1. Include a Tagline
A tagline is a statement or a motto that represents a company’s, or in our
case a website’s, philosophy and mission. It should be the most obvious
element on a website’s front page and it should clearly describe the
website in one phrase.
Statistics show that a website has just 8 seconds to capture a visitor’s
attention for them to browse the site further. Without a clear tagline a website
would have a hard time keeping visitors long enough to browse the inner pages.
2. Implement Site Search
As with taglines, site search is a very important element on a website. When
users are looking for something they typically look for a text field where they
can enter their search term.
Nielsen’s web usability tips, make this search box 27 characters
wide in order for the text to be clearly visible and easy to use.
Place the search text field on the top of your web page, because users
tend to search a website according to the F pattern, meaning
from the top left to the bottom right.
Include a search button and clearly specify the search text, don’t use text
such as Go or Submit, because these expressions tend to mislead your
3. Don’t Use Extensive Graphics
Abusive use of design elements and graphics are always bad for a website,
they just mislead the site’s visitors. Only design to improve the web page not
just to decorate it. From a usability point of view, less is always more.
4. Use Site maps
Site maps are a relatively new website feature that improves web page
navigation and also search engine optimization (SEO). Site maps in essence are a
structural representation of a website’s pages and architecture. It can be a
document in any form, or a web page that lists the pages on a web site,
typically organized in hierarchical fashion.
Recently, search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN have started offering a
Sitemap protocol which is similar to a website’s site map page,
but the data is organized in XML format. There are Sitemap XML generators that
create these documents for a specific URL.
5. Don’t Break the Workflow
By workflow we mean every operation that a user is doing on a website.
For example filling out a form, registering on a website, browsing categories,
archives, etc. Don’t break these workflows, let the user cancel any operation.
By not letting the user cancel an operation, we’re forcing them to finish it
even if they don’t want to.
Not every operation on a website is obvious for users, guide them through the
specific workflow by using descriptive tips. (e.g. when filling out a form).
on your website.
Another mistake is not changing the color of visited links,
this results in breaking the navigational design. Let users know where they’ve
been and where they are on a website.
6. Create Easily Scannable Web Pages
Easy to read web pages plays an important role in maintaining visitors’
loyalty, keeping them on your site and reading your content. Usability tests
show that the majority of users don’t read web pages, they scan them,
looking for titles, bold, emphasized text or lists.
Eye tracking studies conducted by Jakob Nielsen show that users read content
that resembles an F shape, meaning that the reading starts from the upper left
of the web page, next it moves down a little starting from the left again.
Nielsen also states the implications of this reading pattern:
- Users won’t read a web page content word by word, they
will extract important paragraphs, bold text, etc.
- The first two paragraphs are essential on a web page.
These must contain the most important information that your
visitors are looking for.
- Sub headings and lists stands out from the regular
paragraphs. Use these elements to notify users on important
One important method that we can learn from traditional printed newspapers is
that the journalists thought of a catchy headline and a catchy first paragraph
to make readers read the whole article. They organize the content in an
inverted pyramid format, just picture an upside down pyramid. The broad
base represents the most important information in the whole article and the
narrow tip represents the least important information.
We can use this format to organize web content by putting the most
important pieces on top and the least important ones on the bottom, but
how do we know which information is important and which is not? With the help of
7. Don’t Design Misleading UI Controls
By user interface (UI) controls we mean web page elements, components and
widgets that a user can interact with (e.g. a button, drop-down list).
Don’t design graphic elements that looks like a button, but is not.
We often see text that is underlined and looks like links, but are not
By not having the action that the users were expecting, they would think that
the site is broken and eventually leave. One other important usability tip
regarding UI controls is consistency: Make sure that your UI controls
the above image shows too, is a good example of consistent UI control design.
Every tab on the page looks and behaves the same, every link is underlined on
mouse over, every button looks the same, etc.
8. Give Meaningful Feedback
Meaningful feedback is essential for a website. This is the communication
channel between the site and the users, with the help of feedback we let the
users know what’s going on on the site. In case of an error on your web page,
don’t just print Error occurred, instead write meaningful error
messages which tell the user what went wrong and what actions they can perform
Feedback works in both ways. When a user fills in a form
they are essentially giving you feedback. Don’t make the users have to fill in
the same information twice. For example if a user has registered on a website
and needs to fill in a form at some point, don’t ask for their name or any other
information that they have already supplied, because these details already exist
somewhere in a file or database. By simply getting these details automatically
we are simplifying the whole process.
developers can create responsive, transparent websites, but as with all new
technologies there is a cost. In our case the cost is browser inconsistency. Not
enabled by default.
10. Avoid CAPTCHAs
CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers
and Humans Apart. Even the name sounds complex. The most general form of CAPTCHA
is text embedded in an image and by testing visitors we can separate human users
from spam bots.
The problem with CAPTCHAs are that each form of human verification
method triggers a complex process in the users’ brains (e.g. figuring
out the distorted text, adding two numbers, etc).
Another problem with CAPTCHAs are the inconsistencies regarding
different cultures. For example Chinese symbols, numerals are different
from most western letters and Arabic numerals. Chinese people have a much harder
time using CAPTCHA ‘enabled’ online forms.
- Always include a tagline which should be the most obvious
element on a web page.
- Implement a 27 characters wide site search and place it on
top of your website.
- Don’t use extensive graphics and design elements.
- Include a site map page and register a sitemap XML document
in search engines.
- Don’t break a user’s workflow. Allow every action to be
canceled if necessary.
- Create easily scannable web content and place the most
important information on top of your web page.
- Don’t design graphic elements that looks like a button, but
- Present meaningful feedback and don’t forget that feedback
works both ways.
- Avoid CAPTCHAs, use more usable