I was evaluating two website designs recently. It became quickly apparent that I needed to define a criteria to evaluate these website designs by. Usability is ever more important in website design. So I leaned heavily on the usability of each design.
Website Design Evaluation Criteria:
- Screen Design
- Space allocation
- Media Use
Design that appeals to target audience enhances your brand experience. Appealing design that enables visitors to find important information easy makes for a pleasant brand experience. Visitors associate your web experience to the actual experience of doing business with you.
Readability is related legibility. How easy is it for a user to read the text on your web property? Page appearance, choice of font and contrast becomes very important here. Designs and colors that work for print usually fail brands online. In a study a usability expert Jacob Nielsen found that users read 25% slower from a computer screen than paper. Make the text easy to read to improve user experience.
Scannability is indirectly associated with readability. J. Morkes and Jacob Nielsen, usability gurus state in their book Applying Writing Guidelines to Web state “as users find it difficult to read large volumes of information on screen they prefer to scan text and pick out keywords, sentences, and paragraph of interest while skipping others, which are not related to their interest. In other words, users always skim rather than read web documents.”
Visually identifiable hierarchy with titles, summaries, sub-titles will improve your website usability. Enable the user scan the page by short paragraphs, use of titles and introduction. Promote navigation through content so that users are able to find what they are looking for with easy and by scanning the page. Website copy should also be written to support skimming through the page. Traditional document writing styles will make for a cumbersome web experience.
Basic need of a good website design is navigability. Clearly defined consistent navigation provides your visitors a solid road map of your website. Navigation and sub navigation should always be consistently anchored throughout your website. Good navigation starts with a logical content architecture. Navigation items should include meaningful link names. Branded names as links provide a negative user experience.
Buttons and navigation links within the copy should be consistent.
Visitors to your site should be able to access your website from any device in the manner your visitors consume information. Today this means designs that are accessible from mobile devices. This also makes a case for the need of succinct but useful content that clearly accomplishes user goals.
For website users speed of accessing information is very important. According to Jacob Nielsen web users are impatient and they want their answers immediately and do not want to be slowed down by cool features, mission statements or self-promoting grandstanding.
Accommodate your user’s goals in design and guide users to accomplish their goals in content.
Design consistency is important in web site designs. A user is learning your site design, navigation and functionality when first visiting a site. Though there are standards in web sites, approaches in design differ vastly. All grocery stores have milk at the very back of the store; but they’ll all have different floor plans. Consistent design will speed up user’s learning and create a pleasant experience.
Yale Web Style Manual suggests designers to provide consistent layout for title, sub titles, page footers, background, and navigation links in terms of consistent size, fonts, and colors.
Studies have shown clever use of media such as graphics, images and video in web pages keep users attention and can enhance the user experience. However improper use of media will affect user experience negatively.
A note about content
Content that appeals and meets the need of the intended audience is a very important aspect of a website. Content is as important as screen design and navigation. Since we are looking at just website layout design, I’ve ignored this in this list. Always remember, content is king.
What other aspects of a website design is important to you?