The more comfortable users are with your website the more likely they are to enjoy their experience and come back for another visit. Make them feel at home with a familiar greeting, a friendly smile and pleasant conversation.
Creating website comfort is a key concept, it means having a design that reminds the visitor of other websites that they know and trust, create familiarity. But this can be difficult because familiar websites tend to be too predictable and boring. The trick is to use predictable and consistent elements that will still allow you to bring in some custom design to spice things up.
Here are five ways that you can create a custom designed website with an original look and feel while maintaining familiarity:
- Use the appropriate structure
- Brand your site
- Always have a contact form
- Use predictable positioning
- Keep Your Labels Simple
Use the Appropriate Structure
The waiting room of my nearby tire shop has a couple beat up old leather couches, a coffee table with lego’s all over it and an Ikea style put-it-together-yourself entertainment center that houses an old tubed television. Despite what you are thinking, it is surprisingly uncomfortable. Its one thing to sit that close to your big hairy uncle, but while waiting for tires you don’t want to snuggle up with somebody else’s big hairy uncle.
The structure of a tire shop waiting room should be different than the structure of your neighbors living room, just like an informal blog should have a different structure than a corporate e-commerce site. Design the structure and layout of your site to fit the purpose of your site.
Brand Your Site
As a designer, you have worked hard to create a brand for your client. You have created a brilliant color scheme and have even figured out how to incorporate a silhouette of the owners pet armadillo, named Farcus, into the logo. Keeping this new branding concept consistent through out the site will allow users to build trust with the site and the company itself.
Be consistent & liberal
- Make sure that all pages carry the same color scheme and theme elements (including your third party shopping cart if you have one).
- Feature the new logo on every page and include a second version of it near the footer.
- Use the same fonts, font colors, font styles and font sizes through out all pages.
- Incorporate other well trusted brands within the design by using affiliate logos, other brand names or companies you work with or even shipping and processor logos.
Always Have a Contact Form
When someone comes over to your place of residence, do you open the door, stare at them and wait until they start talking? Of course you don’t. You greet them with a smile, say hi and then compliment their sweater. Always use a contact form. Don’t just send the visitor straight to their default mail client via the old “mailto:”. That is the same as opening the door and staring at them. Besides, most of the time the visitor doesn’t even use their default mail client.
The contact form is a big giant invitation for conversation, it says “Hello my dear friend, come on in and make yourself feel at home. If you need me I will be in the kitchen doing the dishes.” The contact form allows the visitor to poke around and drop you a line if they wish without having to come up with some cheesy introduction in an email or find a piece of scratch paper to scribble your info down on. Don’t make your visitor do all the leg work, meet them halfway and let them enjoy their visit. Remember, you need to break the ice not the visitor.
Use Predictable Positioning
I have a problem with the locations of my light switches in my house. In some of the bedrooms, the light switches are right next to the door frame and in others they are located three feet away. So, when entering a dark room, I find myself slapping the wall frantically looking for the location of the switch. If only all the light switches in the house were located in the same place when entering a room, I wouldn’t have to think about where the lights switches were. This is no different in website design.
Location IS Everything
Consistent placement of elements throughout a website are important for users because they won’t have to think, they won’t have to dart their eyes around the pages trying to find what they are looking for. Keep the navigation and content areas in the same places on every page. The shapes, colors, and sizes can vary between pages, but keep the location of these elements the same. Random position changes between pages will only annoy your visitor.
Keep Your Labels Simple
This is a biggie. I know that we as designers always want to be super creative, so super creative that we may somehow cause world peace with a brilliant Cat Toy website design. But, ultra creative labels and titles will confuse your visitors. Think of it this way; you are driving around town and come to an intersection. You see a big road sign that reads “Shut Ur’ Down”, what do you do? Well, you become confused and then you finally realize that you are driving through a town where Larry the Cable Guy is City Manager. Make your labels clear, login should say “login” not “Magical Client Access Portal” or some other weird, goofy, over the top phrase.
Simple & Clear = Fast & Easy
Simple and clear information architecture allows your users to navigate and read your site easier and faster, plus, search engines can crawl your site faster and easier also. So put the thesaurus away and save your cutesy labels and titles for your blingin’ myspace page (if you still have one). Think about those first time visitors and use labels that they already understand. Don’t force them to learn new jargon or a new website slang, because chances are they won’t want to come back anytime soon.
Visitors are Guests in Your Home
Just keep your users in mind when you are working on your next project and think of them as guests in your home. Make them feel welcome with a familiar greeting, a friendly smile and pleasant conversation. You can still paint the walls purple and gold or even decorate the room with little elephant statues that you got from your last trip to India. After all, those personal touches are the things that your neighbors will be talking about for a long time.