10 Heuristics of Web Design Broken Down

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Web design is one of the most important parts of digital marketing. One of the best ways to generate leads and conversions is by having a great website. But there are a lot of factors to consider when designing your website to make it as user-friendly as possible. The number one rule of web design is, “Don’t make me think!” Your user shouldn’t have to think at all to navigate your website. Jakob Nielsen, a Danish computer researcher, came up with 10 best practices to help make your website as easy to use and navigate as possible. Listed below are those ten heuristics, as well as a brief explanation of how they work and some examples.

1. Visibility of System Status

These days, we do a lot of uploading and downloading to and from websites. One of the most important aspects for web design is transparency, so you should always have a way for your visitors to know what is happening on your website. If they’re uploading something to your website, you should show a progress bar of their upload. If you have an E-Commerce website, show the steps of your checkout system at the top, and have some way of showing which steps they’ve completed. People don’t want to have to think about what they’re doing on your website beyond what they see, so you shouldn’t make them. It will give them a better experience on your website, and in turn you will see a better review or a returning customer.

2. Match Between System and Real World

You want to make sure that the copy on your website sounds like someone said it in the real world. You don’t want to use a bunch of jargon that only people already in your industry will know. This can make the user feel isolated, and compel them to look elsewhere. While some words are unavoidable, you want to mostly opt for words that are commonly used in our everyday vernacular. It’s these smaller details that make people feel a little more like they’re speaking to a human instead of a robot. Of course, you’ll want to be sure that your website copy matches your brand’s voice. If it matches your brand’s identity to use more uncommon verbiage, then by all means. But if it’s not an integral part of your brand identity, stick to what you’d hear out in the world.

3. User Control and Freedom

People don’t want to be forced to do anything in real life. Same goes for your website visitors. They don’t want to feel boxed in or cornered into a purchase or decision. Your website should always provide an option to leave the page, not just by exiting. Especially in a checkout page, there should always be a back button for your user to access if they change their mind or aren’t ready to commit. Gmail has a great example of user control. After you send a message, there is a little yellow box that pops up at the bottom of your browser with the option to undo the send on the message. This is a great feature to give people a second chance if they sent the email on accident or noticed a typo as they were hitting send. Make sure to always give your user an out.

4. Consistency and Standards

Within your website, you want every page to be consistent. If your logo is in the top left corner of your homepage, it should be in the top left corner on every page in your website. If your navigation bar scrolls down with the user on the shop page, it should also on every other page. Consistent color palettes and font choices should also be used throughout your website. Your website should be cohesive, it will make it easier to navigate and generally more professional looking as well.

5. Error Prevention

This is where the saying, “Don’t make me think” really comes to fruition. While it’s easy to correct an error a user makes, it’s much easier to tell them how to avoid the error altogether. A great example of this is a website form. If possible, you should provide filler text with an example of the correct formatting for the data needed. This way, you’re guaranteed the correct format when you receive the form, and the user doesn’t have to think about how to fill out the form.

6. Recognition Rather Than Recall

Users don’t want to remember information from one page to the next. Make sure that through whichever forms or pages your user is moving, you provide all the information they need on each page. Going back to a previous page to remember content you provided them with already is tedious, and the user doesn’t want to take that time.

7. Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

This goes hand in hand with the previous best practice. Providing efficient ways for visitors to use your website is crucial to a nice, professional website. Remembering data such as log-in information, phone numbers and emails from previous forms, and even orders on E-commerce pages are great examples of efficiency opportunities. Amazon has a great example of these with their reorder and scheduled order options. For things like dog food and baby wipes, Amazon will let you reorder these kinds of items on a cycle, which eliminates the need to even think about it for customers.

8. Aesthetic and Minimalist Design

This may go without saying, but try to keep your design minimalist and aesthetic. This doesn’t mean sticking to a totally black, white, and gray color palette, but it does mean not having a rainbow of bright neon colors for everything on your website. Users will not want to look at a website that is overloaded with bright colors, as it can get hard to look at or understand. Make sure that your design for your website incorporates aesthetically pleasing color combinations, and a nice minimal layout. Not only is it easier on the eyes for users, but they are often easier to navigate than crowded websites.

9. Help Users Recognize, Diagnose, and Recover from Errors

If there are errors that a user can run into on your website, then it should be clearly stated what’s wrong. No code or jargon that the user won’t understand, or long strips of random characters. The error should also suggest a solution to the problem, as politely as possible.

10. Help and Documentation

While it’s suggested to only include content on your website that doesn’t require additional help or documentation, there are some situations where it’s unavoidable. If people need documentation or help for completing certain tasks on your website, be sure to provide it for them. If they have to use their credit card for a purchase on your website, make sure to show them where to find their CVV number on their card to make sure they can fill everything out without concern.

Those are Nieslen’s 10 Heuristics of Web Design broken down to make them more understandable. These are all relatively easy to implement into new or existing websites to make them more user-friendly and generate more conversions. Now that you know these best practices, try to implement the ones you don’t already use. Before you do, always remember the number one rule of web design: Don’t make me think! And as always, if you don’t want to think either, Ascent Digital has your back and can design you a beautiful, user-friendly website.