When it comes to web design, usability is every bit as important as having great content. Even the most informative, well-written articles are useless if no one can navigate your site to find them. Many website owners make the mistake of focusing their efforts solely on creating a bold, artistic layout, giving little thought as to how their visitors will interact with the site.
Good web design, on the other hand, incorporates intuitive navigation, easy-to-read text, fast-loading content and an effective search function. Once all of these elements are taken care of, then you can shift your attention to adding graphics and other artistic touches to the page.
Readability is one of the most often overlooked factors in terms of website usability. One of the main mistakes site owners make is publishing long, unbroken blocks of text. To maximize readability, paragraphs should be limited to two or three sentences. This makes it easy for your visitors to quickly scan your page and find the content they are looking for.
Another factor that reduces readability is choosing the wrong background color for your site. White text on a black background is notoriously difficult to read. The same thing goes for brightly colored backgrounds in shades or yellow, blue, red or green. To keep things as easy on the eyes as possible, your content should be presented as black text on a white background. You can still incorporate colors in other parts of your web design. Just leave the area behind the text alone.
The next major component of website usability is navigation. If your visitors can't find the content they are looking for quickly, they will leave your site. That's why it is so important to design an intuitive navigation system that clearly showcases your best content. Don't make the mistake of using fancy menus that take time for your visitors to figure out. Instead, present well-labeled links to your articles that help your visitors instantly get where they want to go.
Incorporating an easy-to-use search function is also vital. Many visitors don't have time to poke around on your site looking for content. They want to be able to quickly search and find the information they need. The better you can make your search utility, the more satisfied your visitors will be.
Finally, it is important to keep your page loading time as short as possible. If it takes more than a few seconds for your content to load, your visitors may click away to another page. Optimize images to keep their files sizes small. Avoid using elements such as Flash or large-scale graphics whenever possible. Keep the code of your site clean, avoiding any unnecessary elements that can bog down your pages. If you use a content management system, try to limit the number of plugins that you use. Each plugin you activate can significantly slow your site's loading time.
By designing your site with a focus on usability, you can help your visitors quickly and easily find the information they need. Artistic elements can add a lot to your page, but the real design work lies in creating a site that is easy and intuitive to use.