What is website usability and why does it matter?
Whether you are an aspiring Webflow designer or a founder looking to build a website you must understand one thing:
Usability is a core feature of every website. It doesn't matter how fancy the design looks if your website is not user-friendly.
Creating good website usability means that visitors understand who you are, and what you do, combined with successfully navigating the website. The goal of every website should be to help users find what they have been looking for effortlessly. The 10-second rule suggests that users will spend no more time than this before exiting in frustration.
1 Make it responsive
We still see a lot of websites not optimized for mobile, albeit building responsive websites should be a norm by now. In a world where mobile devices drive almost 60% of all global website traffic, building mobile first is a must. Google even started to penalize websites that aren't mobile-friendly with one of their recent algorithms. A very bad practice for your SEO score and your ranking on Google.
Creating a responsive website means site visitors will enjoy a good user experience on every screen size. The website will adjust to fit the screen, whether it's a desktop, laptop, or mobile phone.
Weblow does a great job of optimizing your website for different screens. As you build your site in visual canvas, Webflow will write the code itself, making sure your site can adapt to different screens. If something still doesn't fit right, you can adjust it without needing to write a single line of code.
2 Structure a logical visual hierarchy
The next thing to keep in mind is creating a clear visual hierarchy through your site. This means you are drawing attention to the most important elements on your page. Without a well-structured visual hierarchy, the visitor has no idea what is important and what not.
When creating a visual hierarchy you should always follow the basic design principles. This means you size the elements depending on their importance. The title should clearly be distinguished from the body copy. The next thing to keep in mind is the color contrast. This will help grab attention and help users see where the important elements are.
An important step is also to use a negative a.k.a. white space. This will help divide elements apart and add emphasis on the most important ones. Following well-structured alignment throughout the page will enhance readability and provide consistency.
3 Simplify your navigation
One often overlooked element of creating great website usability is the website's navigation. Navigation helps users know where they are and where the next click will take them.
What is wrong is to think that every website navigation is the same. The ecommerce website will have different navigation than SaaS or blog websites. While the goal of the ecommerce website is for users to purchase with as few steps as possible, the blog post website is for users to explore content.
Yet there is one thing every good website navigation has in common. No matter the page type, it has to lead a visitor to his goal as effortlessly and straightforwardly as possible. No matter where the visitor is on the page, it has to be clear which elements are linked to other pages, and what those pages are.
4 Content is king
“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting." - Bill Gates, 1996.
A famous saying in the essay titled "content is king" by Bill Gates.
Years of spammy websites and brands forcefully selling their products are over. No one wants to hear "sell, sell, sell" all the time, and neither does Google. Google cares for its users and wants to provide only the best quality content. Establishing customers' trust by delivering the value you are promising and sharing insights and tips from the industry will go a long way.
To appear high on Google, you must create high-quality and SEO-optimized content non-stop. This will lead to topical authority according to Moz. A topical authority is a measure of authority built up through showing your expertise in a specific field. The better the content you produce, the more likely you are to be perceived as a trusted source of information.
5 Optimize your images
When it comes to images, there are a few things you need to consider to optimize them for your site.
Always use relevant images and not random stock photos. Using stock photos all over your website will decrease the credibility of your brand.
Aim to use images that perfectly align with your brand and connect with the user.
They also need to be complementary to your copy and provide extra value to the visitor. When you write about your services, show them how your service works for example.
The next thing to consider is the image loading time. Keep your images under 100kb per image to ensure fast loading and a great customer experience. Webflow recently enabled WebP meaning there is no excuse to upload huge files anymore. WebP is an image file format created by Google to replace JPEG, PNG and GIF file formats. A really simple way to convert your images and optimize them for fast loading is to:
- Upload them to Tinypng.com and compress the PNG file.
- Download them and crop the image to the size you need.
- Upload them again to a PNG to WebP converter.
- Ready to be used in Webflow.
6 Make your site accessible
Building an accessible website means using practices that allow visitors in every state to enjoy your site. Your site should be accessible to individuals with cognitive, visual, auditory, and other disabilities. Some information on the internet is even required by law to be accessible to everyone. This is especially true for government, medical and similar information.
Building an accessible website is also super important when it comes to loading time. Do you know how sometimes when the internet connection is bad the images just won't load? Putting alt text in them will ensure you know what they are all about without them needing to ever load. Alt tags are also a great way to boost your SEO ranking when putting relevant keywords in them. But avoid keyword stuffing! No matter what, the alt tag needs to be descriptive and provide information to the user.
The next examples are videos. Just think about how often, do you watch Youtube during your commute or when waiting somewhere. Subtitle ensures you can watch and understand it without needing to watch it on full sound.
The next thing to improve website usability is to create clear color contrasts between elements. Make sure your text and elements are in different colors than the website background. The better the contrasts, the easier it is for visitors to engage with the content.
Don't forget about visitors using screen readers. To help them understand your content, use a semantic HTML structure. It should be clear what is the title, different chapters, etc.
7 Build credibility
As mentioned in the Content is king chapter, building authority is key. Content helps you build authority, and customers help you build credibility. Testimonials will showcase that you stand behind your offer and that customers can rely on you to deliver what you promise. When it comes to more premium products and services, you should also include a few case studies. They are really popular in the B2B segment since they showcase your entire workflow and the result.
