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How to Build Usability into Your New Website Design

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So you are ready to build a whole new website or you need to redesign an older website. Is the usability of your new website in your game plan? Having all the key elements that your user requires prominent and easily accessible can mean the difference of achieving complete success or mediocre crowd appeal for your new website.

What core website design elements should be on your high priority list for your new website?

Easy to find and use website navigation.
Without this design element obviously your user would be a bit lost and certainly would not be able to complete the desired goals on your website. Try not to make your user think. Typically your top navigation bar (and / or side navigation bar) will be central to the usability of your new design. If you use only a top navigation bar organization will be key; keep it simple and obvious. Organizing your content into drop down menus set into a "category" type structure will help you and your user's better target and find you're most important content. For example; using a main category of product or services, then set subpages up for the different products and services you offer. Also setting company information under a category called About Us - setting pages like company history, staff, mission statement, etc. under that category will give your user a full understanding of your company.

Present a clear message about your product, service or company.
When your visitor gets to any page of your website especially your home page, it should be very clear what your product or service is about. Typically your home page will be the main focus for this, so don't try and do or put everything you do on your home page. Try and present on clear focused message. Sometime creating a tag line can help with this and then build the look, feel and imagery for you home page around that tag line. Or concentrate on one or two main products or services. Do you sell mountain bikes for example; then creating that feel on your home page of being outdoors riding down a mountain will should be the focus of your home page. Oh, and lots of bike photos. If you sell accessories as well, make those smaller type sub-messages on the home page.

Give your visitor clear calls to action.
A call to action or CTA means to present your visitor with what they should do next on your website. These typically are done "ad spots" or buttons or graphics. They tell your visitor to "Call Now" or "Save Today!" for example. Also well placed text calls to action work well also, like Call Us at 1-800... Or "Get a Free Estimate", all can be considered calls to action. These typically lead to your goal pages where you want your user to do or achieve something on your website, like buy a product or fill out a short form. Without a call to action the user may not be able to easily complete the desired action on your website to make them a customer.

Give your user a vehicle to stay connected with your business, product or service.
Today there are many different ways to do this. Typically it has been hooks like "signup for our newsletter" or "get a free trial" where your user fills out a short form and signs up for emails or reminders or a freebie. Now you can add into the mix social media where your user can elect to follow or like your product or service and subsequently possibly share it with their friends. Once they do that you can easily push updates, product offers and more to them via social media.

» All websites should plan these basic usability elements into their designs. There are many more of course depending on exactly what your website is about and does. If you are able to always present a clear message to your visitor, have them complete your desired goal and find easy ways to keep in touch with them your business is sure to succeed.

Creating a short list of questions like these below will help guide your design.

  • Who is your target market, region or audience
  • What technologies will your user use most to view your website
  • What is your main product or service and how can you present that simply
  • How can you break down what your do or sell into categories or sections of content
  • What are your main calls to action (CTAs)
  • What is the main goal or goals of your website
  • How are you going to keep in touch with your customer after their visit

You can also review these resources:

How to Target Online Shoppers to Your Store
The online version of a window shopper is one who surfs by your home page for a look but doesn't step in to actually look at everything your store has to offer. How do get them to step in to your store and how do you keep them coming back once they have entered and looked around a bit?

How to Submit Your Website to Search Engines - Best Practices
For search engines today there is no real need to "submit" a new website in the traditional method anymore. Search engines today use very efficient software programs called spiders to index websites, but check out these best practices to give your website a head start.

7 Best Practices for Usability
See these best practice tips on Mashable – when your content is highly readable your users be able to quickly digest it and look for more.

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