The key elements of website design - #2 keep it intuitive
Most visitors that visit your website will do so with a specific reason in mind – to find a phone number, to request a service/product, to see your opening times, to find your address and so on. In addition, the vast majority of visitors will only stay on your website for a short while - the average time that a person spends on a web page is often reported to be less than a minute.
Taken together, these two facts point signpost us to a number of the key website design elements that we will be learning about in these series of blog articles – this one deals with making sure your design is intuitive.
Whilst website designs can vary hugely, many components remain the same across the majority of sites. Through constant use and exposure, our brains have become wired to intuitively understand where elements on a website should be and how to find them without us consciously thinking about it. If the element doesn't exist where your brain thinks it should then this will jar and cause some small, maybe indiscernible level of anxiety and potentially lead to a poorer user experience.
It's important to note that there are no design rules – you can build your design however you wish – and many successful website designs will deviate from the following suggestions. If you feel you have good reason to deviate from the following “design norms/conventions" then go ahead but do so having thought about the subconscious impact this might have on your users experience.
If you are looking to produce a site which is intuitively easy for your visitors to use, then following these suggestions will get you 80% of the way there.
- Your logo should be somewhere in the top left of the design
- The main site navigation/page menu should be towards the top of the design
- If you have a secondary navigation structure, this should be on the left hand side of the page
- Footers & headers are styled differently to the rest of the site (they might have a different background colour or font for example)
- The site search facility (you should have one) sits at the top of the site or within, and to the right of, the main navigation area.
- If important, the telephone number, email address and social media links often sit in their own area distinct from the main navigation/page menu and usually at the very top of the design. If they are not important, they usually sit in an area at the bottom of the design
- Legal/advisory information about the business (e.g. terms and conditions, privacy statements, copyright information etc.) is usually in smaller font towards the bottom of the design/in the footer.
- If you use a shopping cart, it is usually towards the top right hand side of the design
- Large fonts denote importance – the larger the font, the more importance the visitor subconsciously places upon it. Use H1, H2 etc heading tags to structure your content
- If text is underlined we automatically think it is a link. Be wary of underlining text to simply decorate text – use headings, font size and styles instead.