You’re in the middle of creating your new webpage: you’ve done your research, got your content planned out, filled your page with colorful graphics, and are all set to upload. Before you post, how much have you thought about your user’s experience? Will your viewers be able to quickly find the information they’re looking for, or will it be hidden between images, or cluttered with other content?
How you tailor your page for users matters. I’m sure you’ve visited websites in the past to find specific information, only to leave because what you were looking for wasn’t clearly laid out for you. In order to avoid these frustrations for potential viewers of your site, it’s important to incorporate usability, organization, and navigation into your design decisions.
Let’s talk about it:
Knowing Your Audience
Your site greets customers outside business hours. Its purpose is to communicate as effectively with a visitor as if they were speaking with you directly. It showcases your products or services, and tells your brand story in a captivating way – or at least it should!Website Navigation: UX Best Practices
No matter what type of website or online content you have, your website’s primary goal is to fulfill a need for your users while not making it complicated for them. When approaching the creation of your website, your goal should be to keep it as simple as possible. This could mean avoiding menus that require multiple clicks to get to their intended location, or writing your information in list format to make it more concise and easy to read. We’ll talk more later about different organization methods, and how to pick the best one for your audience.
Speaking of your audience, it’s important to think about why they are coming to your website in the first place. What demographic is your content meant for? What needs to they have that your site can meet? By recognizing what users are using your site for, that can help you tailor the experience to them.
For example, say you are writing a cooking blog. On this blog, you might give cooking tips, and share some of your recipes. You might notice that your site is being visited by people with busy schedules, who are in need of quick, easy meals. Since this group of people are likely to be in a rush when viewing your site, you might decide to showcase some of your quick recipes at the top of your website, so it’s the first thing a viewer sees upon clicking on your site. You might also include pictures of your meals with links directly to the recipe, so the user can see what they’re looking for at a glance and get there quickly. Considering the pre-existing experiences of users is a key part of information architecture.
Now, imagine in the previous example, users aren’t immediately shown to their desired content. Instead, they have to click through a menu to the ‘recipes’ tab, scroll down to where ‘quick and easy meals’ are, and then find the recipe they want. More than likely, most users would have already clicked out and found another site that gave them answers more conveniently before they found what they were looking for. This is why well organized content is important: if a user can’t easily find what they’re looking for, they’ll go to a similar site where they can.
So how do we organize our information in a way that is user friendly and clear, but also logical? The concept of information architecture tells us how to do that.
Information Technology = Making Sense of ComplexityInformation Architecture Slides
Simply put, information architecture helps us display a complex idea in simple terms. It focuses on designing websites around three ideas: the pre-existing beliefs and experiences of users, the environment in which a user engages with a site, and the intentional conveying of meaning to a user. This can be achieved through strategic arrangement of content.
A set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them.Information Architecture Slides
Have you ever read a product label or instruction set that had a yellow triangle with an explanation point in it, and you instinctively paid special attention to it? That is an example of ontology at work. Ontology deals with how user interpret specific language, symbols, or images. Like the warning label, our brains are trained to respond in specific ways to certain images. Using recognizable imagery can help your users better understand the meaning of your content.
The science (and practice) of classification of things or concepts to create hierarchy and organize meaning.Information Architecture Slides
If you are writing about a subject that is very dense and has a lot of topics, you should sort specific bits of information into groups, whether it be by an exact organization scheme (alphabetical, chronological, or geographical) or by a subjective organization scheme (by topic, task, or audience). This can help your viewers easily find the particular information that is right for them.
The art (and practice) of designing and arranging choreographic sequences that guide the movements of dancers for a performance.Information Architecture Slides
In IA, this is your presentation. Your order of operations, how you move your readers through your content. This may sound daunting, but once you understand your audience and what they want, it can all fall into place. By understanding their goals and motivation, you can order your content in a way that aligns with their needs.
By using the right navigation method, this can be accomplished.
One of the most common navigation methods is scrolling. It’s what you’re doing right now! Scrolling is a great method for every age demographic, since it’s so simple pretty much everyone can do it. It’s also a reliable way to deliver information quickly, since a single scroll doesn’t require any load time, while clicking to a separate page might. Readers might be more inclined to keep scrolling, because it doesn’t require the commitment that clicking a button could. Just be sure to keep your content brief: scrolling for a long time without knowing what’s at the bottom can scare away readers!
For more involved desktop or mobile content, clicking can be a better way to organize your site. Separating sections on different pages with button clicks can make things less intimidating for your readers. There is another benefit to clicking: users can bookmark the pages they are most interested, saving time that would otherwise be spent scrolling. Just make sure not to overdue it with the amount of clicking required; every button press is a decision, and an opportunity to click away.
Lastly, we’ll talk about menus. Menus are a great feature to use alongside clicking or scrolling. Depending on the type of menu you use, it can help streamline the search process for your users. While the much debated hamburger menu can create more work for your user, and put a barrier between them and the content they want, a well labeled menu at the top or side of a website can help users find the content they want much quicker.
Your website is yours, but remember that it’s primary purpose is to help users. By taking account of user experience, you can accomplish the goals of your website much easier, while improving the searchability of your website as well.