There are a few key principles for designing a user-friendly experience. First things first, if you want to build a user-friendly website or app it is not only about the styling. You have to build with the user in mind. So how do you build with your user in mind? Well, let’s start at the beginning.
Principles for designing a user-friendly experience
Who is your typical user?
Are they tech-savvy? Do they know how to browse a website?
This may be a weird question to ask these days, however, even today in South Africa we still get older cheaper phones and we are restricted by data and speed. There is a large community who are not as tech-savvy as you may think, and if your website or app is not simple they will struggle to navigate it and may become frustrated.
However, these may not be the people you are targeting, so maybe you don’t need to keep this in mind. Now you can be a bit more experimental and think of cool new ways to navigate a site because you are trying to reach a more ‘web-educated’ user.
Will they typically view your website on their laptop or their phone or do they use both?
These are essentially completely different experiences and each needs to be thought through carefully. The latest trend and best practice is to build a mobile responsive site, so the same content is served to users regardless of whether they are on their mobile device or desktop machine. Instead of building two separate sites to accommodate for both you are now creating one site that is served to both.
What are they using your website or app for, and what is the goal that you have for your website or app?
What is your goal? Are you trying to sell a product, provide information, become a thought leader or just create brand awareness? If you are clear about your goal, it becomes easier for you to structure your content and funnel your users into completing the goals you have for your website or app.
A lot of people out there don’t think about this when creating a website. They assume they know what their users are looking for. There are a lot of tools out there that could assist you. Google Analytics is a great way to gauge what content your users are after. You can typically see what your most popular content is and then make it easier for your users to access it.
Knowing your goals becomes fundamental when structuring your content and editing your site. Yes, editing your site. Your website should not be static. It needs to evolve to meet your and your user’s goals.
Great! So now you know who your users are, how they are going to access your website or app and what you want the user to accomplish when they visit your website or app.
The main principle for creating a user-friendly experience is to make the design familiar. The user needs to feel like they have seen this before and they need to know what to do next. If you create a very complex and different user interface, a first-time visitor will need to learn how to use your website or app, so depending on the user you have identified above, you need to be careful with how you design your website or app.
Navigation is the most important piece in making your website or app user-friendly. Make sure your navigation is simple and easy to follow. Normally a user will go to the top of your site to get to the menu. Remember to keep in mind what the menu will look like and how your navigation will work on mobile. Having a clear breadcrumbs trail is a great way to inform the user where they are on your website and create quick links to previous pages they have visited.
Using images and icons is a great way to create a user-friendly experience – if you use images that relate to your content and don’t detract from it. Your pages can be different but familiar to the user, which allows them to know exactly where they are. Clever use of icons will allow you to save space in your mobile views. Everyone knows what certain symbols refer to and if they are used well they can direct the user to exactly where you want them to go.
Make sure your content is clear and relatively jargon-free. You can’t automatically assume your user knows your business as well as you do. You may need to guide them through your content. Keeping it simple is a great way to accomplish that.
Make it simple, make it engaging and make it clear!