User-Friendliness: 5 Basic Website Rules

A couple of weeks ago I started talking about good navigation and promised to write about making sure that your websites and blog sites are user friendly.

This study is of Human Computer Interactions (HCI).

So, here is a break down of the 5 most basic (and too often ignored) rules to building a user-friendly website.

1. Find the Perfect Color Scheme

Readability is key for all content on your website. If you chose to use dark fonts with dark backgrounds or light fonts with light backgrounds, then you are breaking a cardinal rule.

Of course, you know what your article says, but you don’t want your visitors to have to highlight your text just to be able to read it do you?

You always want it to be as easy as possible for your visitors to find and read more.

It is best to choose monochromatic (different shades of the same) color schemes. Just ask Apple or Microsoft.

If you already have more than one color, make sure that they go well together. Use a color wheel, or try this web tool if you have the html color code for a color to find it’s complementary colors.

2. Show Em What You’ve Got

The first thing anyone should be able to find when they get to your homepage is a “list” of what else they’re going to find on your site. Make sure that you have a navigation bar at the top or page list on your sidebar pointing to your main web pages or categories.

Gray Area: I’ve heard mixed reviews about placing the navigation bar above the logo vs. below the logo. I read somewhere once that most people don’t read any of the content above the logo. And yet many many websites (including Google) place their menu bars at the very top.

3. Have Attention Grabbing Subscribe / Submit Buttons

Orange buttons are definitely “in” right now. If you see a request for information form on a well-designed website, many of them are changing their “Submit”, “Check it Out!”, and “Download” buttons to orange.

I’ve always considered the color orange a very cheerful color. According to many sources, the color orange increases your metabolism (which gives you an energetic feeling) and activates some kind of social center part of the brain.

4. Don’t Make Everything an Emergency

YOU’VE SEEN IT. WEBSITES WILL HAVE PAGES FULL OF CONTENT IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE THEY ARE TRYING TO GET YOUR ATTENTION! DID YOU KNOW THAT IT IS MORE DIFFICULT FOR A PERSON TO READ A MESSAGE THAT HAS BEEN TYPED OUT IN ALL UPPERCASE?

Just follow the most basic rules for using capital letters. They are to be used for acronyms, the first letter of a proper noun, and the first letter of the first word in a sentence.

Just because you can hard-code this css code: “text-transform: uppercase; ” into your stylesheet doesn’t mean that you should.

Gray Area: Some higher profile websites do use all capital letters for navigation menus (e.g. – msn) and section headers (e.g. Yahoo!). Use this sparingly. You probably don’t want to have all nav menu items in caps and all section headers in caps. Maybe just use one or the other.

5. Don’t Have Broken Links

This one can be very difficult especially for those of us who have gobs of content or people who comment with links attached to their name etc. This one is important for your human visitors and your search engine spiders that crawl your site to index content. I wrote a lot of good information about finding and fixing broken links in my article called: 4 SEO Rules That Are Here to Stay.