Designing a website? Think about your Grandparents!

March 14, 2011 | by

Four Top-Tips to Creating a User Friendly Website

There’s no denying that technology plays an important part in everyday society. Throughout Europe for example, it’s estimated that 475.1 million people spend on average 20 hours per week logged on to the internet. To understand how far the internet has grown since it came into the public domain way back in 1994, you only have to look at social media sites such as Facebook, which reached its 500 millionth member in July 2010, six-and-a-half years after it launched.

It’s hard to think that seventeen years ago though, there was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail or the internet as we know it today. Instead to find a plumber to fix a leak in our homes, we’d have to quickly scroll through the Yellow Pages whilst trying to plug a leak! To communicate with friends the other end of the country, we’d either have to use our landline or rely on the Royal Mail.

When you’re working on a web design, something that you should bear in mind is what was common place seventeen years ago, because although you may be competent surfing your way around various websites installing Flash programmes and changing HTML codes, there are many people who haven’t grown up with the internet and therefore won’t be confident locating information on a website.

Put simply, when creating a new website, make it user-friendly. Design its functions as though it was going to be used by your Grandparents, not your twenty-something friend! Below are four simple tips – all of which link with each other – for creating a user friendly website even the biggest novice on the website could navigate.

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1)    Which Way Driver?

Back in 1994 when the first websites appeared, they were generally one long page of text, followed by more text, with little to no images to break the text up. As the internet has progressed, so have websites and instead of having one long page of continuous text we now have countless images, flash and web videos in our arsenal to portray pieces of information.

Unfortunately, although some web designers have seen the importance of breaking text up and placing various information on various pages, their sites still aren’t easy to navigate due to tabs and/or links being difficult to find; tabs opening in different windows or text heavy sites not having a search function allowing you to find information quickly and efficiently.

Adding a search box to your site is quick, easy and pain-free to do; so much so that Google themselves have HTML code which you can simply copy and paste, to provide a search function which can search the entire Google database or your own site, without leaving a page.

2)    Jargon Bust!

Nothing can be more infuriating as a user then searching a website which promises to provide information on a certain topic, to find that there’s only a tedious link on the subject in the bottom paragraph. Unfortunately, too many websites fall into this trap. So whilst you’re making sure your website it easy to navigate, make sure you have relevant information, without the jargon.

3)    First Come, First Served

If you’ve got the first two points nailed down nicely, then you’re half-way to having a website which provides a user-friendly interface for your adoring public. However, what’s the point of having an easy to navigate website complete with useful information in layman’s terms, if it takes an age to load?

Imagine a pipe in your ceiling has burst and you’re frantically searching the internet for a local plumber who can come and fix the issue immediately. The last thing you want to do is wait 15 minutes whilst the “Contact Us” page loads so you could get a contact number. Those visiting your site will feel the same, whatever your content.

It’s estimated that after 6 to 10 seconds, if a page doesn’t load a user will click away from it – these vital seconds could make the difference between you or your client making a sale, and a missed opportunity.

Ways in which to increase the speed at which your website loads include

  • Cutting down on the amount of Flash programmes that run on the site, and instead use CSS rather than nested tables.
  • Removing anything you don’t really need.
  • Keeping your code clean and limit white space.
  • The latter links to our final point about making your website more friendly for the user.

4)    Looks Count

Whether we like to admit it or not, looks count for a lot of things. When it comes to a website, this is especially true. Looking back over the kinds of web pages which were common in the early days of the internet, these didn’t have any pleasing aesthetic qualities.

Fast forward 17 years and websites nowadays offer a lot in terms of aesthetics – from bespoke backgrounds, pictures and videos dotted throughout, to varied text fonts and styling, etc (the list is endless). But a few things to keep in mind are that it should be easy to read (remember the basics, like light coloured text on light backgrounds don’t work) and easy on the eye – without being too cluttered!

If you’re adding the finishing touches to the web design you’ve been working on for the last few months, before you launch it why not give it the Grandparent test? Provide your grandparents with information you want them to find from the site and see how easy they find it/how long it takes them? Listen to their feedback – if they could find information quickly and efficiently, felt the information was relevant and were happy with the look of the site, then you know you’re on to a winner!


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