Prospects will visit your website before hiring you. They begin to form an opinion about you and your talents by their experience with your website – even if you’re not a website designer. This is why you must have a high degree of website usability (easy to use).
Jakob Nielsen is a widely recognized authority on website usability. I recommend you study the material his website, http://www.useit.com. Many of the points below come from Nielsen.
A few basics on what website visitors do:
- Viewers spend 80.3% of their time ABOVE the fold.
- Viewers spend 69% of their time on the LEFT half of the screen. Recognize that the navigation bar is usually in the first 200-pixels on the left side. Most of their time is spent in the 300-500 pixel area.
- Clicking hypertext links is the most-used feature. Second is clicking buttons followed by the clicking the BACK button.
- Users typically read about 18-20% of the content on a page.
- Visitors give you about 3-to-5 seconds to explain the gist of what you do when they first land on your site. If you fail, they leave. Remember that the landing page is often NOT the home page.
Given those facts just how do you create a friendly, usable website?
- Have a header that gives the gist of what you do: Company name, logo, tagline, and possibly location.
- Site must load instantly. Visitors have zero patience.
- Be conventional: Navigation on the left and your most important content above the fold and to the right of the navigation.
- Write for skimmers: Short paragraphs, sentences and bullets. Design for skimmers.
- Black font (not gray) on a white background is the easiest to read. Do not use reverse fonts for the body of your website copy.
- Make the home page digestible within 5 seconds.
As you create your site, periodically ask strangers to try it out. Ideally these people are similar to your prospects. Find out how easy it is for them to use your website.
There’s much more to making a website user friendly. But if you get this much right you’ll be ahead of the pack.
Karen Zapp is a freelance copywriter and marketing advisor. Clients include charities and professional membership associations. Karen publishes a newsletter (ZAPP Nonprofit Leader), and a blog (ZAPP Nonprofit Blog). She is also the co-author of “Mobile for Nonprofits: Connecting Donors Through the Power of Mobile.”
If you want to create a user-friendly, marketing-smart website, and you ready to "just do it," check out our intensive, one-week online course, Website in a Week.