avoid confusion and frustration that would cause them to turn back from using your website – and your company.
As web designers, an important idea to understand is how people really use websites. Not simply creating what you want or how you think visitors should use certain features. Many web designers have assumed that users will take time to read all the text and contemplate their various options before they click a link. In reality, visitors do not (or will not) linger long. They scan pages hastily and click the first link that catches their attention or possibly relates to what they’re looking for. Typically, we have heard that a company has between 3-4 seconds to make an impression on a visitor’s mind before he/she will leave the site for good. It’s essential to design a site for your visitors, not simply for your company.
When designing a website, there are three key facts to keep in mind:
1. “People scan pages, they don’t read them.”
2. “People don’t make optimal decisions, they satisfice.”
3. “People don’t take time to figure out how things work, they muddle through.”
Websites are like billboards. Design them for visitors going by at 60mph.
Krug compares how people use websites to how billboards work: “We’re thinking ‘great literature’, while the users’ reality is much closer to ‘billboard going by at 60 mph’…if your audience is going to act like you’re designing billboards, then design great billboards,” (Krug). Krug introduces five ways to design pages for users who scan, not read. These five things ensure that fast paced users are exposed to, and actually see, as much as possible on your website.
1. Create a visual hierarchy to make sure the appearance of things on the page clearly show relationships. For example, make the most important element the most prominent (i.e. make the title of something bigger and bolder than everything else). Make things that are related logically, look related visually. And finally, group things together visually so it is clear what elements are related. On each site designed by Your Creative People, we focus on creating navigation that is simple, organized, and very clear.
2. Use conventions, things (phrases or navigational tabs) that are virtually the same on all types of websites, to help users easily work your website and quickly relate. The key here is to utilize familiarity to diminish the amounts of effort needed to discern proper use of the site.
3. Break up pages into clearly defined areas to help users quickly decide which parts of the site they want to focus on. Users scan pages quickly, and breaking up pages them find their way around your website more efficiently.
4. Make obvious what can be clicked so users don’t waste time and become so impatient that they give up and move on to a different website.
5. Minimize business and noise on pages to avoid unwanted complexity and distraction that makes scanning difficult for the user. Introducing some good white (or background) space also makes a site appear less noisy and more simple.
Simple navigation helps visitors get their bearings.
Navigation is integral to website functionality, without navigation we would not have websites but simply a web page. The most important thing to remember when it comes to designing navigation is to keep it “Clear, simple, and consistent,” (Krug). On websites, the navigation tells your visitors where they are, helps them find what they want, and gives people something to “hold onto” when they get lost; it’s a way for people to feel grounded when they need support. Navigation reveals the content (what the site has to offer) to the user by making the hierarchy visible. As an example, consider the big signs in department stores that help buyers navigate to find what they want. Making evident what people need to click on to move around the website, and constructing the site so that it is easy for search engines to index, are both essential in designing great navigation.
Designing the home page can be complex.
Designing a homepage is a complex process because the homepage has tons of areas to cover and many people to please. The two biggest things for a homepage to accomplish are one, getting the main point across (what does your organization actually do or provide?); and two, helping users understand where to start. There are countless things that homepages usually must have…but not everything can always be incorporated in the homepage. There is one thing that must always be clearly shown on the homepage: what the main idea of the site is. The homepage has to appeal to all users, which is a daunting concept for its creators. One thing that all users have in common is that they want to know what your site is, why it’s there, and what it has to offer. Two ways to express the big picture are creative taglines and helpful welcome blurbs. Once your visitors understand what the website is all about, the next thing they will look for is helpful navigation. If the mission of your site isn’t clear and your navigation is hard to use or understand, it is unlikely a user will remain on your site very long.
What makes a good website?
Web development teams often have endless arguments about what needs to be done to create a good website. Many people on these teams are adamant when it comes to their opinions, so they are reluctant to neglect their feelings in order to accept the thoughts of potential visitors. Web development teams must understand that not all visitors may think along the same lines that they do. Graphic designers often think that people want to see visually exciting sites, because that is what interests them. Programmers like sites that have interesting features or cool functionality because that is what they find useful. What leads to conflict on these teams is usually this: designers want to make sites that look wonderful, developers want to make sites that have noteworthy and unique features.The two groups often come to conflict when it is time to narrow down priorities. There are many other reasons members of these teams come to conflict. The important question isn’t what causes conflict, but how that conflict can be resolved to yield a great site. A resolution is often found in the third member of the web design team – we’ll call him “the Marketor.” The Marketor thinks about the target audience first, then guides the graphic designer to create a site that is attractive and communicates with that audience. He also works with the web site programmer to determine appropriate functionality that is simple for the audience to use. We strongly believe in the collaboration of these three individuals in the creation of a sucessful web site. We create every site by collaborating with all members of the team: marketors, designers, and programmers. This creates an audience-driven, visually appealing, and fully functional web site.
So, what do visitors really like?
One way is to understand that there is no “average user”. “The worst thing about the myth of the Average User is that it reinforces the idea that good Web design is largely a matter of figuring out what people like…the problem is there are no simple right answers for most website design questions…what works is good, integrated design that fills a need- carefully thought out, well executed, and tested,” (Krug). When development teams can’t solve a problem, they usually try to figure out what most users like or don’t like in a website; however, that is an erroneous way to judge what works and doesn’t work.
“The right kind of question to ask is ‘Does this pulldown, with these items and this wording in this context on this page create a good experience for most people who are likely to use this site?’” (Krug). The way to answer such a question is by testing your site with ordinary users or even potential customers. Watching them as they work to understand a website and use your site is a good barometor in how sucessful your site will be when it is finally launched to the public. Krug suggests that usability tests are the best way to learn whether or not your site works, and also how to improve your site, Krug suggests the ideal number of people to test is about three or four, because that way it is easy to take advantage of what you learn in the same day. “It’s better to stay focused on the biggest problems, fix them, and then test again as soon as possible,” (Krug).
Stop and think. Are you making your visitors “think” when they come to your web site? If so, you may need help in creating a more effective website. With the “Don’t Make Me Think” principle always in mind, we can help you design a compelling website that creates a positive, satisfying experience, that can turn your next visitor into a customer.
Design, Website Design, Web Development