No other device factors into overall site navigation and usability than the menu. Menus can take several different shapes but all effective menus have one thing in common: they effectively organize information and provide a meaningful overview of the site structure. Websites with fewer individual pages can get by with only one level of navigation, usually displayed as a bar across the top of every page. More complex sites can employ drop down menus with multiple sublevels nested inside of main categories. Sites with ten or more sublevels in each category may employ “mega menus” that expand to show several rows and columns of subpages for each top-level menu item.
Menus walk a balance between being easy to use and displaying all possible information. It is often necessary to compromise between the two to deliver a menu that is usable but still allows quick access directly to the desired pages. Design and styling elements such as contrasting color schemes, highlighting, and hover effects can help point users in the right direction and make menus easier to navigate. Starting with a clear sitemap will make menu structures fall into place and make most decisions about menu structure automatic.
Add Icons to Your Services Page
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a well-thought icon on your website can certainly save some words and space. Including icons on your business’s website is a great way to communicate the scope of your offerings clearly and quickly in a matter of seconds to a potential customer browsing your site. A graphic designer can tailor icons to match your specific industry and service offerings, giving a polished and professional look to your site.
Simplify Your Copy
Many companies feel the need to explain even granular details about their products and services on introductory pages on their websites. This results in a website that appears crowded and buries the most important points about the company in large paragraphs. The copy (text) in the body of your website should be as concise as possible. Visual aids such as icons and photographs will help get your point across in an evocative manner with far fewer words on the page.
Preserve White Space
Fight the urge to occupy every square inch of virtual real estate on your home page. Most of the time, a good headline and subheading will tell your users right away that they are in the right place. If you have a scrolling homepage with multiple sections, try to limit each section to one short paragraph (under 50 words). If something is so complex that it needs an in-depth explanation, give it its own page and link to it. Homepages should provide a clear overview of who you are and what you do while nudging users towards next steps, calls-to-action, and purchase/enrollment. By giving each item and headline room to breathe, you give your users room to breathe as well and allow them to spot the most important information on your homepage effortlessly.
The issue of accessibility in web design relates to how easy, or even possible, it is for the target group of visitors to use your website. In order to provide a website that is truly usable and accessible, it is crucial to have a good understanding of your target audience. For instance, websites that will have predominantly older visitors - say, something relating to retirement - should employ larger header and body text sizes so that users will not have to struggle to read the text on the site (or go looking for their reading glasses). Similarly, a website geared at children should employ simpler language and use an inviting color scheme.
Designing with your audience in mind will help solve many crucial decisions throughout the design process. Color palettes, word choice, and complexity can all be tuned-up at different levels as dictated by the markets and audience you are trying to reach; using the proper aesthetics for your audience will build trust and goodwill amongst your users. If your company has already gone through a branding and identity exercise, these are things that you will most likely have already figured out.
The ultimate goal for most websites is to make it next-to-effortless for your users to find the information they need in an intuitive fashion. The more appealing and easy-to-use your website is, your audience and customers will enjoy using it more and will respect your brand as well; every customer interaction with your website is also an interaction with your brand. There are best practices to dictate how to make your website more accessible to a given demographic or target group, but also some thoughtfulness and testing are important to nailing a design that works well.
How your information is organized on your website is one of the biggest factors that contributes to usability. Well thought-out menu structures and pages enable users who have never been to your site before to intuitively find what they are looking for with very little effort. It is always worth asking yourself if it is logical to have pages and information where they are.
A tool for accomplishing a clear and successful organization of pages and information on your website is a sitemap. A sitemap is a bare bones chart that shows the location of every page on your website and how it nests into other pages and the overall structure. Creating a sitemap is a good opportunity to understand the scope of your website and consider if your organizational structure is easy for a newcomer to understand. Furthermore, a clear sitemap will make the development process easier by orders of magnitude.
When you are thinking about building a website, start with a sitemap that makes sense and is conducive to the user flow and functionality that is appropriate for your company or industry. It can be good to compare your website’s structure and organization with others in your industry, but also remember that it needs to make sense to your users and the needs of your particular company. Clear organization will be appreciated by all of your users and provides the solid foundation needed for a functional and successful website - be sure to give this step the attention it deserves.