In part 1 of this 2 part blog, we will be looking at the typical visitor’s browsing behaviour. We’ll focus on web design best practices from the visitor’s point of view. Later, in Part 2, we’ll look at user-centric design techniques. These have become a standard approach for successful and profitable websites. This is about stripping away features that aren’t used and simplifying the visitor’s experience. Ultimately, it is usability, not just the visual design, that determines a website’s success. So, before we delve into web design best practices, let’s first consider the way users behave when they encounter a new website.
How Do Users Respond?
Most visitors respond to a new site in a similar way to arriving in a new store. They quickly glance over the pages, scan a little of the text that looks relevant, and then click the first available link that looks promising. Unfortunately, this skimming technique leaves large parts of the page unread. Furthermore, once a user clicks through to a new page, they quickly hit the back button if it doesn’t look interesting or relevant. So, what stops them ‘bouncing’ straightaway? The answer is high-quality content. The fact is, visitors appreciate quality, substance, and credibility. Of course, good website design supports the content, but it’s not the primary reason for staying.
Keep the Cognitive Load Low
Web users are impatient. They want near-instant gratification. Therefore, if a web page doesn’t easily and quickly produce a relevant way towards the information being sought, they are gone. So, keep the cognitive load low and navigation intuitive. Furthermore, studies have shown that visitors don’t follow a logical or linear route towards the information they want. Thus, searching is a kind of intuitive task, and sometimes, more just muddling through.
In Part 2, we’ll look in detail at how web design best practices aim to harness and funnel these behaviours to achieve an optimal website experience.