The Quick Guide to Building User-Friendly Websites

Have a new business idea and ready to build your new website? Or do you have an existing website you want to spruce up to make more user-friendly? If the answer is yes to either of these questions we’ve written a quick-fire guide to help you design and build a responsive, engaging and user-friendly website for your business.

When considering your website’s design you should always keep the focus on the user.

How easy is the website going to be to navigate for your target demographic?

How will the design play into the purpose of the website?

Can users with disabilities or limited function be able to use your website?

All these questions should be considered when thinking about your website’s design.

This article will break down the modes of pre-planning your website including choosing your site’s primary focus, identifying and pinpointing the demographics of your audience, followed by sketching your website’s wireframe. Then we will break down the most responsive user interface design elements and the best practices to use for designing your website’s interface.

Let’s get started.

Choosing your Website’s Primary Focus

Are you designing a website that seeks to provide solutions to mundane everyday problems? Is your site geared toward providing a particular service? Do you wish to sell products within a specific niche? Or you building an online community to foster certain ideals?

Whatever the reason you need to first understand your website’s primary focus before getting started on the design front. Why? Well depending on what the purpose and function of your website the design should flow to not only accommodate the purpose but it should also showcase it and make it easy for your audience/users to know exactly what you are about just from the design.

For example, if you have a great idea for a product based business and you wish to design your website to showcase the brand you are going to build, your homepage should be designed in a way that showcases your main product in an engaging and responsive way while promising to provide more information via a click of a button.

Establishing the goal your website seeks to accomplish should be the first step before any design decisions are made. That way with them in mind you can flawlessly sketch what your website is going to look like in a way that it coincides with the focus and purpose.

To do this, brainstorm 3-5 main goals you want your website to accomplish for your users and then choose the primary focus. The focus can be a product, service, providing a specific solution, etc. The key is to commit that to paper and let it be the foundation before moving forward.

Pinpointing the Demographic of your Audience

Once you have a concrete idea of your website’s purpose now it is time to pinpoint or narrow down your chosen demographic. Who is best suited to use your website? What is the age bracket? Is your audience country or city specific or worldwide? Are you targeting men or women or both? Do you wish to target kids, teens or young adults? If your website is targeting a specific niche are the people that frequent this niche: parents, single people, couples, entrepreneurs, etc.

Ponder these questions and narrow your demographic and even strategise on the best design aesthetic that fits your target audience. If for example, your website is to provide parenting solutions to new mothers then you can use your design to showcase this by the colour scheme you use, the various design elements you choose and how you present your information.

This is an important second step in the pre-planning process and can help you determine the exact user-friendly design elements you wish to use.

Sketch Your Website’s Wireframe

If you’re new to web design you’re problem wondering what in the world a website wireframe is. Well, a wireframe is a page schematic or a screen blueprint of your website’s interface. Consider it a visual guide representing the skeletal framework of your website.

You will create your wireframe to arrange the page elements of your website to suit the website’s purpose. Remember when we talked about finding your website’s purpose or focus? Well, know it will come to play in designing the scaffolding/frame of your website.

You don’t have to get all fancy when creating your wireframe, good old pen and paper will do just fine. Create a rough sketch of what you want your website’s homepage to look like in keeping with the purpose of your site and your target audience you can add where the navigation will go (and the type: Dropbox or a bar), logo placement, information boxes, etc. Sketch out the other pages too. Each page will have a different feel of course and tie into their purpose so make wireframes for all the pages your website will have.

If you plan to use a Web developer to help design your website then this will be a great starting point in communicating your ideas on what you want your website to look like.

User Interface Design Elements

Wondering what a User Interface (UI) Design is? Simply put a User Interface Design anticipates what users may need and makes that the focal point of the design. By understanding the purpose of your website, knowing who your audience is and anticipating their needs you can choose design elements that satisfy those needs. This creates a completely responsive and user-friendly design.

A well-executed UI Design brings together three concepts of design these include:

  • An interactive Design: An engaging design that allows the user to interact.
  • A Visual Design: A design that is aesthetically pleasing while being user-friendly.
  • Informative Architecture: this is the organisation, structure, labelling and presentation of the content.

Bringing these concepts together ensures that your website is user-friendly, engaging, and caters to your users’ needs.

Best Practices for designing your Website’s Interface

We’ve all been on websites that have been confusing to navigate. Sometimes frustrations run high when trying to find pertinent information that we need. Or sometimes an e-commerce website isn’t user-friendly enough and we are unable to have a great online shopping experience.

As an online user yourself you know how irritating it can be to use a non-responsive website. So when building your website remember to keep the user in mind and follow these best practices.

1. Create a Simple Interface:

You want an interface that is virtually invisible to the user in order to enhance user experience. The best way to do this is to limit the number of interface elements that you use and be sure that the language is clear. Elements include but are not limited to:

  • Input Controls: buttons, text fields, check boxes, drop-down menu lists, list boxes, toggles, a date field, radio buttons
  • Navigational Elements: search field, slider, pagination, slider, tags, icons
  • Informational Elements: icons, tool-tips, progress bar, notifications, message boxes, modal windows
  • Containers: accordion

2. Use common UI Elements and keep it Consistent:

When you use more common placed interface elements in your UI you create an environment of comfort for your users and as a result, they are able to complete their task in shorter a time. Remember online users have short attention spans and want to get things done quickly. In addition to using common interface elements, you want to create consistency with the language used, layout and design throughout the entire site. This helps to expedite user efficiency.

3. Create Page Layouts that have a purpose:

Remember your design should exhibit the purpose of your website. To do this position the elements on a page based on their significance to your website’s purpose. If you place items on a page with care and intent you can draw attention to the most important and significant things on that page. Which by extension leads to readability and users’ ability to scan quickly.

4. Use Color and Texture in a strategic way:

Apart forms the aesthetic-visual quality of colour, contrast, light and texture, you can use these to your advantage and users’ experience by directing attention or redirecting attention to more pertinent elements or information on a page.

5. Be clear and concise when labelling your Menu and Navigation items:

Save your creative wit for larger pieces of content on your page. Users have a limited amount of time and patience and thus you should clearly label menus and navigation with common names. That way they know exactly what to expect when they click on “Home”, “About Us”, and “Contact”.

6. Ensure that your design is also responsive for mobile:

Most users will peruse your website while on their mobile phone especially before and after their commutes from home to work and back. So when designing the desktop version of your site be sure to make the mobile version optimised and equally responsive and user-friendly.

7. Use typography or web fonts to create order and clarity:

Carefully consider how you use web fonts to your design’s advantage. Different sizes, fonts, and arrangement of the text to help increase user ability to scan quickly, enhance legibility and readability.

Final Thoughts

Remember your website is the extension, embodiment and first impression users have of your brand. While being aesthetically pleasing is essential having a website that is interactive, engaging and user-friendly trumps everything. Thus, we hope this article has given you the tools you need to create a stunning user-friendly website.