All that glitters is not gold, as they say.
But what’s that got to do with web design? Well, not every website that looks fantastic actually works the way it should. A beautifully designed website with perfectly matched typefaces and a clever use of white space might be a design connoisseur’s dream (and it happens to be very important), but it means nothing if your users can’t get from A to B without wanting to give up or punch the screen in frustration.
We are human. We all share a basic set of needs and interactive behavioural habits that need to be honoured when designing a website. A truly human-centric website will be easy to use and designed to anticipate our actions and needs as people.
But what are these needs?
For starters, we like to be able to find our way around
Nobody likes getting lost; it’s not a nice feeling. But what’s even worse is being faced with confusing or unclear directions. This also applies to websites, so you should follow these two very simple rules when designing your human-friendly website’s navigation and infrastructure:
1. Be consistent
Use a consistent layout and don’t move the navigation, headers or other basic functions around from page to page, or your visitors will soon get confused and give the whole thing up as a bad job. This breaks customer trust, so avoid it at all costs.
2. Call a spade a spade
If you’re going to include a page on your website to tell people about your company, don’t call it ‘Discovery’ or ‘The Narrative’. It really is OK to call it ‘About Us’, and your visitors will thank you for not making them work so hard to navigate your site.
We’re emotional beings
When we choose to engage with or make a purchase from one company over another, this choice is rarely based on rational thought. It’s an emotional response, and one that we’re not always entirely conscious of.
This is why designing your website in a way that can capitalise on and create positive emotions is so important. If you’ve invested in professional branding services, you’ll already have a brand designed with emotional responses in mind, so you can simply extend this to your website design. Work with colours, typefaces, imagery and video content that will help make your customers feel how you want them to feel about your brand.
If you don’t yet have a professional brand image, start with this first before moving on to website design.
We love a good story
We humans are thought to be 22 times more likely to remember facts and information when they are delivered as a story rather than as a list. So designing your entire website as one big narrative is a great way to encourage higher levels of engagement, enjoyment and those all-important conversions.
And by a narrative, we don’t just mean filling your website with copy, though the copy is of course very important. You can create a natural visual flow using balanced layouts and logically placed, engaging information. This will lead your visitors on a linear journey from top to bottom and from left to right, keeping them interested and encouraging them to go exploring, gradually finding out more about your company until they finally reach the end goal: a conversion.
Use a creative mix of engaging copy, imagery and video content to add value and enrich the story, and don’t forget to include very clear calls to action at the end of each section to help guide your visitors in the right direction.
We’re all the same, but we’re all different
We’ve established that human-centric web design is essentially there to address our basic needs, but it’s important to remember that there is still no one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to messaging, both visual and written.
Your website needs to form a connection with your audience, but you can’t do that unless you know exactly who they are. Spend some time researching your customers, their needs and their online habits. You can do this using a variety of tools, including Google Analytics (which your website developer can help you set up), YouGov and social media.
Google Analytics is especially useful if you’re redesigning an existing website, as you can find information on your customers’ location, age, interests and their journey through the website. YouGov is a fantastic public research tool that allows you to identify the likes, dislikes and general demographic information about the customers of businesses similar to yours, though the full version does carry a fee.
You can also use the free insights and analytics tools available with Facebook and Twitter which allow you to identify who is interacting with your brand online, where they live, what they’re interacting with and when. This helps you narrow down your audience and create a website that caters to their specific needs and expectations.
Remember, we’re only human, so keep it simple.
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