One of the easiest mistakes to make in any industry is to assume that you, the expert, experience a product or service in the same way as the end user. Web design is certainly no exception. As a tech-savvy business owner from Calgary (or beyond!) with an interest in marketing, your online skills are quite a bit more advanced than the average person who will visit your website. Understanding how your skills compare to the average user is a huge part of successful website design and online marketing.
How Good Are Your Users? Probably Not as Good as You
It’s nothing personal. As the experts at Nielsen-Norman Group lay out beautifully, the user’s age, industry, and access to tech all play a big role in their expected skill level. The NNG article is based on a thorough, wide-ranging study of online skills by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), covering more than 200,000 users from 33 countries. Some key points from the study:
- The results are classified into four groups, with level three users showing the most advanced skills, and level “less than one” showing the least developed skills.
- From the wealthiest countries to the least economically developed, the top tier (level three) is remarkably consistent. Nearly every country in the OECD study had five to eight percent of its population in the level three group.
- This means that 92 percent (!) of participants fall outside of the most advanced skill level, and level two doesn’t fare much better. The most common classification for users is level one.
- A level one user can complete basic online tasks with clear instructions, but will have difficulty with more complex tasks or tasks with unclear instructions.
Most of the people reading this post will be at or near the top level, meaning that your skills are significantly more developed than the average person who uses your website.
Tips for Building a Website that Works for All of Your Users
As a web designer and user, I always have to remind myself to think about what will work best for the user, rather than what I feel is most convenient. The user experience basically encompasses anything that a user can do when visiting your website, and there are a ton of little tweaks you can do to make your website more user-friendly.
- If you’d like a bit more detail on what “usability” means, we’ve got a whole post on the topic. The main thing to remember is that it affects the user’s ability to find the information they need, and complete the task that led them to your website.
- Help them find what they need by making your navigation descriptive, accurate, and easy to use. Conduct usability testing (which we’ll be talking about shortly) to understand how real users progress through your website, and use what you learn to create a navigation system that reflects the needs of your users.
- There are a ton of little details that impact usability, as well. Skip the fancy fonts, and use colors that contrast well for text. Always make it easy to read.
- Remember that more stuff on a page isn’t always better. A crowded page with a ton of stimuli, however well intentioned, is likely to lead to a bunch of distracted users.
- Now, about usability testing. It’s something that any business can do, and it’s the best way to get feedback on how real users experience your site. Just remember that you and your employees are too familiar with your site to be test subjects properly.
- The feedback from usability testing is especially valuable because it strips away the natural biases revealed by the OECD survey I linked above. You don’t have to guess at what the average user will want, when you’ve got the data right in your hand.
Usability may not be the flashiest aspect of website design, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting. Developing an understanding of how users experience your website is so valuable, and creating a website that’s genuinely easy to use is quite rewarding. In the end, user-friendly web design is simply good for business, in Calgary and everywhere else.
Emphasize Web Design in Calgary
Our team at Emphasize Design is proud to provide web design services in Calgary and throughout Alberta. Learn more about our website design pricing options, and find out what a beautiful website can do to grow your business.