Five tips on websites usability

Francesco Pastore
4 min readNov 7, 2021

Today there are millions of websites accessible with a couple of clicks. However, in this multitude, we have the same idea on how a single website should work.

As soon as the homepage is loaded, we look for the logo on the top-left of the page, the main sections links in the navbar, and maybe for a search bar with a text input and a magnifier icon to look for some content.

We know that highlighted words are usually links, colorful rectangles are clickable buttons and the white ones are input fields.

Years of the Internet and web development have allowed the creation of common standard features that every web page should adhere to.

However, how often do we feel frustrated and stressed after browsing a malformed website?

In this article we’ll look at five key tips on web usability that I learned from the book “Don’t Make Me Think!” by Steve Krug.

1. Conventions are friends, not enemies

Everybody has an idea of what a button or a link should be, so why change its structure? We imagine a blue underlined text for the simplest link and a big bordered rectangle for a button.

Users will feel less frustrated and glad to use something they already know. We think of them as interested and engaged with our website. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. People don’t read, they scroll in searching for what they need at the moment. They will avoid any effort to read or interact with what they don’t think will help them.

Using something already seen in most of the websites doesn’t mean you’re copying it. Conventions exist to make life easier for you and your users.

A traffic signal in Panama, what do you think the significance is? Exactly, it’s a stop sign!

2. The importance of the first impression

Users make an idea about a website after they first enter it. They look to the icon and the title, what are the main sections and the most evident content, and will avoid the shallow ones.

The homepage and the primary navigation section must help to clarify what are the available functionalities. Put in the foreground the major services and the most prominent sections.

Be aware, too many links could lead to confusion, so essential is the key. When adding something, ask yourself “will the user really need it?”. Sometimes you are only excited about a feature, but maybe the user doesn’t need it in front all the time!

Look at the central website, what do you think it might be? Maybe an online store?

3. Too long; didn’t read

Users don’t want to read long and complex paragraphs every time they open a website. Think about your experience, you always read what you see on a page? Even if it is a long text not pretty formatting and without titles or paragraphs?

Clarity and simplicity make the text more attractive and people will be more willing to read them.

Sometimes concepts are already known by the users and they don’t need to be repeated. Everybody has an idea of what it is a sign-up form or a privacy policy. Avoid common explanations, highlighted only the specific ones. Like the DRY principle in software engineering, which aims to reduce code repetition to avoid redundancy.

This text means nothing, do you even try to read it?

4. The power of good text formatting

Text formatting, paragraph subdivision, and multiple titles of different dimensions help to make text more attractive

Words in bold will help the reader to understand what are the key concepts and if it is valuable to read. Paragraphs and titles help to divide topics and allow the users to take breaks from reading.

Good formatting make more appealing even the longest and boring text!

The same text as before, but now better formatted. Is it more attractive? Would you read it now?

5. Each user is different

Sometimes you could argue with your colleagues about how a component should be placed or styled. Button or link? Checkbox or cascade menu? Primary or secondary color?

Even our users are different and they have distinct ideas of what web page objects should look like or how they work. You can’t satisfy everybody, but each people could be pleased in some way with something nice to look at and simple to use.

Remember, each people is different with different experiences, tastes and knowledge. You will never find the unique best solution. You should search for the most easier to use for you and for your users!

A lot of people with a lot of different ideas

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Francesco Pastore

An engineering student in Milan and a web developer for an IT company. Write about programming and cybersecurity topics.