One oft-overlooked aspect of web design is called website “usability.” Put simply, usability is the ability for website visitors to do what they want to do quickly and easily. Many web designers often spend more time making a site look pretty. We’re not against good-looking websites! But a clean design is not enough to make a good website. Let me use an illustration.
Imagine you go to the store to buy a birthday gift for your friend. You walk in the store and the appearance of the store immediately impresses you. Everything is clean. There is nice music playing faintly in the background. There is a pleasant scent in the air. As you begin to browse the aisles, though, you notice something is amiss. You cannot find what you’re looking for. The aisles are not labeled well. They are also a bit narrow and you keep bumping into people. There are no store employees in sight to help you. What would you do? After a time of looking around in vain, you would leave the store and decide to shop somewhere else.
Website usability is like that. It’s much less tangible than an attractive web design. However, it’s far more important. It includes things like clearly labeling different parts of the website so visitors can easily find their way around. Important areas of the page are easy to spot. It’s simple to find contact information. A search feature is highly visible on the page.
Spend the extra time focusing on usable design. You will never regret it.
Read some more about why usability is important at Jakob Nielsen’s website. He has volumes of information on the topic that you may find helpful.