I thought I would share some tips that may be useful for people who are adding content to websites in order to make sure that their website is as easy to use as possible. After all, that is why we have websites, to help a “customer” complete a task. Whether this task is to buy something or just see a piece of news.
Wanting to give everything priority
When you start a website things are pretty easy as there is not much information to display but as time progresses and you get more pages, you come across the issue; “what shall I prioritise?”. It is easy to just give everything equal priority. This results in everything being hard to find.
You will have experienced this when visiting websites that have 100’s of menu options, it can be confusing and often leads to people giving up. Ideally, you know what the main aims of your organisation are and then rank the other priorities. For instance, for most sporting organisations, membership is the priority and therefore the membership link should be the most obvious thing you see when you get to your site. For other less important items, you can put them as sub-categories and as long as everything is logically structured, users will be able to find what they are looking for a lot quicker than being bombarded by information.
Using a large variety of formatting
This leads on from the last point. Often because people are having difficulty in finding the correct link, administrators think that a way to combat this is to use a lot of different formatting e.g.:
Sometimes a bit of different formatting can be very effective in focusing the attention of user but it is important to use this sparingly. Otherwise, each page of the website starts to look different and as a result can look unprofessional. It can also confuse the user. If we use consistent formatting, sub-consciously the user starts to realise “oh, there is the link, I should click there”, rather than having to search for where to click.
Ideally, you should use the default styles of the website and format the content in the website editor to prevent the content using the format (and font styles) from Word. There is a button that looks like a “eraser” on the editor that removes all this formatting for you. You can then assign the relevant formatting such as:
- Lists: If the information is in a list makes sure the list is selected
- Headings: These range from “Heading 1” down to “Heading 6”. They delineate the hierarchy of the information and give the user a clear idea of when a new section begins.
Formatting is important not just for these fairly obvious reasons but it is also important for the visually impaired who use screen readers. If the formatting is correct, it is much easier for these programs to understand and communicate to the user. Also it is important for when you decide to change the design of the website. If you choose arbitrary styles and colours you could get to a point where you have illegible text and because it has been done individually you have to individually go in and adjust each one, whereas if you use the common styles, one central update and everything is updated.
Many sites just copy and paste information that can be found on other parts of their own website. Over time, you can end up with 400 pages with something like the clubs email on and then… your club email changes. If you had linked to the contact us page of your website, you would not be faced with the annoying task of going through trying to find all the incorrect information.
Not checking the page after publishing
I am guilty of this one. “If it looks ok in the editor then it must be ok, right?” NO! There are things that can go wrong, links that don’t work, images that end up in the wrong position. A quick check of the finished product is a vital part of the authoring process (especially making sure the links you have included actually work).
I understand that not everyone understands or cares about website layout, however, I would just like to leave you with one thing, less is usually more.
Over time your users will find it easier to navigate your site and complete their task. As an added bonus, it will be easier for you to maintain!