So, you’re moving forward with your dream and are this close to developing a website! You’ve got the functionality down and are trying to figure out what details will really get your users to engage with your site. Below, I’ve listed three important principles that I learned from Lidwell’s “Universal Principle’s of Design“. Note that Lidwell outlines 125 in total and these are just three of my favorites!
Aesthetic Usability Effect – The AU effect claims that designs that are aesthetic or pleasing to eye are assumed to be easier to use than less aesthetic designs. In other words, users are more likely to think your site is usable if your layout is attractive. And if you don’t think this is important, tell me when was the last time you were eager to spend your money on the site that you perceived to be hard to use?
Flexibility Usability Effect – The FU effect claims that as the flexibility of a system increases, the usability of the system decreases. Seems pretty backwards, right? Shouldn’t more flexible features mean more usability? The effect makes more sense when you think about it in terms of efficiency. A system that does 3 things exclusively is likely to have less downtown than a system that does 100 customizable things. While I’ve always been a strong supporter of open systems and the iteration of ideas (e.g. Google’s Android), this effect really makes an excellent case for closed systems with limited customizability (e.g. Apple’s iPhone).
80/20 Rule – The 80/20 rule is based on the principle that 80% of the effects generated by a large system are caused by 20% of its variables. In other words, if you’re developing a website, you can spend months developing a feature rich experience but only 20% of those features will actually be appreciated and used. I find this principle especially interesting because it reinforces the idea that you should focus on doing few things well, instead of making your website everything to everyone. A good rule of thumb here is to think about how much of your website you’d prioritize including on a small mobile device. If it’d be easy to convert your website to a mobile experience, you probably have the 80/20 down perfectly! If you don’t have the luxury of cutting out functionality, I’d suggest making your frequently used controls fully accessible and at the top.
So there you have it! 3 design tips to jumpstart you on designing an interactive, usable and efficient website!
Best of luck and happy designing!