Colordance Design

February 17, 2014

Best Practices for Web Site Usability – Part I

It makes smart business sense to create a website that is easy for your viewers to use. You want them to quickly grasp what your business is about and easily find the information they seek. Since most viewers scan when they are on the internet, they often spend an average of 10 seconds on a webpage. Thus, there are best practices that will make your site a pleasure to use and enjoy.

These include:

  •  Present an engaging, visual concept on your homepage of what your business is about; as the saying goes “ a picture is worth a thousand words”,
  • Continue this engaging visual theme on your secondary page, adding more content/text to create a unified design,
  • Place the logo at the top left corner on all web pages,
  • Employ meaningful imagery throughout your site to increase reading comprehension,
  • Limit main navigation headings to 7-9 words, one word preferable
  • Organize  your hierarchy of information (content),
  • Take into account audience preferences for minimal scrolling and elements that can distract their eye such as photos overpower the text or page layout,
  • Use lists and short sentences to assist with scanning
  • Embed key words in your headings and copy -keep this list nearby when you write your text,
  • Refrain from filling the blank space with text as the eye needs places to rest.

Harvest Pow Wow Homepage

Home Page As Visual Introduction

Your home page is your viewer’s first impression to what your business is all about. It needs to be primarily visual, as research indicates the human brain processes imagery instantaneously.1 Providing meaningful imagery on the home page gives the human brain what it needs to quickly assimilate your business messaging.

In contrast to written text, people may actually think in pictures, according to Mike Parkinson. In his article, The Power of Visual Communication, Parkinson cites research in which the human brain grasps the ingredients of an image immediately and needs more time to comprehend text, as the brain must process language in a step-by-step sequential process. 2 Another author, Amanda Sibley, in her article Why You Should Include Visual Content In Your Marketing Data, cites research which indicates viewers process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.3

Heat mapping studies indicate that viewers are scanning rather than reading line for line on the internet,  so you don’t want to clutter your pages with verbose text.  Instead, brainstorm a visual concept with one meaningful image or a series of images arranged in a photo collage. This will engage to your viewer’s curiosity and creativity.

Unless you’re specifically building a web portal, avoid putting too much information on multiple topics on your home page.  Viewers are not likely to find key information you want to convey when it is hidden in a sea of disconnected text, links and images.  Use your site’s main navigation to point the viewer to the right information quickly.

To this recipe add the following home page elements:

  •  Business logo/logotype in the top left corner on all pages. Viewers expect this on websites and appreciate consistency.
  • Summary paragraph about your business with embedded key words for Search Engine Optimization,
  • Contact Information and links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Join Our Mailing List.

View the home and secondary page design on the Harvest Pow Wow website.
Harvest Pow Wow Secondary Page

Secondary Page – Unified With Home Page

The secondary page design is the place to add more content/ text with less visual imagery. Yet, it needs to capture a similar design as your homepage in terms of layout, color scheme, visual concept.  Use plenty of white space (negative space) to give the eye a rest.  A unified web site design creates  visual harmony and keeps your viewer engaged with your site.  Wherever possible you want to avoid a “busy” look. Color can often be used to focus attention.

Meaningful Imagery

Research shows that appropriate imagery placed near related text increases recall and comprehension. It may do this by engaging viewer curiosity and creativity, since we may think in pictures. Read more.

Resources Consulted

1. Amanda Sibley, 19 Reasons Why You Should Include Visual Content In Your Marketing Data, Inbound Hub, Inbound Marketing (August 6, 2012) http://blog.hubspot.com/
2. Mike Parkinson, The Power of Visual Communication http://www.billiondollargraphics.com/
3. Amanda Sibley, 19 Reasons Why You Should Include Visual Content In Your Marketing Data, Inbound Hub, Inbound Marketing (August 6, 2012) http://blog.hubspot.com/

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