Web Design Best Practices – A UX Primer for Business Owners and Marketers

POSTED BY Regina Gilloon-Meyer - 04.02.14 - Website design

Web_Page Usability TipsBusiness owners and marketing teams often have the responsibility for creating marketing tools like websites and apps, or at least managing the process of getting that done. Did you miss that class in school? Yep, so did a lot of us. Once you get into a website development project, you will learn that there is much more to it than picking out cool website designs or templates. Lack of basic technical and usability knowledge can make for a painful, on-the-job learning experience. 

Keeping current in the digital marketing field isn’t easy, but it is essential. Finding good resources is always a challenge because the field is changing so fast. Because of this I have a rule of thumb for reading digital marketing books – if the copyright is more than two years old, I don’t bother pulling it down off the virtual shelf. Marketing theories and tools that made sense 2-3 years ago often seem quaint already. (Can you say QR Code? I knew you could.)

New and Improved Website UX Classic

Of course, there are notable exceptions. One book on website usability (UX), first published in 2000, Don’t Make Me Think, A Commonsense Approach to Website Usability, is one. The author, Steve Krug, (rhymes with “Goog”-le), wrote a short, surprisingly funny, common sense primer on website usability that has became standard fare for students of digital marketing. For the most part, his original book has stood the test of time. However, technology has marched on so some sections are dated and no longer applicable.

Website usability refers simply to the ease with which the average person can use the website or app to achieve a specific goal. The idea is simple but the complexity of modern websites has led to the creation of an entirely new discipline focusing on user experience and web design. It can get pretty deep out there. Knowing what website usability questions to ask is key to success. 

Dont_Make_Me_Think by Steve KrugFortunately, in January 2014 Mr. Krug published the 3rd Edition of the book, Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited. Mobile usability content was added and the new edition reflects the technology and design changes of the last decade. While billed as a book about website and mobile usability (UX), it’s really for anyone who needs to create and deliver digital media that works (i.e., is useable).

Web Design and Marketing – It’s All Content

As noted in Kelly Homewood’s post, SXSW Interactive 2014: A Marketers Point Of View, many businesses are so busy chasing the next big thing in digital marketing, they are neglecting to fix what is actually broken on their sites. This book invites the reader back into the mind of their user – with gentle reminders throughout that designing for the web should begin and end with the user experience. In particular, you need to avoid wasting users’ time with unnecessary content, hard to find content, confusing navigation and myriad other design clunkers.

Do your users have to ask themselves, even for an instant, “Is that a link?” If they do, you should fix it to remove all doubt. Or, are your pages too content heavy? Krug writes this about his Happy Talk Must Die rule, “If you’re not sure something is happy talk, there’s one sure-fire test: If you listen very closely while you’re reading, you can actually hear a tiny voice in the back of your head saying, “Blah blah blah blah blah….” That’s happy talk. Get rid of it. Can your customers find a way to contact you on every single page, not just the contact us page? Don’t make them think about where you put your contact us page – just add a CTA to every page. Seems like a no brainer but that basic information is not always so easy to find on newer websites. Why? Because when you’re down in the web design trenches, all the issues that seem so obvious when pointed out can easily get overlooked. Usability testing is all about getting fresh eyes to test, test, test and then “go live”.

Intentional Design Is No Accident

Creating thoughtless website experiences is no easy trick. Each and every mindless move a user takes on your website or app represents quite a lot of conscious thought by someone at some point. If you are new to digital development, or if you are responsible for the final product, you should do yourself a favor and learn the basics of UX. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited is a great place to start.

Web design projects come in all shapes and sizes. Doing a landing page seems simple enough but even this one-page wonder requires a lot of thought. Download our guide to 7 Landing Page Best Practices for tips on how to create an effective landing page.

landing page best practices

Regina Gilloon-Meyer

Regina Gilloon-Meyer

Content Marketing Specialist Regina Gilloon-Meyer is an all-around contributor to the Fusionfarm team – blogging, website writing, search marketing, strategy and web analytics and more. With a degree in journalism and years of technical writing under her belt, she saw the writing on the screen several years ago and made the jump to all things digital marketing. Regina is a regular contributor to the Fusionfarm marketing blog and creates blogs, e-Books, white papers and other multi-media assets for her awesome clients.

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