Submitted by: Hendrik-Jan Francke, Owner & Creative Director, Bright Orange Thread

You expect your employees to be friendly, professional, articulate, and helpful to customers—and your website should be the same.

When users come to a website and discover difficult navigation and overwhelming text, it’s like getting a clueless rep on the customer service line. Users will be turned off immediately and be less likely to use your services. For these reasons and more, it’s crucial that you have a user-centered website that follows the best practices of (cue the booming voice) usability.

Usability?

When we say usability, we’re talking about the ease with which users are able to use a website. For example:

-Clear Navigation
Users won’t guess their way through a website. Simple, clear, and consistent navigation tells users exactly where they are, where they can go, and what they can find on your site. The main navigation should be easily identifiable and contain a reasonable number of links. Seven links or less is a good rule of thumb, but use your judgment—does the navigation seem disorganized or jam-packed?

-Scannable Text
A big part of creating user-friendly content is scannable text. Text needs to be scannable so users can easily find the one thing they’re looking for (and they often are looking for just one thing). Imagine a user comes to your website to find a specific step in a set of instructions, and they’re met with long unlabeled blocks of text that describe each step. Users could spend a great deal of time reading through the text to find the one section or they could take a few seconds to find a website with easier reading. Users value short paragraphs with a decent number of headings and subheadings. These headings help users jump quickly between content and skip the stuff they don’t need.

-Important Messages Above the Fold
Just as newspaper editors ensure the day’s most important news is above the fold, we make sure users see your most important information first. We don’t trust users to scroll down the page to see what could possibly be there. Users only scroll down if they are sure they’ll find something good. By organizing content strategically, you help users find what they want and deliver your message to them.

Great design isn’t always easy to use.

You can make design decisions that add to the visual appeal of your website, but the wrong ones can negatively impact your site’s usability (and its ability