Why testimonials do wonders is because they come across as unbiased. They come from real people, that paid to use your service or product. Report by Boast says that customers even trust reviews from other customers as much as they would trust recommendations from friends.
Studies show that adding testimonials for low-price items increased conversion rates by 190%. For expensive items, the conversion rate jumped to 380%.
Building credibility is not all about customers. There are a lot of things you can do yourself. You should include an About us page on your website to humanize your brand a little. Easily accessible contact information is really important and will legitimize your business. Last but not least, don’t forget about grammar. Bad grammar and lots of spelling mistakes will make you look unprofessional.
8 Improve page speed
To emphasize how important is your page speed, let us share some stats with you. Section.io reports that an extra five seconds of page load time can increase your website's bounce rate by more than 20%. This number increase to over 30% when the page speed is just 2 seconds longer, so 7 seconds. Slow page speed leads to many potential leads leaving the site before you even have a chance to present what you can offer.
Luckily, there are quite a handful of things you can do to optimize this. First, you must analyze your page speed and understand why it is loading slowly. You can get all this information with the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. The tool inspects your site both on the mobile version and desktop version and suggests how to optimize it.
9 Take advantage of white space
White space also known as "negative space" is space around the content and elements on your page. It gives your design clarity and helps users navigate through your site. XD Adobe describes the role of white space to let your design breathe by reducing the number of texts and elements that users see at once.
This allows users to focus on different elements without getting overwhelmed with all the content at once. Proper use of white space can increase visitors' comprehension of the site by up to 20% according to CrazyEgg. Spaces between sections and elements guide users through the focus areas off the page.
A good example of proper use of white space is the Google search engine home page. Users see clearly what to focus on and what is the purpose of the page.
But for a more complex page with a lot of content and visual elements, here are a few guidelines you can follow:
- Make text more readable by adjusting line height in proportion to font size. The optimal line height for body text is between 120% and 145% of the font size.
- Clearly distinguish what elements and sections fit together and separate them from the rest of the content.
- Use white space to direct user attention to CTA buttons. White space will help it stand out and drive more attention to it.
- Create a visual hierarchy and organize content in a structured way to help navigate visitors throughout the page. Most visitors will scan the page before reading it, and a good hierarchy will create a flow a fresh visitor will follow with ease.
10 Stay consistent
There is a fine line between creativity and functionality. You always have to juggle between the two, to create a great user experience. No matter how creative your brand is, being consistent improves website usability and experience. Consistency means that everything on your website matches in one cohesive collection. Headings, graphics, fonts, margins and paddings, communication, and more. All this ensures visitors feel like they are still on your site whatever page they open.
Changing web design across many pages can make the user overwhelmed and lost. It can even come to a point when visitors are not even sure anymore that they are still on the same page as in the beginning.
Consistent web design gives a more professional feel, builds credibility, and shortens the user learning curve. This builds credibility and helps users become well-versed with the functionalities of your site.
Let's take one good example of a consistent design - Airbnb. A famous marketplace to rent out your home or look for local accommodation when traveling. All their page follow the same principles:
- Logo on the left.
- Search bar aligned in the center on top.
- The colour palette and fonts stay the same throughout the page.
- Photos of accommodation on the left. Map of location on the right.
No matter where you click you always know that you are on their page. More importantly, you know how to navigate and use the page in a few clicks since your first time visiting.
11 Keep user intent in mind
To keep driving visitors to your site, and then make them bounce as soon as they land on your page, you need to keep their intent in mind. Ask yourself what users are looking for when coming to your brand and how to serve them best.
First align your meta tags, title, and HTML structure with your content so Google can cater to the best content on their search page. Then structure your site in a logical way that helps the user navigate through the site.
It is important to get in the shoes of a customer and structure your site in a way, that helps them reach their goals without any obstacles. Creative momentum suggests this simple formula to optimize the page for user Intent:
- Keep navigation simple.
- Be relevant, timely, thorough, and helpful.
- Don’t forget the functionality.
Test your site
Last but not least, always test your site. A great design does not equal good website functionality. To test how users are behaving on your site or where they get stuck you can use many tools like Hotjar or Crazyegg. Those tools will inspect user behaviour and give you a report based on which you can optimize your page.
A good practice is to use A/B testing to see what works best on your site. A/B testing is a standard measurable experiment, where you present two unique versions of your website to two different groups to see what works best. Testing your site early after deployment will help you catch and fix all the problems fast.
Coming to the end of this article we found out that website usability is key in curating a good user experience. Today, there are more than 1.8 billion live websites, and to stand out you have to put your customer first. With competition so fierce, users won't waste time on sites that are hard to use and make them frustrated.
According to a GoodFirms report, poor website usability is one of the major reasons why visitors leave a site. 88.5% of visitors say that slow loading speed is the biggest reason for bouncing. More than 73% of visitors see the non-responsive design as a big no-go. The third biggest reason for the high bounce rate is poor navigation.
As you can see from this article, web design is not all about creativity. To create an amazing user experience, creativity and functionality must go hand in hand. Step into your target customer's shoes and build your website with them in mind.
Creativity and a strong brand image will bring the visitors to the door. Great usability and completing their goals will keep them in. By following these 11 steps in the article alone, you will be on the right path to making a website that stands out and keep visitors on the page.