Here’s an obvious statement: it’s super important that your website be easy to use.
Sounds pretty elementary, doesn’t it? But you may be surprised to learn that what looks clear as a bell to you, might look more like a cloudy, incoherent mess to your visitor.
One word can sum up the greatest need in web design: intuitiveness. Can your audience effortlessly find the most critical information on your site? Are you leading them along a logical path to a desired end result? Is your audience able to quickly understand the who/what/when/where/why/and how of your business? If your site is actionable, do users easily know what they are supposed to do to complete an action?
To meet this objective, the content itself must be readable. Sounds like another simplistic statement. You want your readers to quickly comprehend the message you are delivering. But think how many times you have visited a site with a certain goal in mind, only to end up more uninformed than before you arrived (and most likely frustrated to boot).
Readability applies not only to the text itself but to its color, size and font, as well as the page background color. It’s been shown that web users don’t read long text pages, with a lot of scrolling (especially true when reading on a mobile device), so content should be scan-able using such techniques as:
- bulleted lists
- short sentences
- bolded key words and phrases
- plenty of white space to make reading easy on the eye
Avoid overusing bells and whistles: your goal is to get people to absorb your information without distractions.
The federal government (at usability.gov) has put together a great usability resource; if you have an afternoon to spare, give it read: Web Design and Usability Guidelines.