There’s nothing more frustrating than navigating a website, credit card in hand, and being unable to make a purchase because of a badly designed website.
We’ve all encountered websites that leave us feeling confused or frustrated. Here’s a short guide to making sure your website isn’t one of them.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
There are a few set standards when it comes to web design and reasons why you mustn’t change them. People have been taught how to navigate websites from the likes of Amazon, eBay, and other big websites out there. These behemoths of web design follow a certain layout that has been proven over the years, and believe me when I say that they’ve spent millions of dollars on usability testing and AB testing to get to the layout that works best.
If in doubt, have a look at some of the global leaders in your industry and copy them.
So please don’t put your logo in the middle of the page, or centre your navigation or right align your text. Don’t put your menu in a circle or on the right side, and don’t ask people to ‘click to enter site’. Just keep it simple.
Accept that you are not the customer
You are not the customer, and nobody in your business is either. It’s easy to think that ‘Everyone navigates the web the way I do’ or ‘Of course people will know what that sentence means.’ The truth is that often this is not the case, and no matter how in tune you are with your customers you cannot afford to not do user testing on your site.
Test your website with users
User testing doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Simply ask one person at a time, someone who has no idea what you do, to look at your website and give them a task to do. Then don’t help them or prompt them or guide them, let them suffer.
Ask them to talk you through what they’re thinking. Note down all the places where they got stuck and wanted to shut down the site and go and fix those issues, then test with the next person. After only five people you will have ironed out most of the big ‘deal-breaker’ issues on your website.
I recently tried to search for a book on Takalot.com on my iPad, and after an hour of frustration due to technical errors I emailed the support desk, telling them to fix the problem. Most customers aren’t so helpful and will simply go to a competitor, since there are so many of those these days.
You can’t afford to be sending your competitors your customers.
Don’t overcook It
It’s very easy to brief your designer on a website that is all singing and all dancing and even makes coffee. Just because you can think of something to include in the design doesn’t mean it has to be in the design. Keep it simple and go live with a trimmed down version of your original idea, and keep adding to it and building onto it as you go.
Remember a website is never finished. There’s always something you want to change or add onto it, so at some point you have to let it go, sign it off and start building your business.
If it aint broke, don’t fix it
I can give you two examples of big brands in South Africa that fixed things that weren’t broke.
- ABSA revised their logged in section and turned a perfectly usable website into one that is so hard to use, I frequently make mistakes when doing payments and transfers. The old one was fine and I never use the new version.
- AfriHost, a popular low cost web hosting company, also went out and bought or developed a new customer zone and, exactly the same as with ABSA, it’s nearly impossible to use. I also never use the new version.
Both systems look great, they are visually far more beautiful than the older versions; however they are both completely unusable. They both break fundamental rules when it comes to user testing.
- The old systems are list based, the new are icon based
- The old systems are easy to scan; the new systems required concentrated reading
- The old systems have aligned the text to the right, the new has it left aligned, and in multiple columns.
All of which leads to errors and frustrations.
A website that is easy to use can be a key differentiator against your competitors. If their websites are complex, cluttered and not catering to their customers, then now is the time to strike and win away their customers with your beautiful website experience.