4 Steps to a User-Friendly Site
You are headed to a family Thanksgiving, and your mom asks you to pick up green beans for a casserole. You should have been there five minutes ago, but let’s be honest, Netflix binge-watching is not a joke.
So here you are in Walmart looking for canned green beans. You enter the store, look for the food department, locate the right aisle, and scan the shelves. But, alas, you do not find the green beans.
A little frustrated, you ask an employee for help locating the green beans. After he explains that all canned foods are located in the camping department, you thank him and head that way. But as you are walking, You. Are. Flabbergasted. Well, maybe that’s a little extreme, but you are pretty confused. Why in the world would they place canned food in the camping section? Who would think to look there instead of the food department?
But! This issue is totally fixable, and actually, much simpler than you might anticipate. In a few easy steps, you can avoid frustrating and confusing your users.
1. Strategically organize your pages
By using an organization system, your users can easily and logically follow your site’s directions. Whether we realize it or not, we use organizational systems every day, and they are similar to using a site. Let’s go back to our Walmart example. When you walk into Walmart, you locate the department your needed item is in. Then, once you are in the right department, you scan for the right aisle. Once you locate the correct aisle, you then scan the shelves for your product.
Walmart is effective in this way because they strategically group products the way a customer would. You want to use the same kind of process for your site and get in the mindset of your user. You can do this by sketching an outline of your pages.
2. Put flow above design
What I mean by this is that site usability is more important than an impressive design. If a user cannot successfully navigate around a site, the design won’t matter.
This can be hard to do because modern sites are sleek, subtle, and design-heavy. We often forget that users pay more attention to usability than design. Truthfully, users are not paying as much attention to our pages as we think they are. They are trying to find specific information either about you, your group, or your event. They are on a mission, and your site should lead them to their goal.
A great, simple way to do this is to make navigation clear. You can do this by using icons to represent buttons or certain actions, making it clear to the user what page they are currently on, highlighting or bolding titles, etc. By providing a little direction and creating a clean page, your users will find what they are looking for.
Here is an example of great usability on the University of Arkansas Research Page. The page is clean, lets the user know what page they are on, and uses clear titles to indicate topics discussed on the page.
3. Make your site mobile friendly
It goes without saying that sites are constantly being viewed via smartphone. Have you ever visited a site on your phone that was a jumbled mess of text and graphics? Yeah, it’s not very enjoyable for the user. Fortunately, it is easy to make your site mobile friendly with WordPress.
First, you’ll want to go to your visual builder.
Then, you’ll want to hover your mouse over the section you want to adjust. Oftentimes, the most important section to adjust for mobile-friendly sites is the header. Your header might look perfect on desktop view, but skewed on a mobile device.
Now, click on the “Design” tab, click the drop-down arrow for “Title text,” locate “Title font size,” and click the phone icon to the right.
Once I get to the mobile view, you can see why the header would be a problem if this post was accessed via phone.
In order to combat that, Divi allows you to adjust the desktop, tablet, and smartphone views separately. For the smartphone view, I am going to lower the text size of the header.
By lowering the text size, the header is more readable and aesthetically fit. You can continue to click on other sections within the visual builder to adjust the mobile view. Your users will thank you!
4. Improve your readability score
This tip might sound a little backward because we are often taught to use impressive and creative language when writing. For web writing, however, it is best to keep your writing straightforward and simple. Users are most likely coming to your site to obtain some kind of information, whether that’s about you, about your program, or about your research. Hemingway Editor is a great tool for web writing. You copy and paste your writing into the application, and it will tell you where your language is confusing, passive, or too complex. Then, it will grade your readability score. The lower, the better.
That’s it! Those are the four steps to a user-friendly site. If you start with these four steps, your users will have a positive experience with your site. They will be thankful you put the green beans in the canned food section rather than the camping section.