Site Navigation and Usability: Easy Tips for Happy Users
Scott is the CEO and founder of Red Sand Marketing, a San Diego SEO and web design firm. A dynamic mix of marketer, designer, and developer, he thrives on all aspects of internet marketing and web development. Having been involved in search engine optimization and web design since 1996, he and his team consistently achieve top search engine rankings for clients in competitive markets, and have won multiple web design awards along the way.
While I agree 100% with you. You would be amazed at how many potential clients are wow’ed and caught up on the bells and whistles but have no concept of usability.
I have had to turn down projects… and have lost tenders because I don’t want the flash into. Less hassle for me today, but if people continue to litter the internet with sites like this we all lose.
Thanks for the great article, Scott. I also agree with you: usability should be the #1 priority in web design.
The difficulty lies in trying to balance what people need with what they want. The majority of people LOVE the “bells and whistles”. Unfortunately, the prettier something gets, the less practical it becomes.
One of our favourite sayings around these here parts is: “A little goes a long way”.
@Robert, @Steph: I know exactly what you both are talking about. 🙂 What the client wants isn’t always what’s good for them, and part of our job as hired experts is to help communicate that, and help clients understand what IS best. Some firms/consultants take shortcuts, and are ok with simply implementing client instructions that they know are ultimately bad for the client. I think you guys are of the same opinion that I am – that we can’t do that ethically. So it becomes extremely important to help clients understand what the best options are. Oh, it’s definitely a challenge sometimes. 🙂
I would say there’s nothing wrong with bells and whistles, as they can greatly enhance a user’s experience when implemented correctly; it’s just important that we listen to our old friend Frank Lloyd Wright:
“Form follows function — that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”
So, the lesson we learn from that is: Function (usability) first, then Form (design, bells and whistles, etc). Both are important, they just need to work together, with the priority being on usability.
Your article makes valid points. I especially like the paragraph,
“Keep in mind that eye-tracking studies have shown the users’ eye tend to gravitate toward the top and left sides of the screen, starting with the top left corner, so those are prime locations for navigation. Users should never have to scroll to find navigation buttons/links.”
Now stand back and look at this page, where the article appears. It violates that rule!
@Colin: Thanks. I’m glad you found the article helpful. 🙂 Every single website in existence has room for improvement, although I don’t think this site violates that guideline at all. Notice I was talking specifically about navigation, not article placement: “those are prime locations for navigation. Users should never have to scroll to find navigation buttons/links“. The main navigation for the site is along the top of the page, so it’s perfectly within the guideline I mentioned. When I said a user shouldn’t have to scroll to find the main navigation, that doesn’t mean you can’t place navigation elements in other places in the page. In fact it’s good to add other navigation in various places throughout your pages (where it makes sense and as long as it doesn’t clutter). Hope that helps clear things up.
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