5 Usability Tips for Web Designers

Usability means making your website easy for visitors to find information they need. Unfortunately, many web companies believe that usability is expensive, but the truth is everyday usability is easy to achieve without expensive testing or experts. Web designers have the easiest job to do with implementing certain features on a website. These 5 tips will give you a good place to start for designing a website that is easy to use.

1. Always Have a Tagline. A tagline is simply a motto or statement that represents the mission or purpose of the website. This is important because it defines the website quickly for visitors. It should also be the most obvious element on the homepage.

2. Have a Site Search Function. When users are searching for something, they will immediately look for the text field to enter their search term. The search box should be 27 characters wide, which makes the text easy to read and use, and this text field should be at the top of the page, where users will expect to find it. Another tip: specify the search button with the word search, not go or submit.

A search function isnt necessary for small brochure websites, but it becomes increasingly important as the size of the website grows. In some cases, a well-designed drop-down menu can substitute for a search function. For example, look at this website for a Miami plastic surgeon. You can see the drop-down menu has many items, but users can easily locate what they may be looking for. A patient searching for more information about scheduling a facelift in Miami, FL would first go to the Procedures drop-down and select facelift, then the contact page to get in touch with the doctor.

3. Use a Site Map. A site map improves website navigation and also search engine optimization. A site map is basically a structured representation of the pages of the site and its architecture. While it can either be a document or a web page that lists the pages in a hierarchical manner, Google offers a Sitemap protocol organized in XML format.

4. Dont Mess Up. Workflow Workflow refers to whatever a user may be doing on the website. This could be browsing categories, filling out a form or reading a website. Dont break up this workflow and allow the user to cancel any operation. Not allow the user to cancel will force them to finish, even if they dont want to.

Because not all operations may be obvious, some require guiding with descriptive advice. You should also make sure users can see where theyve been on the site by changing the color of visited links.

5. Pages Should be Easy to Scan. Making web pages easy to read will keep users on the website longer to read the content. Most online users wont read pages but instead scan them, looking at lists, titles and emphasized text.

Eye tracking studies also find that users read content in an F shape, starting from the top left to the right, moving down and starting again. This means the first two paragraphs are the most important, along with sub headings and lists to capture the eye.

Why Build a Website on WordPress

Having worked with many types of web building platforms, its clear that not every platform will be good for every job. Joomla, for example, is great for portal websites. There is one, however, that is consistently used more than any other: WordPress.

WordPress was launched in 2003 as a simple CMS for blogs, but it is now one of the most-used content management systems and nearly 10% of all websites are built on WordPress. Just a few years ago, many website designers viewed WordPress as reserved for blogs, but this has changed rapidly, and the platform is now used by big names like CNN. Why is WordPress the best choice for building a new site this year? Here are some good reasons.

1. Plenty of standard features. While WordPress has maintained an almost identical back end interface for years, it continues to grow its feature list, including menu configuration. Its this evolution in each version of WordPress that allows it to become a good choice for all types of sites.

2. Perfect learning curve. WordPress has a very easy learning curve so its easy for you to handle if youre still gaining experience, or for your clients to take over if youre designing a WordPress site for a client. Despite this, WordPress offers plenty of functionality. You can ignore what you dont understand yet and take the time to learn more slowly, unlike Drupal.

3. Awesome plug-ins. There are hundreds of excellent plugins for WordPress, and youd have trouble even coming up with a function you cant add quickly. Most functions can be added with free plugins in minutes. If you think of something you need, you can also try your hand at designing your own plugin.

4. Great support. WordPress has a thriving community of developers and designers who have discussed just about every topic related to the platform. If you ever run into trouble, youll have no trouble getting a pointer in the right direction.

5. Google loves WordPress. WordPress is automatically SEO-friendly, and this can be boosted even further. The platform automatically generates SEO-friendly URLs and plugins like the All-in-One SEO Pack and Google XML Site Map are easy ways to help the site perform better with minimal effort. This is especially important if youre designing a blog or website for a client; theyll be more satisfied with your service and more likely to refer you.

6. Setting up WordPress sites is inexpensive. WordPress is open source, and hosting and themes are very inexpensive. Business owners can also contract web designers to create a custom theme for a relatively small amount of money. This makes them ideal for businesses with limited budgets, or business owners who want to create a WordPress site for marketing purposes.

A good example of this idea is this WordPress cosmetic surgery site. This WordPress blog was created for a cosmetic surgeon to discuss areas of his practice and answer concerns his patients have about issues like breast reduction recovery and facelift procedures, and it looks like it was relatively affordable with a simple WordPress theme thats branded to his practice.

WordPress is definitely here to stay, and its become the backbone of some of the most well-known sites today. These are just a few benefits of the platform, but you can definitely find more as you learn more.

Design Tips to Improve Blog Conversion

Great content has a big impact on your clients readers, but the design itself also plays a big role in performance. How readers experience the content on the blog will impact social shares, newsletter sign-ups and eventual conversion. When youre contracted to design a high-performance blog for a client who will use it to build leads, here are some good design elements you want to incorporate.

1. Newsletter sign-up at the end A newsletter is an important tool for many business owners to stay in contact with loyal visitors and keep them coming back to the website. Most designers will add the newsletter signup to the top of the sidebar, which is smart. After all, this is will visitors will look for it. Still, its just as important for this call-to-action to be at the bottom of each blog post.

Why? Because visitors who stick around long enough to read the article are more likely to sign up for the newsletter and hear more. You can also add a sliding sign-up box that moves to the bottom of the screen, but this may seem intrusive.

2. High-contrast calls to action Calls-to-action should be bold enough to stand out and draw the eye as the visitor scans the page. If the background is white, a good call to action should be the only dark-colored element on the page.

You need to take it easy, of course, as stark contrast is enough to draw attention. Dont try to increase font size or add arrows to compete with the rest of the page, which will diminish the user experience.

3. Relevant blog navigation If the business blog is on-site, links to information about the company, quote requests, and products are fine to include on the homepage or when viewing products, but they have no place on the blog and wont be relevant to visitors who are reading an article. The goal of the blog navigation should be helping visitors explore other blog posts.

Keep in mind that most visitors will also arrive at the blog through Google or social media, which means they came for the content, and that should be the focus.

Avoid too many navigation links as well that will compete for attention. A good option is adding a popular posts widget to direct traffic to high-converting blog posts. Skip the tag cloud and archive links.

4. Social media integration Finally, make sure the blog doesnt just convert visitors into customers or subscribers but also helps spread the content. The best way to do this is through valuable articles and making social sharing easier.

There are several ways to do this. One popular design technique is adding social sharing buttons that float alongside the article as the reader scrolls. To make the best impact, be selective in the social networks you include. Good research will help you better understand your clients audience to avoid overloading the blog with every network in existence. Pick a few where you know readership is active.