Bad website design can bring down even the most powerful organizations, including the U.S. government. The Affordable Care Act was a potentially nation-changing piece of legislation, but the website for it, HealthCare.gov was so terrible it almost sunk the whole thing.
Eventually, 1.2 million customers would sign up for a plan over three months, but on the first day, only 6 users managed to complete and submit their application online.
If the government wanted to build confidence in their new plan, this wasn't the right way to do it.
Your website can tell potential customers a lot about who you are, so you should probably make it as user-friendly as possible!
Keeping Visitors and Bounce Rate
In the early days of the internet, Michael Kent and Maureen Taylor looked at what sort of sites help build two-way relationships between organizations and customers.
In their article, "Building Dialogic Relationships Through the World Wide Web," they found two methods that were particularly effective: attracting new users through updates, new content, and new features; and keeping users on the site through intuitive design and internal links.
In other words, one of the best ways to build a relationship with your customers online and improve your search engine rankings, is to reduce your bounce rate or the rate of visitors who only look at one page of your site before leaving.
And one of the best ways to reduce your bounce rate is through effective website design.
User Experience Is a Competitive Advantage
Visitors will quickly abandon a website that isn't user-friendly. Jesse Garrett talks about this problem in "The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond".
When people cannot understand how a product works, they tend to blame themselves, and they will abandon that product to avoid feeling stupid.
This problem is even more serious for self-service products, like websites, that people have to learn to use without any outside guidance.
On the other hand, a usable website will make visitors feel smart, which will increase your conversion rate and improve customer loyalty. The advantage of usability is particularly important in competitive areas, ones in which products and services are similar.
Usable Website Design Depends on Context
Of course, as Chauncey Wilson points out in User Experience Re-Mastered: Your Guide to Getting the Right Design, what counts as usable design depends on the particular user and their context.
Wilson puts users into three categories: users with experience on the site, users with experience with computers in general, and users with real-world experience in your content area.
You need to design a website that is user-friendly for each category. In other words, you need to build for both novices and experts.
You can do that by building different interfaces, or by including certain constraints for novice users. These constraints will limit their options at certain points, making the overall site more usable. Then, when these users have more experience, they can remove the constraints.
That is just one option. There are many ways to make your web design more friendly for different users.
Don Norman discusses a number of them in his classic, "The Design of Everyday Things." The general point to remember is that what counts as a usable design will depend on who your target visitor is.
Watch our video: Importance of Mobile Friendly Website
Your Site Reflects Your Business
First impressions count online too. Visitors will learn a lot about your business when they visit your website. A user-friendly website can ensure those first impressions are positive.
If you're convinced that investing in a user-friendly website design is worth the time, check out some of our other tips on how to maximize your web design.