For your website to successful, it should not only look good but also provide a seamless user experience for visitors. It should incorporate the following characteristics:
1. Mobile Compatibility - As more and more people use their mobile phones to access the Internet, creating a mobile optimized website has become a necessity.
2. Accessible to All Users - A user-friendly website should also be accessible to everyone including blind, disabled or the elderly. These users typically use screen-readers to access the Internet. The 508 website accessibility guidelines highlights simple web design techniques that can be applied to make sure your website can be accessed easily on-screen readers, making your website available to a larger audience.
3. Well Planned Information Architecture -How information is organised and presented on your website is vital for good usability. However, it is often neglected. It has become even more important today as websites offer a wide range of information and resources to attract their target market. Plan your website sections and categories carefully and present information in a way that it is easy for users to find.
4. Well-Formatted Content That Is Easy to Scan - The average Internet user skims through the content on a web page instead of reading each and every word from top to down. Users tend to scan through key parts of the page quickly to determine if it is relevant to their needs. It is important to format your content with this in mind. Correct use of headings, sub-headings, paragraphs, bullets or lists help to break up text, making it easy for readers to scan.
5. Fast Load Times - Nothing is more annoying for website visitors than a website that takes long to load. In fact, slow speed is one of the main reasons why visitors leave a website. Making sure your website loads within 4 to 6 seconds is important for good usability. It also affects your search engine ranking.
6. Browser Consistency - Although modern browsers have evolved and become more efficient, some inconsistencies still exist in how a website is interpreted by different browsers. It is important to ensure your website appears and behaves consistently across all major browsers such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera. Simple things like this set a professionally designed website apart from the rest.
8. Good Error Handling - Good error handling and description on-screen messages are very important for good usability. However it is often overlooked. Correct handling of errors at a code level ensures the website is robust and free from bugs. Displaying the right error message improves the user experience and overall usability.
9. Valid Mark-Up & Clean Code - A website that adheres to the relevant web design best practices and standards is often more robust and dependable. It also ensures the website will load faster and appear consistent across browsers and devices.
10. Contrasting Colour Scheme - The right contrast between the background of the website and content is one of the most basic yet most important web design principles that should never be overlooked. Good contrast between background and text e.g. black text on a white background makes your content legible and easy to read. Lack of contrast, on the other hand, makes it very difficult for visitors to read your content.
11. Usable Forms - Forms are a very important element on business websites. They allow users to interact with the site. Forms are also very useful for generating leads for a business.