Website Usability: Website Components

In this installment of my Website Usability series, we will discover components and pages that can enrich your site and make it more user-friendly.

Occasionally, you might have visited sites that were ”poor” in terms of their components. So what was missing? Possibly a number of things.

Some sites lack their own title, slogan, and logo –  these elements are a must-have trio. You want to let people know your brand’s name, your organization’s motto, and your brand-recognition element, or logotype. Include this component somewhere on the header of your site.

For businesses selling something online, obtaining personal details, or offering services, the law sometimes requires a Terms and Conditions component. This page will also help protect your online business from misunderstandings on the part of your customers or website guests. A Privacy Policy component is also highly suggested. You can include these two components as small but visible text links in your website’s footer menu.

If your site’s material is fully or partially copyrighted, you might want tell your visitors. Include the copyright information in the bottom menu – it usually looks like a copyright sign (the letter ”c” encircled ©) – and your site’s official name right after that. You might want to include the years the copyright is active, for example ”2006-2008.”

We’ve already talked about it before, but it wouldn’t hurt to remind you about sitemaps. You really want your visitors to know your site’s structure, and a sitemap will definitely help them find the pages they need.

Another ”must” for content-rich sites is a search feature. It should be placed in the visible area above the fold, and should be easy to use and work properly. Some sites are using free search forms provided by major search engines, which might be a good idea if you can’t build a simple search engine in-house. If the site has a large number of pages in different formats, styles, categories, and segments, you can add an advanced search function whereby people can search by subject, author, date, category, format, etc.

It makes sense to tell your visitors about your site or who is behind it. That is why many reputable sites have the component called the About Us page. This tells about the site and/or its owners, thus showing your openness to the online public.

Another feature that shows your openness, and also helps your site to be user-friendly and meet website usability requirements, is the Contact Us component. This can be a simple feedback form. You can also add your physical address, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.

By the way, there is no need to hide your email addresses under images. Instead, use spam-filtering software with your email clients and for your website from the hosting platform. It is also ideal to give your business address and phone number(s), if you are fine with people calling to ask questions. It will show your visitors that you have nothing to hide and will make them comfortable to do business with you.

You can include those last two components in any visible area of your site (homepage and all other pages); they usually are located next to each other.

If you sell products or services, a very good idea is to have a live chat option available on any page of your site. This makes it as if your visitors entered the real-life office of a reputable organization – there always someone to talk with who can help them out.

You can also add a report broken links component, so that your visitors will be able to help you make your site better and free from errors.

Finally, it is a great idea to add a custom 404 error page (”page not found”). Here, you can include that report link. The custom 404 page will help you not to lose visitors.

In general, the more interaction features you add to your site, the better. Just make sure it’s not annoying. Pop-up windows screaming ”Wait!” when someone is trying to leave the page might be very distracting, and thus harm your site rather than help it.

If you follow my above suggestions on website components, you will make your site more user-friendly, and benefit from that effect.

Shavkat Karimov
Internet Marketing Manager
mobileStorm, Inc.
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