Even people who have no idea about usability feel the need to write articles about it to tell other people what they themselves should be doing. Usability has become a hot topic and everyone wants a piece of it by writing their own list of guidelines. Most of which end up just repeating what the other guy said. Yet even with the endless amount of articles on usability, there are still a lot of web designs that overlook easy ways to improve the usability of their design.
While there are many worthwhile guidelines to follow about usability, it really boils down to only two rule of thumbs. Those two are to make it easy to read and make it easy to find stuff. No matter what you do with your design, as long as you follow those two rule of thumbs then your design will be usable. Don’t stop there though and be satisfied. Take it to the next step and make it as aesthetic as possible and make it better all while still making sure your design follows the two guidelines.
Make it easy to read
1. Keep distractions to a minimal. This is especially important in the content area as that is where your readers will spend most of their time when they are on your blog. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect taking out anything in other areas that doesn’t really serve a purpose in your blog design as well.
2. Build a hierarchy that establishes a flow where there is less emphasis as it goes down in the list. For example, headings should pop more than links and bold texts. The sidebar should be capable of attracting attention, but not too much that it overpowers the content. You get the idea.
3. Keep the design of each area consistent. This lets the reader know that they are reading information that are closely related to each other due to their similarity. This also lets people block off different areas in their mind that they don’t need at the moment so they can focus on reading a specific section without their eyes wandering around trying to figure where a specific area begins or ends.
Make it easy to find stuff
1. Identify what people are looking for or what you want them to find. Then make it ridiculously easy to find if it is that important to you or them. Don’t just have one pathway/entry for a reader to be able to find it. Make multiple pathways/entries to it so if they miss one there are other ways for them to find the important stuff.
For example, if getting more subscribers is important to you then make a rss button that pops, ask people to sign up at the bottom of a post and make a cool design so people will see it, and create a special subscribe page.
2. Take away anything unimportant and be ruthless about it. So what makes something important or unimportant anyways? In blog design, if you take away something and it decreases your blog’s ability to achieve your goal whatever that may be, then that something would be pretty important.
But if you take it out and it doesn’t hurt your blog’s performance, then by all means rip the sucker out. It will improve your blog design by decreasing the amount of unimportant stuff that can get in the way of a reader who should be looking at your most important stuff.
3. Label everything or at least make it clear what they are looking at. Don’t assume that people will be able to tell what they are looking at or that they will draw the same conclusion as you. A thousand people can look at the same thing and come up with different descriptions of what they saw so save them the trouble and just tell them what it is.
Don’t stop at following these two guidelines and being satisfied. Take your blog design to the next level by making it better.
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1. First photo from Andre flickr.