Digital Insights

Designing With Usability: How To Make Navigation Easier For Users


Published: January 7, 2011

Web usability is one of the most important aspects in web design. Users will love or hate your work if they can’t easily navigate your site. Designing a user interface with usability in mind will guide visitors through your site easily. Here’s what you can do to make your site usable.

The Definition Of Web Usability

To implement an intuitive layout on your site that makes it easy for visitors to find what they want, you need to understand what web usability is and how it works. Defining web usability is simple: it’s how easy an interface is to use and how much of an impact it makes on the user. The five qualities of web usability are defined by

Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?

Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?

Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?

Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?

Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

Following these five rules will force you to think from the visitors’ point of view which is something we designers tend to forget. It’s easy to forget the end user during the design process as we instinctively know where elements are and how they work. These five rules will help you change your mindset and give you a fresh perspective on your website is viewed and used.

Following Best Practices

Following best practices and paying attention to the small details is one of the most fundamental aspects of web usability. A lot of great online resources exist and to cover every single one of them would probably spawn a series a books. This blog posts only covers some of the important best practices but you can learn more from Trip Wire Magazine and Hubspot.


Color makes a huge impact on design, even more so when designing with usability in mind. Designers use color to express that status of certain elements such as visited links and differentiate call to actions. Using color in a way that helps the user understand the changed state of an element is critical for visitors to understand the user interface of your site. An example would be a visited link changing from a light blue to a dark red indicating the user has clicked on that link.


Hierarchy plays a huge role in web usability. Visitors need to know a structure exists that sorts content by importance. While body copy, case studies and blog posts might be important as a whole, you have to consider what users want to see first. When hierarchy is used effectively. Visitors can scan the site for the information they need. On the issue of visitors leaving your site after they find the information they need is where “Call To Actions” come in to play. Using effective copy is one way to retain visitors coming in from search results and converting them in to leads.

Things You Should Not Do

Not making common usability mistakes is just as important as focusing on a usable layout. There are many do’s or don’ts and covering every single one could span an encyclopedia’s worth of material. Focusing on content and how it’s displayed is one of the most important aspect of website usability.

Making Content That’s Hard To Read And Scan

While you may like your site design and consider it a work art, the amount of time a visitor scans a site won’t be adequately convey the quality of your work (unless it’s horrible). Instead, they’re looking for the information they want. Making text scannable will help visitors stay on your site. They’ll be please they found the information they need and leave or become a returning hit.

Putting Important Information In A Banner

People are exposed to as much as 1,000 brands in a day. To deal with this overload of information, we tend to filter out anything that remotely looks like an advertisement. That’s why putting important information in a banner, despite its visual appeal, may work against you. Visitors immediately blocked out banners whether it looked like an ad or not. This is called “Banner Blindness” and it’s a real problem marketers have to deal with. Avoiding the banner format for critical information users need will prevent it from being mentally filtered.

Trends That Users Exhibit

Understanding how users respond to navigation techniques and which visual elements work to guide visitors through your site is important. Following trends that users exhibit will help fine-tune your layout. Understanding your users will give you a better understanding of how your website is being used, how it’s perceived and what needs to change.

Users respond to human elements

A study done by Facebook¬†revealed something interesting: people respond to human emotions and they are contagious¬†. This study demonstrates visitors immediately looked at a baby’s face and then focused on text the baby was looking at. Using human elements effectively will help guide visitors through your site as they scan through body copy or media. If you have a face looking off the page, visitors will follow the implied line created and wander away from what really matters: the website.

The Two Second Rule

There is an unofficial rule that visitors will make the decision to continue browsing within 2 seconds. Designing with the two second rule in mind will force you to make important navigational elements and content stand out. Keep in mind that within this short timeframe, visitors will only scan elements and text that stands out.

There are so many things to cover when it comes to web usability it can’t possibly fit in one blog post without diluting the overall message of this post. I’ll be writing more about web usability and how it can help your business but in the mean time, continue the conversation on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about best practices and what web marketing experts would recommend.