Making sure that people can use your site easily and effectively.

The ability for users to find their way around your site easily is crucial to its success. Ease of navigation is important because:

 

 

  • It coaxes users into action quickly.
  • Visitors can find what they are looking for easily.

Providing quick and intuitive access to actions and information is important. Easy navigation means that users do not have to think about hunting for what they want. Things that are difficult to find can frustrate visitors enough to make them leave the site.

Best practice in website navigation includes:

  • A site structure that is ‘wide and shallow’ rather than ‘narrow and deep’. This means that users can click from page to page to move across different content areas instead of drilling down into increasingly detailed content layers that then require several backwards clicks before moving to another area.
  • The ability to get to anywhere on the site from the home page or landing page with just one or two clicks.
  • Using multiple ways for a user to find information and incorporating different tools for finding and jumping to pages. At a minimum this usually includes a menu structure, a search facility and a site map. More sophisticated tools include breadcrumbs (a navigation path indicated by a series of hyperlinks across the top of a website to help a user easily keep track of their location and link “back” to previous pages), quick hyperlinks and  tag clouds.
  • Effective use of  hyperlinks so that users can scan pages sequentially, like flicking through a book or brochure.

Making your website easy for everyone to use

Accessibility is important for every website. Accessibility refers to the ability for all people to view and engage with content on your site, regardless of any visual, physical or hearing impairment or difficulty reading or comprehending text.

When designing and developing your website, you should strive to make sure it complies with best practice accessibility standards.

Some common tools to improve website accessibility include:

  • Making sure that page text is in  HTML , rather than embedded within an image.
  • Providing captions or transcripts for audiovisual material.

The international web standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has prepared accessibility guidelines. These cover a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will also often make web content more usable in general.

If you are working with a web designer and/or developer, consider discussing how to make your website accessible. This is especially important if your website is likely to be used by anyone with accessibility issues. For example, the W3C has prepared specific guidelines for developing websites for older users.

There are also free services, such as Vischeck and CCA, for checking whether your site is readable by users who are colourblind and users with visual impairments that lead to decreased contrast sensitivity.

For more information about accessibility, visit the W3C’s ‘Getting Started with Web Accessibility’ homepage.

DigitalIQ tips

Learn more. You can learn more for free from web usability experts at sites like useit.comlink and Web Usabilitylink.

 

Using easy-to-understand language. Using simple and clear language aids navigation and greatly enhances the usability of a website.

For more information on how to best use language online, see ‘Writing for your website’.