You definitely have your favorite websites, ones that you visit all the time. Why those? The answer definitely contains the term ‘user-friendly’. Read on to learn exactly what it means and how to check if a given site fits these criteria.
What does it mean to be user-friendly?
Every single day, you’re using dozens of objects, without even thinking about it. As long as the process is seamless, you don’t need to go over it. Every such object has a handful of traits that makes using them pleasant and useful.
For example, imagine that a door handle is located on top, or bottom of a door. Using it becomes uncomfortable and frustrating, discouraging you. This shows that door handle placement is very important. ;)
The same goes for websites. They should not only have an appealing design, but also be useful for the user and meet their needs. Therefore, a site is user-friendly when it has all the features and functionalities that make users engage with it willingly.
What makes a site user-friendly?
A user-friendly site should meet the expectations and requirements of its target audience. Such pages should have tech solutions that are usable. Usability and its development has been the subject of studies since the 90’s. One of the most well-known researchers in this field is Jakob Nielsen, the man behind usability heuristics. He posited that usefulness is one of the tenets of good quality, and it stems from ease of use. He listed 5 factors against which one can assess the quality of websites:
- Learnability, ease of performing actions on the site on your first visit.
- Efficiency, ease of performing actions on the site by a user who already knows the interface.
- Memorability, speed at which one can gain (or regain) and remember the skill to use the site even after not visiting it for some time.
- Errors, which the user makes, ease of fixing and preventing them from happening.
- Satisfaction, how pleasant it is to use the site.
These factors are key in determining usability. They form the basis of user-friendly sites. Now check out the 6 rules to having a satisfying experience of using your site below.
- Page load speed
This is the first thing that has a major impact on user experience. It’s very easy to lose visitors right from the get-go, because hardly anyone will stick around waiting for a sluggish site to load longer than 5 seconds. Besides, a long initial load most probably indicates that further browsing will be equally slow. After waiting a couple seconds, most users, most of the time, will abandon such a site in search of a faster one. Therefore it’s really worth it to invest in a good server with a fast connection and remember about code optimizations to minimize the risk of your users leaving your site quickly.
- Intuitive navigation and information layout
You definitely know the feeling of being lost when you enter a site and have no idea how to find the info you’d come for in the first place. Frustrating, isn’t it? Users like tried and tested solutions, because using previously known patterns is easier and more intuitive. Users are accustmoed to the usual places they can find the log-in box, contact info etc. A good example here is clicking the company logo to go back to the home page.
Users want to navigate the site intuitively, without much thought. That is why your content should be logically structured. Pop-up menus and submenus work better for sites with a lot of subpages and sections.
- Easy-to-read, quality content
Who doesn’t cringe at the sight of a square wall of text? Properly structuring your text is crucial to keeping your visitors on site, so divide your text into paragraphs and use appropriate spacing. Correct grammar and punctuation are also important. Another good practice is to highlight key words, so that they are even easier to find.
The information found on site should be, first and foremost, valuable to the user. They chose this site to find specifically what they’re looking for. It’s paramount to write on topic and to the point, so that you engage your users and make them want to stick around.
- Well thought-out interface and forms
The user should have to do as little on the site as possible. For example, if the goal is to create an account, the process needs to be as easy as you can make it, and the form needs to be clear as day. In case of any errors in filling out the form, the system should communicate it straight away, with simple pop-ups. The less the user has to do, the better, because it minimizes the chance that they’ll resign midway through.
- Making searching easy
In the case of online stores or platforms offering goods, an on-site search engine is essential. However, it may be worth thinking whether it can be implemented on other sites as well. A search engine is the most convenient way to find specific information and save time. The search box should be placed in a visible place, preferably on the top bar, because that’s the first thing a newcoming user sees.
- A quick way to contact your company
Listing your contact info lets the users know that there is a real company behind the site. Address and phone number are crucial, but it’s also good to have a contact form. In the age of instant messengers and social media, users are used to being able to keep in touch 24/7, this is why it’s worth thinking of adding a chat or messenger widget to your site. It should be visible, but not intrusive, as nobody wants to be attacked by a dozen ads, chat boxes and pop-ups on visiting your site.
How to check if a site is user-friendly?
We’ve gone through the features of a usable site, so now it’s time to find out how to make it user-friendly. It’s always good to bear in mind that currently, users use a lot of devices with different operating systems. This is why it’s always good to carry out tests on different browsers and screens.
- The first useful tool that comes to mind is Google Analytics. Thanks to it you can get info on, among others:
- the type of devices used by your users,
- bounce rate, which can point to some errors in usability,
- time on site - the longer, the more interesting the site is to your users.
It is a quantitative tool, which means that report data will only indicate some problems, which you then have to analyze on your own.
- For in-depth analyses, it’s good to use qualitative tools that provide data on customer journeys and behavior on site, like heat maps or user session recordings. Heat maps show you which spaces on your site are the most and least clicked, while recordings show you exactly how your site is used.
- User research is a true goldmine, it can take the form of interviews, focus group discussions or on-site surveys. Site usability tests are most often used. Based on a predetermined scenario, users are asked to perform a specific task on the site, simultaneously commenting on the efficiency of the processes and pointing out any errors, should they occur. User research gives you data about your site's usability straight from the horse's mouth. If you ask the right questions, you’ll get very valuable answers.
One additional note on bounce rate: if it’s high, it’d be good to conduct expanded usability tests. You can read more about each method HERE.
The modern user has a wide array of possibilities, therefore they will always look for what is best for them. It’s difficult to get their attention, but it’s very easy to lose it. Creating a user-friendly site is key to retaining your users for longer. You should take great care in ensuring that using your site is comfortable, quick, intuitive and, above all, pleasant.