A great small site provides its visitors with a great user experience. That means a site should be easy to understand, functional without being overwhelming, and well organized. And it should be free of the trappings of bloat—focusing on its audience’s needs rather than on adding the latest bell, whistle, or doodad.
The following list includes the user experience attributes that are most important to making your small site successful:
Providing the best context. This involves giving visitors to your site clear cues about how to use it and what to expect from it. (In other words, your customer should never get lost in your website.)
Providing good task orientation. Visitors to your site must be able to easily find and do what they came to do. They should never have to work too hard or spend too much time finding something that is important.
Maintaining hierarchy or using organizational guidelines. Good structure and organization can greatly help your visitors understand the relative importance of various parts of your website. In setting up the structure for your site, you should think carefully about the various paths the visitor to your site will encounter. Everything should be in its proper place and nothing should be too difficult to find. If a visitor needs to click too many links to get access to an important feature, your site likely has become too complex with too much hierarchy.
Context is crucial to creating a useful experience for visitors. It helps people relate to your message and know what to expect as they use your website. The key to providing context on your website lies in giving visitors clear directions and explanations about where they are on your site, where they can go, what they can do when they get there, and how they can get back on track if something goes wrong.
As the old adage about storytelling goes, first tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them. Giving your audience some perspective on your message through repetition strengthens what you have to say, and it helps your audience focus on your key points and how your business can benefit them. Websites, like stories, can have a narrative structure—links, buttons, and navigation that propel the experience.
Successful small sites give users context by maintaining a consistent layout and color scheme; adhering to well-delineated areas for content, navigation, and marketing/advertising messages; and presenting information with engaging, benefit-oriented headlines, useful labels, and error messages. The bloated site, on the other hand, mixes ad-like animated graphics and logos with content, changes its look and navigation from page to page, and uses murky or inconsistent language in its headlines and text. Visitors to bloated sites get confused, give up, and leave.
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