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Keep sites simple to aid usability

Mar 22, 2012 - By Brett Housholder

Question -- "I am trying to design a website, but am finding that the more information I want to put on it, the more cluttered and disorganized it becomes. What can I do to keep my site simple and organized?"

-- Danny, Worland

Answer -- One of the most common problems on websites, and one of the most easily avoidable, is usability.

Usability encompasses many aspects of a site -- organization, ease of navigation, visibility of important information, loading speed, etc. Basically, anything that affects how somebody interacts with your site (and how seamless that interaction is) can fall under the "usability" umbrella.

There are many ways to improve your site's usability. Here is a good foundation to build a business website:

- Don't try to fit too much information on a single page. Many times you will have so much good information that your first instinct will be to put as much as possible on each page. Resist this urge. Limit the textual content on each page to a few short paragraphs at most.

- Highlight the most important points about that page's topic and do not oversaturate the page with a large amount of text that people will not read anyway. If people spend more than 30 seconds reading text on a page, you are lucky. Keep that in mind when creating content on your pages.

- Keep the navigation bars on every page consistent. Make sure that your navigation bar always stays in the same spot on each page and contains the same links. It may confuse your customers if they visit a page and try to navigate elsewhere, only to find that the navigation bar has been moved or have new links in a different order.

You can always find checklists to make sure your site's usability is functioning smoothly. A simple Google search for "website usability checklist" will get you started with plenty of options.

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Editor's note: Brett Housholder is WyomingEntrepreneur market researcher, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, email at wsbdc@uwyo.edu or call at 1-800-348-5194.

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