On the Web: 13 Do’s and Don’ts Of Usability

Increasing the usability of your website will encourage users to stay on your site longer and make them more likely to return again. Sometimes usability rules are glaringly obvious, such as avoiding the use of extra small fonts, but other factors can be subtle. Take notice to these 13 do’s and don’t’s of usability to make sure your website is user-friendly and easy to read.

1. Don’t Make Your Users Wait

Every page on your website should load in under 2 seconds. Make sure you have premium web hosting and a fast-loading content management system or template so speed isn’t bottlenecked from the beginning. After that, check for oversized image and media files that could be better compressed and optimized for the web. Avoid excessive redirects and take advantage of caching to give your site an extra boost in speed.

2. Do Offer a Search Function

Despite the accessibility of Google and other search engines, many readers prefer to search for content directly through a website’s internal search utility. This is great news for website owners and bloggers, because it allows you to exclude competing results from your users search. Include a Search function or plugin to make your site easier to use and search.

3. Don’t Neglect Text Readability

The bulk of a website’s or blog’s content is very often text posts. To make your text more readable make sure to use a decent sized, 10 or 12pt font for paragraphs, and larger H1 – H6 headings. Don’t put white text over colored font in areas with more than three or four words, as it’s straining on the eyes. Avoid using highly decorative fonts, save for sparse usage like titles or menu buttons. Keep in mind decorative fonts might not display on your users device anyway.

4. Do Make it Mobile Friendly

It’s estimated by Smart Insights and others that 70 percent of web traffic is now mobile. If you aren’t building a responsive website or blog, or at least including a mobile version of your site on your web hosting then you’re potentially ignoring most of your users. Test your website on various devices including iPhone and Androids of different display sizes to see how your mobile visitors.

5. Don’t Ignore Errors

Perhaps the most annoying thing for a user to find on your website or blog is an error or broken link. Make sure you’re testing each link you post frequently, internal or not. There are WordPress and other plugins that will test all the links on your site in minutes, so there’s really no excuse for serving dead links. Errors do happen but you can reduce your reader’s annoyance by creating unique and even comical custom error pages.

6. Do Produce for Users

Silicon Valley leaders will tell you, you will gain and retain customers’ focus on the quality and benefit you can provide them. If you are producing content to help users, the monetization opportunities will come to you. Don’t write your content by thinking of monetization first, and hope readers will conform or adapt later. Organic writing and content rules on the web today.

7. Don’t Make it Hard to Contact Someone

Every website or blog should have a human contact available through some means. Create a new email address using your site’s domain for a professional contact. Install a contact form plugin or contact form layout on a page to make it easy for users to ask questions. If you want to establish your website as an authority on a topic, corporate business or other important organization then consider purchasing a toll-free number to publish. These are often inexpensive and can convey professionalism, while increase usability.

8. Do Utilize White Spaces

Blogs or sites with long walls of text are hard to read and tend to lose the focus of visitors. Make sure to put spacing between each paragraph on your site. Leave double spacing between posts and break up long texts with images or blank spaces. Try using newspaper-style enlarged quotes throughout for a more interested look and better readability.

9. Don’t Require Browser Plugins

Build your website with the simplest tools available for the job. You don’t want users to have to install Flash or Java if it’s not crucial to your content. Try using HTML5 and CSS as much as possible since they can load on virtually every device without browser plugins or add-ons.

10. Do Allow Robots

By allowing the major search engine to crawl your website, you will gain traffic and rankings in search results. If you have premium content that you don’t want search engines to display, simply install a paywall on your site or blog. A lot of users will search for specific posts or articles by typing your site’s name and the article name into Google, rather than looking for a search box on your site.

11. Don’t Use Eye-Straining Color Schemes

Color schemes are a major component of your website and have a profound affect on your site’s usability. Make sure you are using pale or neutral colors anywhere there’s a lot of text. Bright colors work fine for minimalist sites or sites that serve media. If you’re hosting video and have bright colors, install a lightbox style pop-up video player to allow users to dim your background and focus on the content.

12. Do Embed Your Content

Why make readers leave your site to view additional content? This doesn’t mean using iframes to display entire websites, a practice now long-frowned upon, but make sure you’re embedding video and other media wherever you can. Check to make sure the host of the media allows hot linking or embedding though, so you don’t end up with non-functional media and broken links.

13. Do Use On-Hover Descriptions

Make sure anytime you have an image on your website that you fill in the title tag and on-hover descriptions. This will help more users than you might realize. Many users with vision issues, slow connections, and browsers incapable of displaying images will appreciate a description of the image you intended to display, so they can have as much context as anyone else using your website. This can also help you in terms of Search Engine Optimization, since web crawlers will know the keywords relevant to your image.

Usability can be increased through just about every aspect of your website or blog, from choosing fast web hosting to ensuring your pages don’t time out or bore readers and using neutral color schemes and search functions on your site. Implement these 13 tips to and watch your site’s traffic analysis to see how much of an improvement you can make.

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