Although the world wide web is known for its unmatched variety, there are a few overarching principles that should guide any website’s design. In this blog, we’ll give you some tips on how you should handle them.
Find the right balance between minimalism and usability
Having a minimalist design with good usability is the goal for any site. The problem is, the more minimalist you make your site, the more likely you are to detract from its usability. Moreover, as you improve your user experience, you tend to add elements that might not be completely necessary.
A recent Social Barrel article explains this dilemma. According to the article, you should strip your site down without sacrificing usability, functionality, and navigation:
“So strip down your website to the bare essentials. The difficulty in this is to not sacrifice usability, functionality and intuitive navigation. This bit’s hard, but will pay dividends. Get friends and family who’ve never seen the website to use it. Watch how they navigate through it, take detailed notes, and adjust your design accordingly. It’ll make a world of difference.”
There’s no easy way to overcome this problem. You just have to be aware of it and try your best to find a balance between the two.
Leave lots of room for white space
A frequent design mistake businesses make is filling up with their sites with superfluous elements. Although an image, GIF, or video might not be bad on its own, it could have a detrimental effect on your user experience.
This often happens when businesses try to incorporate too many trends in their design. What works for one business might not necessary work for yours, especially if your site already has a lot going on.
Think of all the sites you’ve visited that have too much clutter, and then try to recall any sites you’ve visited that have too much white space. The latter is much rarer for two reasons: businesses have the tendency to fill their sites up with junk and it’s almost impossible to have too much white space. It makes your navigation more intuitive and your site run better.
Recognition rather than recall
One of the standard usability principles tells us that users should recognize a site’s navigation rather than having to recall it. It’s a good thing to keep in mind when reviewing your site.
This applies most to your site’s navigation. This Business 2 Community article explains why you should lay everything out clearly so users don’t have to hunt for specific info:
“There is no one best layout for a B2B website (hence why template websites aren’t ideal), but the main rule is that you don’t want your users to have to hunt for information. Make everything easy to find and enable users to get to information within one to two clicks.”
Recognition rather than recall. Users shouldn’t have to have experience with your site to know how it works. First-time users shouldn’t have a problem finding critical information on your site.
Make it mobile-first
Starting several years ago, the major trend in web design was to make your site mobile-friendly. This was mostly important in case users wanted to browse your site from a smartphone or tablet, but Google also started factoring it into its search algorithm. A switch to responsive design suddenly became one of the most effective SEO strategies.
We’re now witnessing a new development, which is to make your site mobile-first. It’s still important that your site functions on both desktops and mobile devices, but since there are now more mobile Google searches than desktop ones, you should assume that your prospective customers will be accessing your site with smartphones and tablets.
This represents a change in design as well as your mentality. On the one hand, you have to make sure your menus, buttons, and links are accessible on smartphones. And on the other hand, you have to rethink your navigation and entire user experience from a new perspective. You have to imagine how smartphone users will interact with your site.
Test, test, test
Conducting rounds of empirical research is perhaps the most important aspect of web design. You can have a great design in theory that just doesn’t resonate with users in practice. Moreover, there might be an element or two you want to take away for a more minimalist design, but users just seem to prefer it. It for reasons like this why you need to test, test, test.
This Search Engine Journal article offers another good example. It explains why businesses should test their mobile design to make sure it works right on smartphones and tablets. It specifically mentions having buttons big enough for thumbs to push accurately:
“Your mobile-first design should have touch screen navigation that is easily scrolled with fingers that are either too big or too small. Think about the size of a thumb and index finger, and make sure your mobile design caters to all for a smoother UX. The smoother the UX, the more engagement, which means the better the SEO.”
A mobile-design with small buttons is a disaster, but you’d be surprise how many examples there are of it. This is what happens when you don’t test every single facet of your design. Without a concrete plan, you’re bound to miss something somewhere along the way.
Creating a site with a good usability design isn’t easy. Implementing these tips will at least help you strive towards a more minimalist, intuitive, error-free design. To talk more about our best web design tips, or anything else, contact us today.