Designing websites for people, not devices
Web design has evolved greatly over the years. No longer do you have to only worry about users viewing on stationary desktop computers. In a mobile-first world you have to consider tablets, phones and other mobile devices that are emerging. It is easy to get distracted and design for these devices instead of designing websites for people. Never forget the purpose of your web design and its focal point – the user.
You need to consider your users first to ensure that your website is successful. They are the ones interacting with your website. They are the ones you need to make an impression on. Their experience will influence their action and you want them to take specific actions. Positive actions are usually preceded by positive experiences. What experience does your website provide?
Optimizing user experience with responsive design
Ensure that you are designing websites for people by using responsive design. Responsive websites are effective because the layout changes to accommodate different screen sizes. This accommodation should not be seen as a reason to design for phones and tablets though. Obviously screen size should be considered, but user experience is still key. Responsive design also excels at compacting navigation and putting content front and centre where screen real estate is limited.
The space in the browser that is available to display content (the viewport) can easily be resized. On computers, windows can be resized and on tablets and smart phones the orientation of the viewport can easily be rotated. Responsive design caters for these actions by adjusting content as necessary. This enhances the user experience by allowing your visitor to have a seamless experience regardless of device.
Designing websites for people instead of search engines
Search engine optimization is an important part of web design. High ranking websites can receive a lot of referral traffic from search engines. You should not prioritize designing for search engines over designing for people though. People are the ones actually using your website. They can identify usability issues that search engine crawlers cannot. There is also the risk of over optimizing for search engines and not focussing enough on quality of content.
Consider a website full of keywords and content tailored to manipulate search engines. How do you think visitors to this site will find the experience? They probably won’t enjoy it. Sites aimed at gaming search engines usually come across as being shady. This erodes user trust as well as the website’s credibility. Search engines are also always improving and can identify many gaming tactics.
Genuine search engine optimization improves the quality of content by providing descriptive and relevant content organized in a reasonable way. The focus is on improving content so that it can be discovered by search engines. It is improved by making it easier for those consuming it to access and understand. It all comes back to the website visitor.
Improvements in internet speed and bandwidth allow us to surf the web faster than ever before. Do not take the speed of your website for granted though. Everyone does not always have the optimal internet speed. Mobile devices may be able to download your website content, but will your visitor wait? Is your content worth it? Speed of downloading your website and its assets is critical. This is especially true on data connections that the visitor pays for. Quick loading websites have a better chance of actually being seen. Every second a visitor has to wait for a page to load takes that visitor one step closer to abandoning your website.
Websites that do not load quickly can also cause confusion. Is the website unresponsive? Has the transaction gone through? Any time the visitor has to wait a long time for a response from the website it creates unrest. Many website visitors will not wait while many others may become annoyed. Neither outcome is favourable.
It is imperative to consider your website loading speed during it’s design. Unnecessary assets may make your website look cool but are they really necessary? Do they add value for the visitor? There is always a balance that has to be reached between features and speed. Consider the experience your customer will have navigating through your website.
Testing your website with people
The simplest way to test what people think about your website is to ask them. Testing with different browsers and devices is great, but the opinions of actual users are invaluable. People bring fresh perspectives and expectations.
As the one designing the website you know exactly what you want the website to do. This creates bias when testing the website. You may overlook pain points that visitors may have. People may also have certain expectations that are poorly met by your design. For example, if you notice users constantly clicking on an image expecting it to be a link, maybe it should be.
Feedback from testing should always be taken into consideration to improve the user experience of the website. The more problems that can be eliminated during the testing phase the better.
There are many tips and best practices for designing websites. There are also many different tools and many different workflows. The wide variety of internet enabled devices available means users can access your website anywhere from multiple devices. While it is imperative to cater for mobile devices do not forget the actual user. The experience a user has on interaction with your site will undoubtedly influence further action. Make that experience a pleasant one.