Designing for the web is far different than designing for print. In some ways, you use the same tools and knowledge, but the process of decisions and perspective are different.
Designing a website that gives users a pleasant experience requires a great attention to detail. Since this is true, us designers here at Powerserve make sure we give ourselves enough time to process from start to finish. In our experience, there have been details we’ve missed, some overlooked, some simply forgotten because there is so much to think about when designing for the web. But, alas, we’ve made it this far and I (Chelsea) think we’ve come a long way in our knowledge of how best to design a website that’s specifically tailored for its primary users.
When designing a website, it’s important to prioritize not only the way it looks (user interface) but how it works (user experience).
Here are a few seemingly small, but important, user experience details that most websites miss. Whether you’re a web designer yourself, or just a website user, these could be interesting to think about.
Mark Visited Links with a Different Color
Visiting links on a web page is sometimes a frustrating task for users if the website doesn’t make the links the user has already clicked on. If a website contains a lot of links, this feature is important in eliminating the user’s frustration because they accidentally clicked the same link twice. Make it clear to users by marking visited links with a color that’s different from the original link color, and they’ll be happier for it.
Close Modal Windows When Users Click Outside It
Modal windows are commonly used among different websites. Many of them have an ‘X’ button in the corner of the window that users use to exit the window. However, this ‘X’ button is not an easy enough escape route for the average user. It takes more time and effort to click the ‘X’ because it’s smaller in size and the user has to spot and target it with their mouse. Instead, allow users to exit the modal window when they click the background area outside of it.
Make Pressing the “Enter” Key Submit the Form
Another detail websites miss on forms is allowing users to submit the form by pressing the “enter” key. By enabling this shortcut, users can submit forms faster and easier. This is especially important for login forms, where users have to type their username and password often and hit the login button. Forcing them to have to target and click the button every time can annoy users and slow them down.
Put Tool Tips on Icons to Describe Their Action
Icons are an elegant way to describe specific actions on a website. However, not all users will intuitively understand what action an icon represents. It’s important to show tool tips that describe an icon’s function when the user hovers their mouse over it. This allows first time users to get used to what the icons mean without having to guess and make mistakes clicking the wrong icons.
Put a Link Back to Home Page on Blog Page
Many websites have a specific page dedicated to blogging. Sometimes websites will use a subdomain (blog.website.com) for a customized WordPress blog. One small detail that websites miss is linking the blog back to the home page. It’s annoying if there’s no link to the home page and users have to clear the address bar and type the home page address to get back to it. A simple link pointing back to the home page is all that’s needed, but many websites miss this.
Display Larger Images When User Clicks to Enlarge
Sometimes websites will have images that users can click to enlarge. Some websites make the mistake of displaying the same size image on a different background when the user clicks the thumbnail. Users expect a larger image, so they should get an image that’s more than slightly larger than the thumbnail they clicked on. Putting the image on a dark background won’t help users much if the size of the image doesn’t actually change.
The difference, we’ve found, between a lackluster and pleasant user experience is all in the details. Many websites miss these details and users suffer because of it.